Steve with fond memories of Jim Walker and Scramble

I was asked to go and do this major series about Islam, which was going to be based in London, because Granada had the London office. So the producer was in London, and it was really going to be based in London. And I was given the opportunity to go work on this major, major series. And I turned it down. I remember Rod Caird being flabbergasted when I said I didn’t want to do it, saying, “Why?” I said, “I got married six months ago, and I’d like to spend some time with my wife.” They couldn’t believe it. And so anyway, so I didn’t do it. I went on Scramble, which was great fun. The producer of Scramble was a guy called Jim Walker. It was one of those social action programmes which raised money. Scramble didn’t try to raise money, but it went out in the afternoon or lunchtime. Anyhow, it was a daytime programme and it was done from the Liverpool office. And the idea was that we would give things to people – we were in the 80s here, which are difficult times. Thatcherism, unemployment, high inflation. And the idea was to give people things. So we’d ring up tea companies, Cadbury’s or whatever saying, “Can you give us some tea bags?” They’d say, “Okay, yes, we’ll give you 500 packets of tea bags.” And we’d say on the programme, “We’ve got 500 packets of tea bags, first 500 people to come to the office can have them.” All sorts of bizarre things. I went up in a hot air balloon once, made this film in a hot air balloon, and we invited people to write in, and the first three names we picked out of the bag would take off in a hot air balloon. It was a bit naughty, really. We were on the boundaries. But nobody ever said anything. So we were advertising the balloon company, and we were advertising the tea company, and various other companies who were giving us things. And it was under the table bribery! But we didn’t bother. We just spent all of our time dreaming up all these wonderful things. We had Red Rum in the office once. I’m not quite sure why. But Red Rum came along. We must have been advertising for the Grand National and giving away free tickets for the Grand National. “And here is Red Rum!” Although we couldn’t actually bring him into the studio. They wouldn’t let us do that. We have to do him outside, on that concourse area outside Exchange Flags. And we had a great time. Jim Walker is one of the most wonderful producers I ever worked with. He was a genius. But he was a bolshie Geordie. A very working class, very left-wing – he was so left-wing, he hated the union! He was great, was Jim. But he didn’t drive. And he used to come over to Liverpool on the train. And he would pull out an envelope from his pocket, and he would write the script on the back of an envelope, literally on an envelope. And he would come into the office and give the envelope to poor old Val, the production secretary, and she’d be ripping it up to try and put it all together. And that was the script. And they were brilliant scripts. They were just so clever. And the whole programme was just riotous, it was great fun to work on. And I made a lot of money because I got loads of expenses, because, again, it was made in Liverpool and we were all Manchester-based, working in Liverpool. At the same time, Granada had half a dozen researchers and producers who were Liverpool-based working in Manchester. It was crazy. And it was just great fun.

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