Poise in a topsy-turvy world 

15 March 2021 tbs.pm/72587


TVTimes cover

From the TVTimes for 27 November – 3 December 1960

PAUL RYCROFT’S working day starts when most other people are thinking of having lunch, and he is often still working when they are going to bed.

The topsy-turvy world of television has turned his life upside down. But Paul would not have it any other way, for he has one of the most exciting jobs in Granada’s Manchester studios — playing host to visiting VIPs.

It is a job that calls for a great deal of general knowledge, diplomacy, tact and organising ability.

“General knowledge because people show a tremendous interest in everything they see and I have to answer a lot of questions,” he said. “Diplomacy and tact because I can’t let groups of people go barging into a studio while a programme is being transmitted. It wouldn’t do to get visitors tangled up with the cameramen and the actors while we were actually on the air.” This handsome, greying ex-actor is equally at ease and poised entertaining a Nigerian chieftain or a Russian TV technician.

He has, in fact, had experience of showing both round the studios. And people in many other walks of life, too, from peers of the realm to Scandinavian teenagers.

During the past 18 months the list of names is impressive – it includes Lord Morrison of Lambeth, the Earl of Harewood, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Peter Thorneycroft, Dr Ramsey, Archbishop of York, Dr Heenan, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool, and American TV commentator Ed Murrow.

Visitors come from every country in Europe and every part of the Commonwealth. “From all over the world, in fact,” said Paul. Then he paused and added: “Except Bulgaria. I don’t remember meeting any Bulgarians. But I suppose I will eventually.”


A man rests his hand on a camera as 6 people look on

Paul Rycroft tells visitors about TV


When Paul took on the job more than three years ago, he was looking after as many as 800 visitors a month. “They included almost anybody and everybody who wrote in, and I was nearly on my knees. Now the figure has dropped to something like 300 a month because, apart from VIPs, we confine it mainly to people from overseas and scientists, technicians and educationists.”

He meets trains and planes, arranges taxis, lays on refreshments, cigarettes and drinks, makes sure everybody is in the right place at the right time.

Paul, 43, is married to an ex-professional ice skater from Brighton, where he was born. They have a two-year-old son. He was five-and-a-half years in the RAF during the last war. “It’s a long break for an actor, and when I came back I found it tough going,” he said. “I suppose that really set the ball rolling and led to me giving up the stage for good.”

Paul glanced at his watch and said he was sorry but he really must dash off to meet Lord Montagu, who was arriving to appear in People and Places. Another personality to add to the important and distinguished names to be found on the pages of Granada’s visitors’ book.



Dramatis personæ

  • Paul Rycroft (1912-1987) – his only credited role on the Internet Movie Database is in the 1938 BBCtv dramatisation of the play Libel.
  • Lord Morrison of Lambeth (1888-1965) – deputy leader of the Labour Party and wartime Home Secretary Herbert Morrison.
  • Earl of Harewood (1923-2011) – George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood, son of the Princess Royal, an aunt of HM Queen Elizabeth II.
  • Dame Margot Fonteyn (1919-1991) – Margaret Evelyn de Arias née Hookham, prima ballerina.
  • Peter Thorneycroft (1909-1994) – later Lord Thorneycroft, had recently become Minister of Aviation at the time of this article.
  • Dr Ramsey (1904-1988) – [Arthur] Michael Ramsey, later archbishop of Canterbury 1961-1974.
  • Dr Heenan (1905-1975) – John Heenan, later archbishop of Westminster and a cardinal.
  • Ed Murrow (1908-1965) – head of CBS News, later director of the United States Information Agency.
  • Lord Montagu (1926-2015) – Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, Conservative politician imprisoned for 12 months for the “gross offence” of kissing another man at a party.

    The following section is commentary from Transdiffusion's expert writers

    Russ J Graham writes: The internal workings of television are just as much of a mystery to us now as they were in 1960, only now we tend to think we all know everything about how shows get to air.

    Earlier in television history, people could admit to ignorance and curiosity about how studios worked. Indeed, such curiosity was encouraged, with TV companies producing book and booklets about their facilities that people rushed to buy: Rediffusion, TWW and Granada itself spring to mind.

    Beyond buying the booklets, people also wanted tours of the studios, and most companies were willing to provide at least something. Granada did too but sought to limit the numbers, as the TVTimes points out. A requirement was an invite from a staff member, for the general public, but the great and the good could arrange visits – and enough visits were arranged to employ Paul Rycroft full time to do the job of marshalling them and taking them around bits of Quay Street that weren’t doing live programmes right at that moment.

    The two senior archbishops’ interest was likely stimulated by them both, separately, going on ABC’s special course for priests and ministers which was mainly designed to make them all look less awkward on TV during the Epilogue or the Morning Service on Sundays. Ed Murrow would obviously be interested to see how it was done across the pond. The others listed must have known their way around television studios – Fonteyn and Morrison had both been televised before the War – but were obviously still interested.

    The modern public seem not to be. After all, we know exactly how television makes it to air. If that were actually true, a trip to a television studio would comes as something of a surprise.

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