Steve Morrison on working with Kid Creole and the Coconuts

One of the most original things we made, which was an idea from David Liddiment, who I know you have also interviewed, who was working in the Entertainment department, but the Entertainment department wasn’t making it, it was a musical called There’s Something Wrong in Paradise or something similar to that, I need to check that, and it was a musical performed by Kid Creole and the Coconuts. And David Liddiment said to me, “You must meet this fantastic singer-songwriter who lives in New York who comes from Haiti, I think he’s amazing and I would like us to be making a musical with him.” So I was sent to New York to interview and sort of persuade the guy who… one of his stage names was August Darnell, although his most well-known stage name was Kid Creole. But I went to meet August in New York, and on my way I was in a taxi with a big, burly, black taxi driver, and I said to the taxi driver, “Have you heard of Kid Creole? I hear he’s the rage in New York,” and he said, “No, never heard of him.” So actually, David Liddiment had found somebody who was well-known in France, but totally unknown in America, who had come from the Caribbean, and was now living in New York.

And I persuaded August to fly over to Manchester to make this musical in Studio 12, with a huge basin of water that was made up to look like the beach and the sea of a Caribbean island – so that was as exotic as we could do it – and I went down to Heathrow to collect August Darnell, to take him in a car, kind of limo, up to Manchester, and he came off the plane in a 1948 zoot suit with spats, fantastic suit and waistcoat, big colourful tie, and a huge fedora, and a little sort of Latin moustache, and mixed race background, and he walks down off the plane with something like 12 pieces of luggage that looked more suitable for a cruise, you know, wooden suitcases. And I said, “August, we’re not driving straight to Manchester, we’re going to Cheltenham races. I think you’ve been on a plane all night, and you need a bit of rest. Don’t change, we’re going straight there.” Anyway, he looked immaculate. So we get to Cheltenham, and after our lunch we go out into the paddock, and right next to him is the Queen Mother. And he says to me, “Who’s that little woman standing five yards away?” I said, “That’s the Queen Mother – one of her horses is running in this race.” He said, “Steve, do you realise that if a black man was five yards from the Queen Mother in my country I’d be shot by now.” I said, “Well, in England, the class system is such, once you’re in the paddock you’re fine.” So we go back up to Manchester after this day, we’re already good friends, and David Liddiment directed this stunning musical, which I always think, “How on earth did this small television station in the north west of England end up making a musical in the sea and the beach of a Caribbean island? And yet again, Granada had no idea we were going to make this, but they didn’t stop us making it.

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