Getting people and places together 

25 January 2021


TVTimes cover

From the TVTimes for 8 November 1959

THE Northern magazine programme People and Places little show that features the big names – stars of stage and film as well as top personalities from the worlds of music, art and sport.

The list of people who have appeared in the programme, which comes from Granada’s Manchester studios and is one of the company’s longest-running shows, is peppered with celebrities.

Here are some of the names: Lord Harewood, Henry Sherek, Katherine Dunham, Sheila Buxton, Tessie O’Shea, Dickie Henderson, Alfie Bass, Ted Lunee and Bill Fraser.

It is the sort of programme which presents the people who produce it with a never-ending streams of problems.

A phone call – sometimes just 10 minutes before the programme is due on the air – tells the producer that one of the artists has been held up and cannot get to the studio on time.

That is the kind of situation the presents a challenge to researchers like Jim Coburn, who are continually at the producer’s elbow.

The last time it happened he grabbed a taxi and drove three miles from the studios in the City Centre to the lodgings of comedian Freddie Earle. Freddie was making an omelette when Jim rushed in and said: “You’re on TV.”

Freddy [sic] dropped his fork, climbed into the taxi with Jim, and rushed to the studio as fast as traffic-choked roads would allow. He faced the cameras on an almost empty stomach and without a touch of make-up. There had been no time even for that.

“This sort of thing has happened a number of times,” said Jim. “We have had people rushing through the studio doors even during the 10-second count down to ‘on the air’ – and you can’t get much later than that!”

It happened again when Michael Holliday missed his train. The result was a frantic telephone call to jazz singer-trumpeter Leslie (Jiver) Hutchinson, who was appearing that week in Manchester.

Leslie was asked to jump into a taxi and head for the studios immediately!

Last-minute illnesses, late trains and planes, mechanical breakdowns. These are hazards which face the team that bring People And Places to the screen.

Under the heading of breakdowns comes the story of the luxurious taxi – the last word in comfort – that was sent to Blackpool to bring Dickie Henderson to Manchester for an appearance on the programme.

In Blackpool, the car developed engine trouble. So Dickie had to make the trip in an old-fashioned “boneshaker”.

Chris Howland outside with a sandwich board

Chris Howland’s sandwich board campaign.

The story of People And Places is not without its lighter moments, for the programme has always been liberally sprinkled with humour.

Interviewers Bill Grundy and Chris Howland started a gag with ran for weeks. It was the now-famous joke of long series of incidents carefully contrived to prevent Chris Howland singing on the programme.

It began, almost by accident, when Chris was given a singing spot – right at the end of the show. But because times ran out, the singing spot had to be cut. And on each occasion afterwards, something happened to prevent Chris being heard.

Letters began to roll in demanding that Bill should let Chris sing. But the joke went on.

Lord Harewood, who was in the programme to talk about the opening of Harewood House to the public, helped to keep it running. He told Chris: “You be down at Covent Garden at 10 am tomorrow for an audition.”

Later, Gary Miller, who was also in the conspiracy, asked Chris to sing with him in the show, but he said Chris would have to have a straw hat and cane if he wanted to take up the invitation.

Everybody thought that Howland would at last be heard. He dashed away for the vital hat and cane. But when he got back – breathless, and consequently unable to sing – only two bars of the number remained.

Chris continued to “campaign.” In a demonstration in which he was seen accompanied by about two dozen girl supporters, he carried a large board bearing the demand: HOWLAND MUST SING.

And Howland did. Standing beside a fountain in the studio grounds, he sang The Rain Falls On Everybody. It certainly on Chris, for Bill was seen busy at a tap. Chris got drenched.

There have been moments of unintentional humour, too. One of these came when the Spanish guitarist Pepe Martinez had to be coached to answer two questions in his very limited English.

The questions were: How long have you been in England and how long does it take to become a good flamenco dancer?

The answers, in the correct order, were six weeks and 25 years. Pepe gave them the wrong way round!

The People And Places team recall the time, too, when things got really hot, at the end of a demonstration of action painting. Part of the action was to set fire to the painting. The artist did. And because the show was under-running its time limit, the cameraman had to hold the shot as the flames leapt upwards.

A studio fireman stood by with an extinguisher, powerless to act because if he had done he would have put himself between in the line of the camera.

Said producer David Main: “Though we like to be up to the minute with items of interest to our viewers, we do not aim to be quite so hot on the trail as we were on that occasion.”

The following section is commentary from Transdiffusion's expert writers

Russ J Graham writes: It’s possible from this piece to see why the regional news programmes at 6pm on ITV and 6.30pm on BBC-1 are to this day referred to as “magazine programmes”.

People and Places fits the definition of a “magazine” – newsy, with regular and special features, interviews, a whole mix of stuff to enchant the reader/viewer.

It would have an influence on the ITV regional magazine programmes that followed it, not least its own successor Scene at 6.30. Previously, regional news on both ITV and BBCtv had been just that – a face before the camera reading the local news, for 5 or 10 minutes. Often this was followed by a selection of filmed features from around the region – not news, more documentary, looking at farmers harvesting or trainspotters spotting or just something that looked good on film, cost almost nothing to record and filled 5 minutes of the Independent Television Authority’s requirement for ‘local interest programming’.

People and Places changed that. Local news, features, star interviews, the new ‘pop’ music that was taking hold, jokes and art were all crammed in to make a magazine for viewers who could enjoy all or parts of the show but be brought in and got then stay for the rest of the evening on Granada.

Today’s regional “magazine” shows are much more people reading the local news to the camera again, the magazine format having slowly gone out of fashion with ITV after Bill Grundy’s brush with the Sex Pistols on Thames and with the BBC when Nationwide got too light and its successor Sixty Minutes got too unwatchable.

You Say

1 response to this article

Paul Mason 25 January 2021 at 3:19 pm

People and Places had if I am correct a residency by the Beatles in late 1962 before they were big time.I am amazed how the pre 1968 Granada could cover such a vast region with sufficient local coverage. Yorkshire TV should have started in 1957 before the smaller Tyne Tees. And don’t forget North Wales had to be covered. I vaguely remember Welsh ITV progs, so the Mason TV was on Channel 9it has sparked in me a curiosity about Iaith Cymraeg. I remember the BBC lunchtime Heddie (Today).
Finally BBC Look North had guest singers. In 1967 BBC LN had as it’s theme a brass band playing From Me To You…… by that band who debuted on People and Places back in ’62..

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