Stephen Kelly talks about Hypotheticals

Yes, I worked on Hypotheticals from January 1982 until June 1982, and a series that was to do with the police, called The Police and the Public. Now, Hypotheticals is a really interesting idea that had been devised, I think, in the late 40s, early 50s, in America, at the Ford Foundation, and it had been picked up by American television. I can’t remember the man’s name now, certainly Arthur Miller was involved. Fred Friendly. Fred was the great American producer who had produced the Ed Murrow show in the 1940s, on American TV. I did actually get to meet Fred Friendly, he was a tall, very elegant gentleman. Anyhow, he had devised this programme which had come from the Ford Foundation. It was about trying to get people, in various tasks, to talk about the way decisions were taken. And it had been devised for television. I think the first series had been done in America. But then Granada did it, and the first one they did was about the media, about decision making of journalists. So questions would be posed. You would take people who worked in a specific job, but then you would devise this fictional story. Because you can go to someone and say, “What are you going to do if the Prime Minister says this?” So you create this story. So there are 16 people around the horseshoe table, and there is a moderator who walks around and guides the story. It’s, “Tell me, sir, as leader of such a such a council, what are you going to do if such and such thing happens?” So we did one with the police, which was a tricky one, and in the end, was not hugely successful, I don’t think. We did three programmes. I worked on one, which was to do with the police and the general public, and how they dealt with demonstrations and public disorder. So what we did was we went to the Home Office, met the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, got his agreement to do it, because we then had to go to the police. So we went to ACPO, the Association of Chief Police Officers, we spoke to them, and they agreed in the end, that they would not necessarily recommend chief constables to go along with the programme, but to say, “If you wish to go along with it and do it, fine.” So we did this series of programmes, and we involved Greater Manchester Police, Merseyside Police and various other police forces. And there were three scenarios. One was a demonstration, and at what point do you demand a demonstration be called off if there was potential danger and disorder. And another one was to do with football hooliganism. And you develop a story about what is happening with a football demonstration, does there come a point where you move in and start arresting lots of people? Do you bring in reinforcements at some point? What’s the response of the football club? And so on. And then there were two other programmes, which were more specifically to deal with the police. One was about criminality. Now, the problem was that you would say to the police, “A prisoner has been taken into custody, and the next morning he’s found dead in his cell.” And the police would say, “I’m sorry, that wouldn’t happen.” And they said, “Well, let’s pretend it happened.” “No, no, no, it wouldn’t happen, it’s impossible. It wouldn’t happen at all.” So it was very difficult to develop the scenarios with them because they were very resistant, and they will not accept anything could go wrong. “No, no, the demonstration would not get out of hand, we would be able to control it. That’s not an issue.” But what if it DID get out of hand?” They refused to play the game. Because it is a game. But we had some good people on the programme. I enjoyed doing it enormously. Andy McLaughlin was my producer, Brian Lapping was the executive producer, Andy and I went to Bramshill College, which was the big police chief training college where police officers shift from, say, assistant superintendent to superintendent, from assistant chief constable to chief constable. They would go there and do their final preparation for the advancement. We were the first outsiders to ever be allowed in, and it was really interesting. So I learned a lot about the police, and spent six months totally concentrating on talking to policemen, and various other people to do with law and order. It was really fascinating. I really, really enjoyed that programme. 

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