Thelma McGough on how she got a job at Granada

To get back to your original question, how I came to work there, on… following Anthony (H. Wilson) around, it always seemed like a really vibrant, interesting job, and he made it look easy and effortless and fun. Being a Scouser, there’s a bit of that Yozzer – though that came later – [attitude of] “I can do that.” You know, “Gizza job.” So I asked them to “gizza job” twice, and I was turned down, clearly. John Slater was the Granada Reports producer when I first went to Granada. He said to me, “I know Tony chooses all these Liverpool stories so he can be with you, and I don’t mind, really I don’t.” It was quite posh, his voice. “But please send him back with half an hour to spare instead of 10 minutes.” And he was an extraordinary man, John Slater. He was an inventive broadcaster himself. There were lots of slots in Granada Reports when he did it. There was always… for some reason there was a running joke of a parrot in the studio all the time, and I think he was the one that suggested the kamikaze slots, and I made Anthony a sweatshirt with kamikaze across it, and went on several of the film shoots, one of which he absolutely could not do, which was water-skiing, and he was banging into the side of the ramp where you took off. He was covered in bruises.

But anyway, I suggested an item to John Slater that I thought would be interesting for Granada Reports, meaning, “Someone should do this.” And I’d been aware that in Liverpool, there was this circuit of under fives that were doing these beauty competitions, they were called Rosebud competitions, and John Slater said, “Well, do it. Go away and do it.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Well, set it up and I’ll give you a film crew.” Which wasn’t quite what I had in mind, it was pretty scary, but I did. And he gave me a film crew, and Laurence Moody, the director, came over to Liverpool, and we filmed these young girls, and we interviewed their mothers, and made a really sweet film which went to transmission, so that was my first contact with ever doing anything like that. And at that time of course, I met Chris Pye, Trevor Hyett, Anna Ford was working there then, Geoff Seed, Gus. So there was a whole coterie of people that I already knew, so then I – oh, and Greavsie! – significant. Greavsie and Jane Cousins were friends. And Jeremy Fox as well. So I failed, quite rightly. Do you have journalistic experience? No. Do you have any film-making experience? No. Well, a bit. Not really. And you have to remember that all the intake, most of the intake, were Oxbridge. You know, there was Barry Cox, Nick Elliott, Andy Mayer, Coburn… John Slater, David Jenkins, Andy Harries, Tony Wilson – so I wasn’t in that league; I was an artist. However, Jane Cousins asked me to research part of a book she was writing called ‘Make it Happy’, which was the sex guide for teenagers. So that was enlightening, and that was good, and she gave me a credit.

And then I went to work voluntarily for the Liverpool Free Press, and it was begun by four investigative journalists, Rob Rohrer was one. And they were very mindful that whilst they were uncovering tales of corruption, corporate corruption, in Liverpool, they were neglecting issues pertaining to what would now be called women’s issues, like the lack of funding for nursery schools, or the health service. So I wrote some copy for them, and that was invaluable experience. Out of the blue, then, I had a phone call from Greavsie, and he said he was presenting with Joan Bakewell a programme called Reports Action. And he asked me would I speak to Joe Simpson, who was… Community Service Volunteers, because they were advising the programme. Jim Walker was the producer. What they had done was, they’d demonstrated a pennant, a little orange fluorescent flag, that could be attached to the back of your bicycle to prevent… so you would be noticeable, and there would be fewer accidents. They invited viewers to write in to get one free, and they were overwhelmed. And therefore they’d employed a team of about six young women from the dole on the work experience scheme to pack these things and post them off. And they needed somebody to oversee these youngsters, and Greavsie had suggested me. And I went over to meet with Joe Simpson and Jim Walker, and I was given that job. My wages were paid for by CSV. So that was the first time – we were in the Old School, I think, we weren’t in the main building at that time. I liked Jim Walker, he was very down to earth. Quite brusque, but so was I, so that was that was okay. You know, he wasn’t two-faced, like a lot of Southerners were. So he told it like it is, or was. And so did I. And I admired that in him. So I worked there for a while.

I knew, of course, all that group I mentioned earlier, and Chris Pye had been given the job to head up the new Liverpool office. Now, when I was turned down the first two times for jobs, I always got these lovely letters saying, “When the Liverpool office opens, we’ll employ you.” I thought they were being kindly and giving me the brush-off so I thought it would never materialise – and why should it? I’ve no history. However, I think there was a franchise, or they felt… a lot of the stories in Granada Reports did generate on Merseyside, and it wasn’t all because Tony was there to see me, there were genuine stories. And I think they felt obliged, the powers that be, to open the Liverpool office. Anyway, it came to be, and Chris Pye was going to be the person in charge. My feeling was that it was a sideways move that he wasn’t quite comfortable with, and I think he wanted an ally. And of course I did have a great deal of Liverpool contacts, so he came to the Old School and said to me, “There’s another board, why don’t you apply?” and I said, “I’m not doing it a third time.” And he said, “No, you’ll get it this time, apply.” So I did. On the board were people I knew well – or well-ish. There was Gus MacDonald and Steve Morrison and Chris, Brian Armstrong… I’m not sure if there was somebody else. So I did this board and I was a bit more worldly-wise in the ways of telly by then. And Chris came over and said, “You did a really good board and you’ve got the job.” Within half an hour I got a bluey, so a blue envelope, and you take it out, and it’s got nice blue airmail paper, and typed on it was the official version that I hadn’t got the job.

So I telephoned him in the other building, so Chris came scurrying over and I showed it to him, “There you go.” And he went away. And then I was summoned to the sixth floor to see Mike Scott. I didn’t know what was going to happen. And I wasn’t intimidated, in a sense, by Mike Scott, because I’d done that interview years ago, and he was always jolly… and so I got in, and he sat on the corner of his desk, and he said, “Right, I want to tell you why I don’t think we should give you the job.” He put his hand on his chin and he said, “I think you too old. You’re 36, and researcher is a starting out job, and I don’t think we should be giving 36-year-olds jobs as researchers.” So I said, “Right. I can do it.” So that’s when he said, “I don’t think we should be giving people of your age jobs as researchers. It’s a junior job.” I don’t know where I got… the Scouse came out in me and I said, “Would you be saying this to someone stood here if it was a man?” And he looked quite shocked. And because he wasn’t my boss and I hadn’t seen another side of him other than the really nice, friendly interviewer man from all those years ago – but by this time his hair had gone grey – I didn’t have that fear of him, and I wasn’t going to get the job anyway, so why wouldn’t I stand there and… and he said, “Well, yes I think I would still say the same thing.” And then he said, “Look, Chris wants you. So I’ll leave it to him.” But I didn’t get the memo saying – oh, yes I did get the memo saying – they didn’t say, “We’ve got it wrong,” it just said, “You’ve got the job.”

Then the interesting thing was, having tried all that time to get the job, and it was a very closed shop in terms of the union, Chris and I were celebrating were the drinking the Stables bar that night, which was next door to the Old School, geographically I think, I was suddenly… someone came up to me and said, “You need to join the NUJ, here’s the form.” NUJ. And someone came to me said, “Oh, you need an ACTT card.” So I had absolutely no background for anything, and was given this NUJ card immediately and an ACTT card immediately. That was a contradiction of everything you expected

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