Interview by Stephen Kelly with Sylvia Cowling, 1 July 2020
Sylvia, let’s start with how you came to join Granada Television and when?
Right. I joined in June 1970. It was my first proper job. I’d had vacation jobs before as a student and they’d been mainly, in fact wholly, in academic libraries over in Leeds, where I come from. Because we had a friend at our church who ran the art college library in Leeds, and she just offered me. Said, “Do you fancy a vacation job?” I worked in several of the different libraries that were associated with what became Leeds Polytechnic. And so, when I became a student, I sort of had this at the back of my mind. I wasn’t close to anything else, but I thought, “I think I enjoy that. That’d be okay.”
So after I graduated, I did a postgraduate librarianship qualification. And then, the issue was that I had to find a job over in the Manchester area because I was about to marry my now-husband, who was a PhD student at Salford University. And I saw this job at Granada, in Granada Film Library, ‘Film Librarian required’, and I thought I’d speak to my tutor at library school about it. And he said, “Well, yes,” he said, “I don’t think it would be much of a job. You’ll just be humping film cans around all day. So they won’t have a proper system or anything.” So I thought, “Well, I need the job.” So I applied for it and I got an interview, and I was told at that interview that there will be a second round of interviews. And I thought, “For goodness sake. For what isn’t going to be a proper job.” Anyway, I was invited to a second interview.
And the real thing that I remember about is that, going up to the sixth floor to be interviewed by Bob Connell and various other people – he was head of a personnel at the time. I got in a lift with Michael Parkinson, and that was wonderful. I thought, “Oh, if it’s like this, this is great.” And they also showed me around the library at my second interview. It was a proper library. They catalogued and they classified their films. So I proudly went back to my tutor and said, “Look, they do it properly there. They’ve got a system. They use a UDC classification system!”
And then I was offered the job and that was fine. And it was a question of how soon could I start. And because my course was coming to an end, I actually left before the end of term because money would be useful. My husband was a student, my husband-to-be, and I got three weeks in work before I got married. And that’s how I came to work at Granada. I needed the job – and I have loved it. I have never got up in the morning and thought, “I really don’t want to go into work today.” For me, I’ve just loved it. Absolutely. And I’ve done one or two different things, but mainly in the film library. So that’s how I came to be there.
Okay. So you start in the film library June 1970?
And what were your first impressions of the film library? What did you have to do? How many films were there?
Right, my first impressions… my boss, the manager of the film library, was Keith Thompson, and he was an extremely good boss. I quickly worked that out. He’s a person management, ‘man management’, you’d call it in football, wouldn’t you? A good man. He managed people really well and he was a good guy, and I learned a lot from him about managing, I think. And yes, the staff in the library were good, we got on well together and we had… people came into the library. We weren’t isolated. We were down the end of a corridor past the editing suites. But you see, editing, I think… editors and the directors used to get fed up with sitting in small rooms editing, I think, staring at a Steenbeck viewing machine. And for light relief, they’d come into the library, and you’d find out all sorts about them. They’d tell you all sorts of things they’ve been doing. Yes, it was really good. So there was that part of it.
The other part was we’d not long been transmitting in colour. And there were lots of good programmes coming in that were made in colour, and this was film, of course, we’re talking about, because in the first place we only dealt with film. It was later on that we came to deal with tape as well, but it was strictly film, and there were just brilliant programmes being made – and we were there responsible for cataloguing them, classifying them… and what we also did in film library was run a clip sales operation. We made extracts from the programmes and stock shots – that’s the material that didn’t make it into the programme but might be very marketable, for instance, World in Action goes to New York and while there, shoot some nice shots of New York – we can market those as background for other programmes. And we started to sell – well, they’d already started before I came – but certainly the clips sales increased considerably while I was there, not least because, of course, Channel 4 started up, additional channel to sell to, and then of course the independent producers started making programmes for the broadcasters, and that was a great outlet for our clip sales as well. So that’s what the job was about, initially at any rate. It was about keeping track of the programmes and making them available for reuse, in whatever form.
Which floor were you on?
First floor, in the new phase five, they used to call it, didn’t they? So if you came out to the lifts on the first floor, you’d turn right and keep on walking. And you go down the editing corridor, and we were at the end of that corridor.
And how many people worked in the library?
Seven, initially. I seem to remember that went down to six. I can’t think how, where, or why. But seven initially. A mixture of qualified librarian staff and unqualified. Somebody had had the foresight, I think it was in 1968, to realise that the library should be done properly, if you like, as a library. So the first qualified librarian was appointed, who set up the basic structure of the library. And then there were always, I think, three librarians and four non-qualified staff, if you like, as well.
So who were the other people who worked in the library?
Well, as I said, there was Keith Thompson, his deputy at the time was Monica Ford. And when Keith moved on, which he did probably after, I think it was 1974, could be wrong, that sort of time – he was headhunted, as it were, to be a production manager and he went on to production manager – Monica then took over the library until 1976, at which point she asked if she could go part-time and work specifically on the Disappearing World material – those were the anthropological films that we’d shot around the world. And I was asked then to manage the library. And I think somewhere then we went to six people instead of seven. But other library staff, Anne Birtwell, Lynn Lloyd. Now Lynn, of course, became shop steward. I was at one point chair of the shop as well. Yes. Quite a haven of radical people, I suppose, in my library.
Who else do I remember? There was Doreen as well. She wasn’t there for too long. She left to join D’Oyly Carte, I think it was, the opera company. Or was it Sadler’s Wells? She could sing. Yes. They were replaced. We had Chris Bond, we had Sue Farnworth. Sue I’m still in contact with, still exchange Christmas cards. Barbara. At one point I still exchanged Christmas cards with Barbara as well. Yes, a variety of staff who came and went. And of course Kim Horton, who I know you’ve interviewed already. He was employed by the film library as well. Yes. That worked well. And then of course he went into editing. Quite proud of Kim.
So, your daily routine. I mean, you’d get somebody like me coming in as a researcher wanting a bit of film about a strike or whatever.
Yes. Two ways of doing it. If you’re somebody like Brian Blake, if you remember Brian Blake on World in Action, he would come in and he would root through the catalogue, little index cards, himself, and he was happy to do that. And then he’d say, “Can I look at these clips or these programmes, please?” That’s fine. You retrieved them for him and he views them on your Steenbeck viewing machine. Other people might come in and say, what have you got on? And we would talk to them about it, try and find out more about what they really wanted. Because you know, like everybody, people don’t always say what is they’re really after, so a bit of a conversation. And then one of the staff would do the research and retrieve the pieces for them to look at.
Where would you retrieve them from?
Well, the vault, the film vault, two floors down, in the first place. So you’d have to go to the lift, get in the lift or walk down, but usually a lift back because you were humping around film cans, no getting away from that.
So that vault, I don’t think I… I’m not sure whether I ever went into the vault but…
You probably thought it was a boiler room… it looked from the outside, like a boiler, a door to a boiler room.
Yes. Well there would be no reason for me to have a go in there.
So it must have been pretty substantial.
Yes, that was, we, we did subsequently we took over another area in the basement as well, near the main preview theatre, we also had access to that area and share that with Granada International because they had a programme staff that, which they sent overseas as part of their sales. But yes, the, the only one was temperature controlled. And that was the one, two floors down at our end of the building.
And wasn’t there also a vault somewhere, somewhere external that contained all the old Granada programmes?
Well, we had all the film programmes in our vault, going right back. In fact, the very first day of Granada’s broadcast we had, you know, we had all those, but there was this other vault by the preview theatre, which contained a lot of old programmes that were really what we call Granada International stock. But then we started using that. And then, even beyond that, when we took over, what was it called? Was it Bonded Warehouse? The one across the road, there was a film vault in there as well.
But if I came to you and said, “I want the master tape.”
Ah. We never handled tape. There was a video tape library, but we did sell clips from tape programmes. So for instance, quite a lot of the music programmes that Granada made, I mean, that was rich, rich source of material for clip sales. I mean, we made programmes about I’m having trouble remembering now. We did a series on the Bay City Rollers. We did… 1960s, I mean, we had people like Billie Holiday, little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, a rich music archive, thanks to Johnnie Hamp.
Yes. And where would those tapes be?
Those tapes are kept in the videotape library, which I think was somewhere on the ground floor. But once again, what we would do if we were selling a clip from those, we would book videotape time. And the videotape miraculously appeared in the videotape edit suite for us to take the clip off that we wanted and copy it onto somewhere else. And that was the videotape people who would deal with that. They would take that along for us.
Right. And they would be the master tapes? They were the three inch, three inch tape?
Oh, it was two inch. It started off as two inch. I mean, it started off as 405 line, but the 405 line was upgraded to 625 line, 625 line one inch. So there became a time when you weren’t using the old tapes. I think the old tapes may have been sent to the British Film Institute or the National Film Archive, which was part of the British Film Institute. Not too sure because I said we didn’t handle them, but yes.
Okay. So your job will entail filing film.
Specific bits. So presumably you’d look through a film and think, “Well,
Yes. Reviewed it. Yes. And the local news, of course, every evening. I mean, the following day, everything that was on location originally was on film, of course. It was shot on film. Some of it, of course, was the national news as well. Something like, let’s see, of going a really long way back, Pilkington strike, if you remember that?
I remember that.
Toxteth riots, if you remember that. Lots of notable things happened in the north west. So it may have been local news to us, but it was of national and international interest in some cases.
It’s interesting that you mentioned the Toxteth riots. That was all black, that film.
Yes, yes, yes, yes. And of course, all sorts of stories, but one story, before I started at Granada though, is the anti-Vietnam War demonstration in Grosvenor Square outside the American embassy. And that was covered by World in Action. And when I got there in 1970, one of the things I had to remember was not to release World in Action, the demonstration. At that point, it did not go anywhere because it was thought that the police were trying to identify some of the demonstrators. And it was a long, long time before it was made available. And when it was made available, that was actually sold to police training colleges as a guide to how not to run a demonstration, if you like. How not to deal with it.
As a slight aside here, I was actually on that demonstration as a young lad.
Is that right?
But also, I was in Vietnam earlier this year, and I went to the big war museum in Saigon, in Ho Chi Minh’s… and they have films shown on the wall, and what should be there but the Grosvenor Demonstration, World in Action.
Yes, yes, yes. It gets everywhere. Yes. Yes. I don’t know if you’re like me, but working in the film library, this is one of the things that drives my family mad. Over the years, I’ll sit watching television, and all of a sudden I’ll say, “That’s our footage! That’s ours.”
So you’d be finding film for a researcher, producer, director. And what else would you do? Oh, you said about international sales.
Yes. Sold clips. Yes. Did a lot of that. Yes. Yes. And that was it, really, the two sides. You take the material in, you catalogue it and classify it so it is retrievable, and then you service the customers who want it.
Can I take you through the technological changes when video came in?
Yes. I’m not very good on dates, can’t really tell you when. But I do remember one thing, actually. Lynn Lloyd, who has now died, unfortunately. I remember when she was shop steward coming in one day and saying, “I’m going to America.” Oh, yes? She and somebody from the newsroom, whose name I can’t remember beyond Eleanor. I think she may have been one of the live shot people, but in the newsroom. The company paid for them to go to America to see Ted Turner’s outfit. Was that in Atlanta? But it was basically the tape business, the immediacy of tape and see how it happens. And she went there, and of course shortly afterwards news went from film to tape. Was it always Beta? I can’t remember. Beaten then became Beta SP. And we had viewing machines for those in the library. So the news material on tape, in the same way as it had come in on film, would now come in on Betas and that would be viewed and catalogue and classified.
So did it change your job that much?
It got us much more involved with tape. That’s the thing I can say, much more involved in tape. It was just a different medium. We just dealt with it. Yes. Put it on the shelves in the same way.
Did film eventually disappear altogether?
Did film disappear altogether? No, I don’t… there were always those that clung to film, but I must say largely, it did go to tape. Definitely. And then we were just recording incidences of World in Action’s or whatever. But of course, World in Action came to an end, didn’t they? Documentaries came to an end, really. Yes. I mean, it got to the stage where we weren’t storing the material any more because we didn’t store video tape, but we did still stored Betas because they were nice and small. But we still kept a record of what it was.
Was there anything else in terms of your specific job that you wanted to talk about?
Just the people. Sometimes people you only spoke to on the phone, but you felt as though you knew them really well. Researchers from the BBC or Thames Television when Thames were going. And London Weekend Television, that of course became a bit, not dicey, but I mean, we made a hostile takeover of people that we knew. So yes, just became a little bit difficult I suppose, but that was good. Real relationships were set up. Sometimes people would actually come from London to view. They’d come, they’d stay overnight because they wanted to view a lot of your material. And I remember Tony Palmer came up. He was writing the Beatles’ All You Need Is Love, and making a series of programmes about it for an LWT, I believe. And he came up and wanted to view all our Beatles material.
Which I suppose leads me to one of the main highlights, which is The Beatles, of course, who had split up by the time I’m talking about. But a newsroom told me one day that George Harrison was coming in to be interviewed. So I just said, “Oh, I’d love to meet him. Do you think I could?” I said, “Because actually, we’re about to do a deal.” And I think it was the Tony Palmer deal with Tony Palmer for the Beatles material. “I’d just like to know that he knows about it,” not that it came as a shock to him. And in fact, we had two editing rooms off the film library on phase five, and George Harrison walked into one of them to sit with an editor while the interview or something that he’d done was being recorded. So as he came out, I went up to him and said, “Excuse me.” And he shook my hand. Shook my hand! So I’ve never forgotten that. But, yes.
There were other lighter moments, nothing to do with the job particularly at all. But in the early days, I used to go into the canteen. And then I didn’t, just because I thought, “This is ridiculous, having a hot meal at lunchtime and a hot meal at tea time. This is silly.” So I used to take sandwiches. But when I used to go into the canteen, I remember one day David Plowright carrying into the canteen a bottle of champagne and two glasses. And he was followed by Laurence Olivier, because Olivier was here to film, what was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, was it? No. The other one.
Yes. Well, he did do that. He did a whole series of Laurence Olivier plays. Yes.
He did. Yes. I remember. I think it was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, I went to see. The set for that was fantastic. They spent thousands of pounds on the set. I remember going to the studio to look at it. But it was funny. And then I think behind them, came canteen staff carrying their meals or something. And it was just like, when I arrived, I said to his brother-in-law, “Now come on. You’re a hired hand.” We’re going in the canteen or something. And so, along with Coronation Street people and everybody else, there was Olivier in the canteen.
A lot of people have talked about the canteen and the importance of it as an area of networking or bonding.
Yes, I think that’s true. I think that’s true, to be honest. I think it perhaps in the later period wasn’t much at all, but, of course, they did make the mistake of closing it. I don’t know if you remember. And there was uproar. And I don’t know how many years it was for, but it did open again in a different place under different guise. But yes, it did reopen, so there must be some truth in that. Definitely. Yes.
What about The Stables?
Not for me particularly. I mean, while I was at Granada, I took two maternity leaves, remember, so I wasn’t one for going out drinking, I was dashing home to sort out the family. But, yes. So I mean, the amount of drinking, really, in the early days, was quite something. When you look back on it now, it was normal at the time. But people would go to the pub at lunchtime, and got the Film Exchange up Quay Street and so on. And if you went to a meeting or with lunch, quite often there’d be wine there as well. And then somebody had the bright idea that probably this wasn’t a good idea, so the wine stopped. But, yes. And The Stables in an evening, it was a sort of place. But I think, us back office people weren’t perhaps so often engaged with that. It was more the frontline programme makers. I don’t know, but that’s the way I feel about it.
Did you ever want to move into frontline at all, or move away from the film library?
I wondered at one point about moving into personnel because there was a job came up there. And yes, I applied for this job, and I was… oh no, that was another one. Sorry. Yes. I applied for it, and then they decided they weren’t appointing anybody anyway. So at least I could say, “Oh, well it wasn’t that I didn’t get it. There was no job there.” Yes. But I did apply when Tom Gill was retiring. I thought perhaps I could do that. And I applied for that job, and I was interviewed for that. And one person, who shall remain nameless, asked me, “Sylvia, how do you think you’ll manage this with two children?” And Bob Connell, to his credit, quick as a flash, said, “You can’t ask her that.” And the person was shut up immediately. Anyway, I didn’t get that job, but anyway, yes.
So that’s akin to the other management person, who… I was involved with trying to start up a creche. And that was alongside the Equal Opportunities Commission, who worked up on the corner of Deansgate, up at the top of Quay Street. And we made a formal request to the management for some contribution towards this creche and it is said that a senior management person said, “I’m not paying for the children of my male employees, to put them in a creche.” Because he realised it will be open to everybody. And I don’t know if he even said, “My male employees who have a wife at home putting their children into a creche.” Or something like that.
That brings us neatly onto the whole issue of sexism at Granada. Bullying, that whole area.
Yes. I never experienced anything bullying at all. Never. Sexism, those comments you’d get, and you’d get comments. Some of the editors were very old school. I mean, some of them have been working at Granada when it was down at Chelsea in the 50s, and they were very old school and they made the occasional comment. But it was no more than that. I never noticed anything, particularly as regards work. I had bosses who were women. I’ve had two bosses in my time there, admittedly later on, but that was the case. So I can’t say I noticed that. Perhaps it was more with programme making. I don’t know.
Did you come into contact much from people like the Bernsteins and Plowright?
No. I think Bernstein might have been shown in to the office once or something, by somebody else. But that was the annoying thing that they would do, people would come in, senior executives, with some guests, and stand at the door of the office and talk all about you and never actually talked to you. That was annoying, that did happen. But no, the thing I remember about the Bernsteins was that World in Action went out on a Monday night, and before the weekend, a combined optical print had to be made, such as could be shown on a conventional projector. And it used to have to catch the Thursday night transport to London, Golden Square, where it could be picked up by somebody in Golden Square on Friday morning and taken down to Sidney Bernstein’s farm, we were told it was. So somewhere in Kent near Sevenoaks or somewhere like that, and he would view it over the weekend.
Do you want to talk a little bit about your union activities?
Yes. The union, we had two shops, the live shop and the film shop. ACTT it was called in those days, the Association of Cinematographer and Television Technicians. Golly, I didn’t think I could remember that! And of course, it was a closed shop, so you joined the union when you joined Granada. Didn’t bother me at all. I guess, I was a bit that way inclined anyway. Six months before I started work at Granada, my father had died, aged 55. And although I wouldn’t say he’d ever been badly treated at his work, he was involved in printing, basically he’d given them all the hours God sends. And I just thought, “That can’t be right,” and so, invited to join a union, I thought, “Yes, if this is giving a good deal for workers, then yes.”
So I joined, nothing much happened in the live shop at first, but then one or two people became interested in it. Phil Phillips, the stills cameraman, one of them, and Lynn, the other. And I was interested anyway. So I think Lynn became deputy steward to Phil. Phil stood for steward, he thought it was time things started happening and I think Lynn was deputy. Anyway, then Phil gave up and passed onto Lynn. And at some point I was asked to be shop chair. So I became chair of the shop. But Lynn was the spearhead.
I thought she was quite magnificent as a shop steward, because one thing about Lynn was you knew that what she was telling you was the truth. It didn’t matter whether she was telling it to the management or to the union, it would be right. It would be the truth. And I think management appreciated that about her as well. She didn’t beat around the bush. She told the truth and she tried, to me, to solve management problems. The management had a problem and they’d throw something at it which was totally unsuitable. And it was up to Lynn to say, “Well, no, shouldn’t we do it like this?” They never seemed to have any bright ideas. That’s how it seemed to me. And often the union would solve the management problems. So that’s what I can tell you there, Lynn was very good as shop steward.
And did you then become shop steward?
Oh, no. Things became slightly difficult as I moved further on, because we’re probably now, into the 90s. And at one point I was offered the role of PARIS Project manager, which was outside the library, which was a non-union position, I had to lodge my card anyway. But before that, it had probably been inappropriate for me, as manager of a department, to become shop steward.
You say PARIS?
Programme And Rights Information System database. I know nothing about rights or next to nothing about rights. But the information that went into that system came, to a large extent, from what we’d originally had in our classified catalogue. So the information about the programmes was gradually, through a process of data transfer, put into the programme and rights information system. And in due course, news items came to be recorded in that system as well.
So you’re still in the film library, more or less, you’re still in the same area, jobs changing a little bit?
Yes. I remember the time when we actually took a million pounds one year in clip sales, that was a red letter day. Our boss then, our manager then was Sue Wilde, who’d previously been, I think, head of artist payments. She was good boss. And she was absolutely over the moon with it. She was telling everybody who’d listen that we’d made a million pounds that year. So it became a nice little earner.
At what point did you look to leave, and were you made redundant?
No, no, I wasn’t. I moved on to other jobs. I moved down out of the library entirely in 1998. And that was when I became the project manager for PARIS. And then that evolved into being involved with database transfer. You see, we then got into taking over all these other companies and we did take them over. It was called a merger with Carlton, but I mean, look who got the jobs at the end of it all and things like that, it was a Granada takeover really. And we thought to bring all their material onto our PARIS database. And I loved doing that as well. So I did all that. And finally I retired in 2010.
Oh, quite recent then, yes.
Yes. 10 years ago. Just exactly 10 years ago, because I finished, I think, the end of June. Yes.
Gosh, you must be one of the few people who survived all those years.
Well, this is it, yes. At the beginning of 2010, I had a health issue. I mean, it was fine, I was back at work and fine, but I just thought, “I don’t really think I want to die here.” So I decided I would retire, and I was also coming up to 40 years, by just coincidence. So I just thought, “Right. I’ll give in my notice, say I want to leave at the end of June. I will have end on for 40 years.” So that’s what I did. But yes, how did I avoid redundancy? I don’t know. I don’t know. It happened around me. I mean, there were times when two of the library staff had to go, perhaps that’s when we went, I don’t know anyway. That sort of thing was happening all around me. I don’t know.
I remember one time there was this meeting in the studio, all employees summoned to a meeting. We’d been to these before and I just thought, “I’m not going to this one. It has nothing to do with me. I won’t be here for the future. Why should I go to a meeting about the future?” And I think either later that day or the following day, I was summoned to a meeting with Jules Burns, who I think was my boss then, because I think he brought Sue in, because he was then perhaps promoted himself, and had too much to do.
And as I remember Jules Burns asked me why I not been at the meeting. And I didn’t know how he knew I’d not been at the meeting. I can only assume somebody must have told him, because there was so many people there. And I said, “Well, why would I want to go to a meeting, when it’s about something which probably doesn’t include me at all? I said, “This is probably why I’m here now, isn’t it?” And he looked aghast and said, “No, we want you to do…” I can’t remember what he wanted me to do. I think it might’ve been something to do with London Weekend, but I can’t remember. I’ve got the timeline all warped there, I don’t really remember. But yes, I don’t know how I managed to survive, and I didn’t think I would.
So, what? He was offering you a new position?
To take on something additional, that’s what you always got. If you didn’t get redundancy, you were doing more. It’s one way or the other one, wasn’t it? But I can’t remember what it was now.
That must have been that period from what, 1990 on, was companies changing dramatically.
Yes, it was. And that’s when the ‘caterer’ came in, isn’t it? Gerry Robinson. Yes. Never had anything to do with that particularly. I was very sorry that Plowright went. I was sorry. I thought that would be the end of making decent programmes. I did think that. I was sorry about that. But yes, it all changed. And then of course we were into takeovers, LWT, and then Yorkshire, Tyne Tees, and all their briefs were added. I know I was put in charge of London Weekend library as well as our own. And that was tricky, because obviously, they didn’t like us anyway. But yes, saw through it, it was okay.
Well, before Gerry Robinson came in, was Granada a good company to work for? Do you have good memories?
Yes. I mean, to be honest, for me personally, Granada has always been a good company to work for. I’ve always thought that. Salaries were okay, pension scheme, I’m now a pensioner, paid in as much as I could pay into the pension, and yes, it’s done me well, done be proud. I always thought it was, in those terms, a good company to work for. I have no complaints, but perhaps I wasn’t on the sharp end of anything that would cause me to… a creche would have been nice.
Yes, I remember the battles on the shop committee to get a creche. Ross and I got involved in that as well.
Right, yes, yes.
Any particular programmes you want to talk about that you were heavily involved with, or did you always get bits and pieces of programmes?
Yes, we were generally after the event. I mean, obviously every time there was a big anniversary for Granada and they always came to us with clips of the programmes and you could more or less guess what they were going to ask for you, the same things came out, and then it was like 50th anniversary, or the 21st anniversary or whatever. So I remember, do remember, shortly after I started work at Granada, all hell being let loose one morning, because the company had heard that the actor that played Jack Walker in Coronation Street had died. I mean, of course, that meant all sorts of things, rewriting scripts and our side of it was sorting out material for an obituary. We didn’t know every episode of Coronation Street, but nonetheless, we were in charge of searching out what it was they wanted and we were involved with that.
I remember Pat Phoenix became very ill. She’d already left the Street I think, but she was dying and people wanting clips of her we always sought permission to release any such clips. And there was a time when the company said, “No, no, this is too sordid. We’re not doing this.” Until she did die. And then clips were made, as I recall, freely available, it wasn’t a commercial operation at all. It was just, let people have these clips, we’ve put together this obituary, let them have it. So I remember that.
Of course, I remember Brideshead Revisited. I was on maternity leave when it was mostly made. So I don’t know too much about that in the sense, but obviously, I mean, that was wonderful hit for Granada. It was beautifully done. The colour was… everything about it was good. Then came Dennis Forman’s baby, Jewel in the Crown, and that was very much thought of as his baby. He was determined that this should be done. It was likewise very successful, but there’s never been another Brideshead, really. I don’t think anybody’s ever done another Brideshead, really.
Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about specifically?
No, I was mainly trying to keep a timeline of when various things happened. I think that was it really. Channel 4, the ITV companies and the BBC probably didn’t fancy Channel 4 much, it was an additional channel, but for us in the Film Library, it’s brilliant because all these independent producers started making archive programmes and they were coming to us for a lot of their footage. So it was during those days that are income reached that, well it was in the ‘90s when it finally reached its peak, but it started to grow then, because from our point of view, the more TV programme makers you’ve got, the more money you’re going to make, brilliant.
Did you want to talk about Granada as a northern company, and its importance to the region, and its legacy to the region?
Oh, yes. I mean, as I say, a lot of our news items, we’re talking national news… in fact, I remember the second interview I came to at Granada, one of the interviewers said to me, “Sylvia, if you were preparing the regional news for tonight, what would you include in it?” I thought, “I’ve come from Leeds.” But one thing I could remember was, and it was must have been big at the time, Pilkington’s glass strike and it must have made the headlines everywhere. I said, “Well, it’ll be Pilkington’s.” And then I said, “Well, I’m from Leeds.” And so I think Bob Connell again, rescued me and said, “I don’t think Sylvia can be expected to know what’s going on in the north west.”
But I mean, so often we were at the forefront. We shot the stuff and then we’re feeding it down the line to ITN, that happened quite a bit. Then there was the time when David Plowright brought up, what was it he brought up? To Manchester, perhaps it was all the network heads, they used to meet to plan their schedules, and you’d offer programmes and certain programmes would be worth a certain number of points as I understand it. And I think he got more to come up to Granada at one point. He was very keen on Manchester and rightly so, I think. Of course, it was the rivalry with Liverpool, so This Morning had to be set in Liverpool, as it were. I went over to Liverpool once or twice for various things, because we actually had a news library working in Liverpool, because the news went to Liverpool, didn’t it at one time?
Yes, yes. Dave, we had a librarian working over there. Yes. Yes. And so went over that for that. A lot of the stories we did were north west stories. I mean in World in Action, as well. I mean, in documentaries, because we had lots of big things up here.
You wouldn’t have had anything to do with the cuttings library?
No, not at all. No, no. Knew the people, of course. Wasn’t that Denise Carlin? Yes. Lovely person, yes, she was lovely.
I think that’s… unless there’s anything you want to add?
No, I don’t think so. No. I mean, things come to you, but that’s the essence of what we did.
That’s great, Sylvia.
Does that help?
Terrific, really, yes. Because it’s a whole area that have not talked to anybody about. The important thing is, I suppose you inevitably, the vast majority of people we’ve talked to have been producers, directors.
Yes, yes, as you would, yes, front office.
We made an important point when we started the project that we wanted to talk to people who worked in other departments, be they secretaries, film library, electricians, whatever. So we’ve tried to do that.
So have you spoken to… because Denise Carlin from cuttings, she’s still around.
She was, don’t know if she still is, but she was part time Coronation Street office. If she’s not, they’ll know where she is. She lives near me. She lives in Bramhall. Or she did do. Elvin Morris, she lives in Cheadle Hulme, near me. Alvin, she was head of artist payments at one point. She might be useful about paying people. Though there’s probably a lot of confidential information she couldn’t divulge, but yes.