Norman Swallow

Interview Number: 
Interview Date(s): 
31 Jan 1990
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BEHP 0127 S Norman Swallow synopsis.


Born 1921. Educated in Manchester, primary then to Manchester Grammar School, Keble College Oxford, Military Service finally in what was Palestine, saw advertisement in the New Statesman (which was sent to him by Dick Crossman) the BBC requires Documentary Features Producer: in Manchester. He applied and was told if he could get back by a certain date he would be considered, he did and was accepted, started producing programmes in Manchester, then seconded to London.

After working with Louis MacNeice etc. he moved to Television, his first production being a Gardening programme, he later went on the make a series of programmes  Special Enquiry with Robert Reid, as well as a series An American Looks at Britain.  After about 5 years in Talks Dept., he moved to the Film Dept of the BBC where he became Assistant Head, three years later he moved back to Talks Dept to look after Panorama. In 1963 he left the BBC to go with Denis Mitchell Films where they made films which were taken by Granada, they each did a six months ‘rota' duty there.  After some years he moved back to the BBC to take over Arts Features which included Omnibus. Then some years later he moved back to Granada.

The interview gives a very good idea of the workings of the BBC, and explains the amount of freedom given to a Producer.


Copyright is vested in the ACTT History Project. Norman Swallow, television producer, author, interviewers Alan Lawson and Stephen Peet, recorded on 31 January 1990,


Alan Lawson: When and where were you born?

Norman Swallow: February 1921.

I was born in Eccles near Manchester on 17

Alan Lawson:  Schooling.

Norman Swallow: I went to a local school and then I went to the Manchester Grammar School. And from there I went to Keebles College, Oxford, a degree in modern history. Then military service, in the army, Duke of Cornwall'sLight Infantry, I'd never been to Cornwall in my life but that didn't really matter.

It was after my demob in 46 that I got my first permanent job which was BBC Radio.

Stephen Peet: While you were at school and Keeble College were you a greatmovie goer? You had an interest in films then or did that come later?

Norman Swallow: No, I had an interest in films as far back as I can remember.When I was at school and when I was at Eccles I used to go to the local cinemain Eccles called the Crown I remember every Friday evening without fail and itwas the Grammar School, as pupils we were shown, I saw for the first time some of the really vintage documentaries. I remember specially seeing Housing Problems,Edgar Anstey and Housing Problems was all about that in London and affected mevery profoundly. And when I went to Oxford obviously kept up that interest inthese things and it was easier in Oxford to have access to documentaries andfeatures again. And I kept it up. But my first job was in radio. I don't thinkI really thought of, well there was no television in those days, obviously not,and the cinema maybe.

Alan Lawson: When you went to radio did you go on a training course.

Norman Swallow:  No, what happened was I was still in the army. I was inPalestine in 1946. And I actually saw the job advertised in the New Statesman. Now the background to that was that I got the New Statesman sent by Dick Crossman who was then the assistant editor for nothing. I did contribute a few

articles. I signed myself infantry officer because I couldn1t really sign myself who I was and it was in the advertising pages of the Statesman sometime in the summer of 46 I assume that I saw the advertisement for a job in Manchester, features producer BBC North Region, as it then was, based in Manchester.  I had the local qualification being based in Manchester myself.I had done a certain amount of writing and journalism, a few short stories during the war, one short stories was broadcast conveniently by BBC North Region, so I suppose they had my name on the files.

Anyway I applied.   And I got a letter back, I was still in the middle East,saying we will consider you and interview if you arrive not later, let's sayOctober 14th, it was October anyway.

And I actually went I remember from Haifa by train all the way by Alexandria and the by boat to Toulon and train to Calais and then boat to Dover and I arrived on Dover station the afternoon of the 13th. And I rang theBBC in Manchester. I had their number. And I reversed the charges and they accepted the call. They said come tomorrow morning 10.3-. And I did go at 10.30by then head of programmes, a great man, alas no longer with us called John Salt, his wife was a famous broad caster, Olive Chapley she1s still around.  Anyway John Salt interviewed me, just the two of us, to which he said a day ortwo later that I1d got the job. When I got the job they realised I hadn1t applied for it because I hadn1t filled in the BBC application form so I had to fill inthe form for the job I'd already got which is a little joke. Anyway I got the job which was features producer which meant writing directing producing features or documentaries or whatever and I did a lot of those. It was a veryfamous features department, Laurence Gilliam a lot of famous people, Louis MacNiece was one of them, at the time. And it was in I was seconded to theLondon office for several months in 1949, 1948 or

9. And it was while I was there, 49, there was a job advertised for talksproducer, Alexander Palace television, and it was really my BBC secretary in London Gwenn Foyle, she then went to television. Gwenn said "We should apply"meaning me. I said "Why I haven1t seen any television, you can't get it in Manchester." "Never mind" she said. She filled in the form and I signed it.And then I was shortlisted at the end of 49 in London and no doubt embarrassment when they asked me what I thought of television programmes. I said "I don't think anything because I haven1t seen any.  But it didn1t stopme being appointed. I assume but I don1t know, I was really appointed by Cecil McGivern who was then head of programmes. His background was the same as mine. He came from radio features as well and they probably thought it was no disadvantage to know nothing because I could learn it.

Alan Lawson: About the board, who was on the board?

Norman Swallow: I can't remember anybody except Mary Adams who was head of talks and Cecil. Other people, obviously personnel. They were the only two I remember.

Stephen Peet: These various terms like features and talks, they're BBC and theygot carried across from radio and they're a bit misleading.

Norman Swallow: There was no features department in television at that time. There was only talks apart from outside broadcasting.

Stephen Peet:

Norman Swallow: Talks meant talks and documentaries and features. But it wasstill called talks and current affairs it meant, it meant current affairs, itmeant features, it meant documentaries.

Alan Lawson: It was a global word.

Norman Swallow: It was a global word, it was a silly word but it remained as youknow it remained a talks department for ages and ages.

Alan Lawson: DID you go on a training course.

Norman Swallow: I went to. I remember the date, 6 February 1950 and Iremember walking up in the snow from Wood Green Station to Ally Pally and what I did was presumably the rule at that time, you become a kind of trainee floor manager in the studio even though you are a producer, it's not a traineeships, you're there. But what you do for the first few weeks, first of all you're a trainee floor manager and then you are a floor manager briefly which I was. And in those days you put a plug in a wall. You weren't radiocommunication, it happened to me once the camera when between me and the wall, the wire, the cable and cut me off for a little while. That was not uncommon. But that was what he did. And I know the first, I had to do a bit of research, my records say that the first programme I directed, produced, directed, all these words, was several of them, four, five, maybe six of a gardening series called In Our Garden and there was a garden beside AlexanderPalace and a cable in the garden, connected by cable across the road into the studio, and I was controlling it from the studio gallery, I got Frances Perry produced it in the studio and  famous Fred Streeter in the garden. I don't remember much about the content, but I do remember once in the gallery being stung by some bees. I know one of the things Fred Streeter was doing was how to look after your

bees. and they obviously looked after me and I was certainly stung in the backof the neck in he gallery. So the bee had come all the way from the garden.That was my first series, four or five or six, every week they were I believe.

Alan Lawson: Coming back to the gallery did you go straight into the deep end ordid somebody hold you hand.

Norman Swallow: I think there was somebody beside me. I honestly can't remember you it was, probably someone different each week, in case something terrible happened. It wasn't all that difficult of course with one camera and a garden, maybe two in the studio.

But I do remember apart from the gardening one thing I do remember, and you will understand why in a moment, was the programme in the afternoon which was simply called your dog, it was maybe part of a series about pets, I don'tknow, and I was in the gallery and there was a woman who must have been adog fancier or a vet or an expert and she had a big bull dog and she had written what she was going to say, no autocues of course, remembering shesaid "You can see his superb teeth you couldn't of course because the dog had turned round and all you could see was his backside. Live television, I remember that, that was the first thing I remember.  I can remember that more vividly than the bees in the garden.  That was in 1950, about May 50, I remember that very well.

Stephen Peet: Did you get supplied with a tv as a BBC staff member so youcould see it at home.

Norman Swallow: I don't think it was. I did see it of course. I can't remember ifthe BBC paid. I think they did. They did later on.

Norman Swallow: Some people got a BBC set some people got one fromRediffusion, these places you could hire them from and the BBC paid it.

Norman Swallow: That's probably what happened with me. I know I had a setobviously. I can't remember if I paid it. I may have got it from the BBC rental.

Alan Lawson: And Mary Adams was head.

Norman Swallow: Mary Adams was head of the department. That's right.

Alan Lawson: What was her attitude to the role of the department.

Norman Swallow: Mary was very broadminded in her views and also her generalpolicy in what the department did because everything was extremely new and shewas all for pushing things forward and she was very receptive to ideas fromproducers. It was one of her great merits. She was that rather than a forcefulleader, she was a leader alright. But my recollection of her is the receptive way she listened to ideas But also I shall mention Cecil McGivern of course, hewas very important to me and there were so few people around, not at thebeginning but soon after I found myself working to him with Mary Adam'spermission no doubt, and of course the Grace Wyndham Goldie figures in thisstory.

Alan Lawson: Later

Norman Swallow: Not much later, she was there at the time. And she was lookingafter and she was looking after the current affairs area of the department andMary Adams left her alone with that. But I first worked for Grace she took meunder he wing, Grace did, when I did a series in the late 50s which I think Alan you worked on

Alan Lawson: Special Enquiry.

Norman Swallow: No, An American Looks at Britain. Norman Swallow:Oh that's right.

Norman Swallow: An American Looks at Britain. And what it really was twoAmerican reporters and one Howard K Smith who was then CBS London, he was going to do all of them but then he had to go out on another assignment and so hedropped out after two and th other one who came in was Ed Newman who was NBC inLondon and it was simply and American looks at Britain. They sat in the studio and presented their views on Britain. We had film sequences and hence your namebut the film sequences, as far as I remember, they didn't go on location, thefilm sequences were sort of illustrations.

Alan Lawson;: That's right.

Norman Swallow: What they did, they read a commentary in the studio, interviewed people, they were interviewed live in the studio and the film clips were illustrative. There were three or maybe four in 1950.Stephen Peet:What was your job Alan at the time

Alan Lawson: Senior cameraman.

Norman Swallow: Yes, you were, you were the film cameraman on

credits, you were the senior one.

Alan Lawson: Yes I was. Who was head of television then, was it Norman Collins?

Norman Swallow: Yes it was Norman Collins. That's right. Cecil McGivern was headof programmes.

Alan Lawson: Did you have any contact with Collins at all.

Norman Swallow: Occasionally he showed an interest, he came in and had a look inthe studio occasionally. But he seemed to keep out of the way. I never seemed tomeet him formally very often.

Socially rather than formally, Cecil I saw quite often.

Stephen Peet: Was he at Alexander Palace

Norman Swallow: Yes, he was in Alexander Palace, television only.Broadcasting house for big senior meeting. He was Director of Television, I'm sure as the title. managing director, maybe just director. Cecil wasHead of Programmes and later Controller of Programmes.

Stephen Peet: When you began, you did the programmes, did you start inaugurating your own ideas.

Norman Swallow: Yes, from this time on, An American Looks at Britain was my idea. Your Dog wasn't In our Garden wasn't I did other little things, I did Speaking Personally which was just a camera.

Alan Lawson: That was the one we did Peter Ustinov Norman Swallow:That's right.

Alan Lawson: That was all on film.

Norman Swallow: Was it film or was it video tape.

Norman Swallow: No it was film. him at The White Tower.

I remember we had a lunch with

Stephen Peet: My research tells me you did a series called Wilfred Pickles at Home

Norman Swallow: I did. What happened, rather was with An American Looks atBritain we had lots of film sequences, the people who appeared in differentareas, they were largely chosen with the help of Wilfred who had met ,many ofthem before in his

have a go radio series and Wilfred Pickles at Home it was called. That was at Alexander Palace.

Stephen Peet: When was that.

Norman Swallow: The first one I was here was in October 50, still my firstyear. An American Looks at Britain and Wilfred Pickles at home which wasweekly for several weeks

Alan Lawson: Did he sit in a set looking like

Norman Swallow: Yes he sat on a set looking like he was at home.

And we saw each one at home.  And he spoke to them in turn and together. He was very good. I was looking at some of the reviews a year or so ago and itwent down very well. Largely because he was a Yorkshire man, and one of thepoints I should make that television in terms of it's presentation was so pompous, wasn't it, upper class, and BBC accents and all that kind of thing.And Wilfred was different, he was a human being you say. He said in the radioTimes "I was a good North Country lad. We get on together." But that sort ofworked well and that

was quite an interesting series. And then we developed it and it became stillwith Wilfred Pickles but much more serious. called Places with Problems. Iremember the first one at Caning Town the main theme was trying to get over theBlitz at that time, the devastation and bombing and Wilfred did go on locationfor that. Caning Town was the first on. We went to Stratford on Avon I can'tremember what the problem was there. Harwell the atomic energy establishment wewent to That was really about the people who lived in an enclosed secret societyalmost and we went there. And again Wilfred went. Bolsover Colliery, obviousproblems there. And Wilfred left the series. I can't remember why. WE didn't have a row, a guy called Collin Wills came in.                        And he went to But Town in Cardiff, Tiger Bay and I think as far as I know that was thefirst television programme, feature, about the colour bar because that was anarea with racist difficulties, that was the main theme of that one, that was theproblem, places with problems, But Town, racism and that probably was the first time that television had tackled that particular thing. What interested me, andI mustn't boast because my contribution at that time because I was probably theonly producer in that department which may well have been why Cecil appointedme who was interested in that type of thing, I mean people on the ground ratherthan the Grace Wyndham Goldie people were Christopher Mayhews, you know to namebut a few, and why not but this wasn't her strength. And what she did wasn't mystrength so we were complimentary and we was really looking after that field of politics and world affairs in a big way and I was looking after people on theground in various ways in the United Kingdom, to

begin with anyway.

Stephen Peet: Presumably these were all on film, 35mm. NormanSwallow: The inserts were on film.

Stephen Peet: The inserts were on film and the rest was in the studio?

Norman Swallow: Always. We never had a complete programme on film.

Stephen Peet:  None of them were done as outside broadcasts?

Norman Swallow: none no. None of those I mentioned. Outside broadcast cameraswere in such demand for sport. and religious broadcasting.

Alan Lawson: They were far too cumbersome really. NormanSwallow: And the Coronation. That was 53. Alan Lawson: Talkabout Special Inquiry.

Norman Swallow: Special Inquiry comes a little later. Special Inquiry was 52.Going back to 50 if I may briefly, I did only two, I did write produce anddirect what we would call drama-docs now. drama documentary. One was called theSuffragette, guess what that was about.. And one was called I was a Strangerand that was about a woman, a refugee, whether it was Poland or the Ukraine whocame to Rochdale as a mill worker and it was a drama documentary because it wasbased on real people but it was dramatised. with filmed sequences in Rochdaleand Alexander Palace, I wrote produced and directed two of the earliest drama docs in 51. And again I bypassed Mary Adams and worked straight to Cecil McGivern with those.

Alan Lawson: Was

Norman Swallow: Yes he was around. Cecil asked Duncan Ross who was aroundto help me because I'd never done this before and he had. And he didn't rewrite it but his advise was marvellous of course. But I just did those two. never again. I enjoyed them for a change but I tended to prefer theother kind of thing in the long run. Special Inquiry which began in 52.Before that, incidentally, Grace took me under her wing, at the end of 51 she did a series called World Survey and that was Christopher Mayhew and he was, they were foreign affairs which he did and I looked after the home front with Michael Graham Hutton who was quite a

personality. They weren't the kind of thing I normally went in for at that timeof course I mean in the studio they were politicians and pundits sitting aroundand chatting following a film sequence which did this kind of thing, electoralanalysis or whatever the problem was. But you never really met any human beingson the ground in World Survey. So I didn't continue that. I've noted two Iremember individual documentaries, again I say documentaries because they werestudio based, one was called Loaded in Britain, 52 which was about ships inLiverpool, I think Liverpool, North West rather than North East and theproblems of docks and so on. And the other was called Lancashire Story which wasobviously about the cotton crisis, unemployment in the cotton industry. Andthose were just two one offs I did in 52. And then Special Inquiry began inOctober 52.

Alan Lawson: Where did you pick up Robert Reid from Norman Swallow:Robert Reid I knew when I was in Radio in

Manchester. He was head of Radio new, North Region news Local news. Then hewent to the News Chronicle which he was when we took him on board for this. AndI knew him before and then I thought he was a natural, a Yorkshire man with aYorkshire accent and the whole idea was and again I should praise Cecil McGivern for this because I sold it to him. But I got the idea I suppose in journalistic terms, I thought it would be a television equivalent to Picture Post which wasin its prime at that time of course. And that sort of thing. And Robert Reidseemed absolutely right for the studio part of it, studio based again at thebeginning and end and a long filmed sequence at the guts of it and Robert Reidseemed to me able to talk on the part of the viewer the people, the publicrather, he wasn't an academic he didn't pretend to be. He wasn't an expert buthe saw the problems that he tackled. as an average viewer so to speak if thereis such a person, with feeling. And the first one we did which might well havebeen one of the best was about the Gorbals, the slums of Glasgow which was aterrifying scene. And we had second reporter, Robert Reid was in the studio atLime Grove by this time. And we had a second reporter on the spot, a guy called Jameson Clark in Glasgow. He was an actor in Whisky Galore I remember, howeveran actor come journalist. And he did the interviewing or whatever to camera inGlasgow, Jameson Clark. And I remember it was really terrifying the housingconditions, what was most important was the number of letters we got, phonecalls we got, first of all saying about we didn't know things like this existedin our country which was what we hoped and very true. And the other thing wasthe number of people who didn't believe it. It cannot be true, it's fictionit's a lie. which showed what a lot of people thought or didn't know. And I think Special Inquiry broke through in that way. I mentioned earlier

the race thing. We did Has Britain a Colour Bar? which the great Rene Cutforth wasthe second repo+ter and this was in Birmingham and the answer was yes it has acolour bar. And this was very provocative and enormous press reaction,complimentary we'd done this. We did try and break through in certain areas whichand

been ignored before and on the human level. It was monthly by the way.

Alan Lawson: As far as the technical side was concerned, was technique improving, or was the approach different.

Norman Swallow:     we were stuck as you know with the 35 mm cameras andhow long is the roll, four five minutes

Alan Lawson: These were Newman's 200 footers

Norman Swallow: And one of the great weaknesses of that, it is a technicalpoint, by the time people had got into their stride you were cut off.

Stephen Peet: It was much longer than 4 minutes

Alan Lawson: It depends on which we were using It was the Newman combined thatwould give you 10 minutes.

Norman Swallow: It wasn't 10, it was 4 or 5

Alan Lawson: It must have been the Arriflex then. Norman Swallow: Itwasn't 10.

Alan Lawson: It must have been an Arriflex with tape. I didn't· think we used tape

Norman Swallow: No tape. I don't think it was 10 minutes

Alan Lawson: Yes it was 10 minutes, it would have been 10 minutes.

Stephen Peet: According to my notes you did something about the 1951 election, wasn't that the first time the election had been covered on television?

Norman Swallow: I think it was covered in 1950 but not so well but not soimportantly. Grace and I it was produced by Grace Goldie Wyndham and NormanSwallow who were not credited I don't think. And we were on the air from 10 o'clock in the evening to

4 in the morning and the next day from 9 or 10 in the morning till 5 at night.And I was in the gallery and Grace didn't go in for that. She never directed from the gallery as far as I know.

And I suppose I always claimed this was a record. the longest directing job inthe gallery, only going out for a pee, not even a nibble, the nibble came to me.10 till 4 and 10 in the morning till 5 in the afternoon. I stayed there. The wayit was done, we had the two Alexander Palace Studios one had two cameras and even three. The one with two cameras we had no sound, that was entirely for thegraphics. The other one, the bigger one had three cameras and of course sound.And It was fascinating. I do remember an important technical point. Thecameras when they were on a caption for a long time they froze, the image froze, this is a technical point I can't answer but a lot of people will, the cameraactually froze and this was a problem we had not anticipated and especiallyduring the second day we held the caption for a long time. One of the boringthings if nothing much was going on rather than have people bumbling around we'djust show a caption and play some music. This might have been for three or fourminutes, if that happened the image was stuck on the camera.

Alan Lawson: You got print through

Norman Swallow: Yes. But you couldn't use the camera until it had lost it's image. So we didn't have three cameras we had two and maybe one until the others had recovered from this illness. This was something we didn't anticipate. But this guy Graham Hutton was in charge of the studio and wehad outside broadcast, I remember Richard Dirnbleby was in Salford, I think aman called

Godfrey or Geoffrey Baseley in Birmingham, Berkeley Smith in Fulham. Thosewere the only three, lucky to get three that must have been unique, so theywere obviously carefully selected for whatever reason. I think Salford wasthe first to come in usually. And the other two were typical of something orother. But that was indeed an important occasion, certainly. I feel it was thesecond but 1950 wasn't so long or

Stephen Peet:  Is this where the swingometer came in*

Norman Swallow: Sort of, a rather primitive one. Yes. We had David Butler who kept the thing up year after year. There was a man called Nicholas, HGNicholas, who was an expert like David Butler on this sort of thing. That was in October 51. The other series which is important which after the first one or two was entirely on film was the World is Ours. The World is Ours was a series made in association with the special agencies of the United Nations.And each film apart from the first one or two which were studio based were entirely films                                           We dealt with whatever you liked, agriculture, UNESCO, FAO, ILO, International LabourOrganisation, WHO, World Health. Each was about the work done by that agency and we got material all over the world and we

also went ourselves but not as far as we would have gone later, of course, no money.

Alan Lawson: Did you go away much?

Norman Swallow: I myself never went any further than Austria for a refugee one, I'm afraid.

Stephen Peet: On these you had different roles, sometimes you were co-director sometimes you were producer,

Norman Swallow: Yes, I was the producer of the series, I think the phrase executive director was never used then. I think the Special Enquiry said produced by me at the end. Sometimes if I directed it as well you simply called yourself producer. You weren't allowed to call yourself produce and directed  So if I was the producer I did the lot. which I did three or four times.

Otherwise we had in other people. Michael Orrom did two. Tony De Lotbiniere did two or three. It was quite an interesting series and it went overseas bydefinition of course.

Stephen Peet: In those days was there a limitation on the size of a film crewespecially on an overseas location, was it fixed then

Norman Swallow: I don't think it was fixed. Alan Lawson: IDon't think it was fixed.

Norman Swallow:  There weren't many, 3.

Alan Lawson: I think it was usually a cameraman. Norman Swallow:A recordist,

Alan Lawson: An assistant and if there was a recordist three.

Norman Swallow:   These were all 35 mm again, the world is ours. And by thattime, round about the beginning of that Paul Rotha had come and going back toWorld features and so on there was a documentary department began briefly.

Alan Lawson: What was his impact?

Norman Swallow: He was there very briefly, three years. He overlapped mySpecial Inquiry. He was there when the colour bar programme went out.

Stephen Peet: What was his title.

Norman Swallow: Head of documentaries, which was a department which took overpart of the talks lot. I was one, Carol Doncaster, Robert Barr for example.Stephen McCormack, John Reid of course, Duncan Ross moved across to us and itwas a small little group. Paul Rotha obviously because of his background was more keen on film as such than in the studio which he didn't like. And that'sprobably why largely the World Is Ours became a film series, because of hisinfluence and his pressure, they were entirely on film after the first one ortwo, as I said, and this I'm pretty sure was because of Paul Rotha's insistence.He also brought in people who had worked with him before. Basil Wright wrotethe scripts, Ritchie Calder who had worked with him on documentaries one, twoor three, people like that. Jack Chambers was another one. And they all came invia Paul Rotha because he knew them and to be fair                     intelevision didn't know as much as they did about making documentary films. Andthis was an important development. He didn't stay very long. He wasn't terriblygood at getting on with people. His temperament, I think he was a littlereserved and not very warm and not terrible forthcoming but it was useful tohave him. I don't know why he went, I wouldn't know. Nobody seemed to mind verymuch I'm afraid.

Alan Lawson: That's true.

Stephen Peet: Geographically where was this department based, was it in Ealing now.

Norman Swallow: No the documentary Department was at Television Centre by thistime. We had one wing, part of it was open.

There were no studios. The studios were at Lime Grove but one wing oftelevision centre was opened, 53. maybe 52. I can see it in my mind's eye nowas I talk to you, the office I was in, and it was at Television Centre and I hadto go down the road for the production.

Alan Lawson: All the facilities were at Lime Grove.

Norman Swallow: Yes they were. But Paul Rotha's office was at TelevisionCentre. And then I moved to Lime Grove myself, that was simply anadministrative move. The department tended to go down to Lime Grove, thedocumentary department was abolished when Paul Rotha left and made into talksyet again. And Talks were at Lime Grove so we all went to Lime Grove. Al; Anthat was under

Norman Swallow: Leonard Miall.    Grace Wyndham Goldie and Leonard Miall. He was the head and she was assistant head to start with.

Alan Lawson: What role did he play.

Norman Swallow: Leonard was a very remote and kind and gentle man but he didn'tinspire you very much. He left that part I suppose to Grace Wyndham Goldie.She was very forthright very tough, and very commanding and she had things tosay and she said. And she was obviously around and you were aware that she wasaround. You were never aware that Leonard Miall was around.

Different personality. He left Grace get on with it. At that time SpecialInquiry continued and one of the most important we did and it's importantbecause it was the first television programme that Denis Mitchell was involvedin, he incidentally, or co-incidentally got my job in Manchester when I went to television. He became features producer BBC North Region. He was a radio man asI was. And he was seconded to our department at Lime Grove for six months andnot surprisingly seconded to me.

And we did a famous Special Inquiry about Britain's teenagers which we had a couple of famous teddy boys. That was very successful that was. We just tookfour teenage, two boys, two girls, different social backgrounds and everythingthe two Teddy Boys was a big hit and that was Denis Mitchell's first contribution to television, 1955 that was.

Alan Lawson: Was there much, as far as you know was there any politicalinfluence, in the full proper sense of the word. I know there was politicalwith a small p hanging around but capital Ps.

Norman Swallow: No, I was never aware of that. In fact it interested me becausenaively when I went to the BBC radio in the' first place I had always assumedthat you could really do what you wanted, therefore the BBC would simply be apublisher for me.

I had been contributing to a magazine. Because I was there I thought my work would be published and I just behaved that way. And strangely enough, or onto strangely enough, nobody as far as I remember in my radios, you couldn't hear it because it was live anyway, if there was any recording it was on disk, nobody seemed to interfere. Sometimes there were rows after the eventbut it had happened by then. I had one or two rows. I remember I had one with the War Office, a drama doc radio this was. I remember not the director General, but the Assistant Director General whoever he may have been at that time, I do remember the memo he sent me after this great rumpus. I was accused of political bias and one thing or the other and he said "No doubtthis is your first experience of the slings and arrows of outraged Whitehall.

I suggest you pay no attention and continue as before." I haven't got it now but I kept that memo for future reference. Cecil McGivern never saw anything. He popped sometimes into the

studio, really as a friendly gesture, to pat us all on the back and wish us well. And if he liked it he would give you a ring in the gallery. The phonewould go immediately you were off air, it was Cecil, saying congratulations.Mainly Special Inquiry this was or whatever. And if he didn't like it you knewhe didn't like it because he didn't ring. And then he'd write you a little notthe next day. So if he liked it he rang and if he didn't like it he' saidnothing and a little note came. I saw him frequently   Certainly no interference in terms of political interference, no. I suppose Robert Reid's background,News Chronicle, not a man of the right in any sense. I don't think it mattered.It never occurred to me at that time that these things mattered. They could havetheir Christopher Mayhews who was then labour politician and Graham Hutton, Idon't know what he was, and all these big pundits. But from my point of viewand the Robert Reid angle. And the World is Ours again was certainly, it wasfairly radical in its views at the time. It put the United Nations and theworld ahead of what might be going ahead in Parliament, and the long term view,the suffering of human beings, that kind of thing is what we tended to go for,of course by definition. And nobody seemed to bother about it. The criticsseemed to think it was rather good, it made a pleasant change. And some of thecritics did make this obvious point, after Christopher Mayhew, after so and so,after so and so, it made a happy change to have Robert Reid or whoever you like. And in a week of local parochial television, how nice to go to some foreign parts, Syria if you like, to find out how people were suffering fromwhatever ailments and who was trying to look after them. And it's ourresponsibility that not enough people are. The

critics made this point several times so we were making our point.

Alan Lawson: We're coming up to the time you leave Talks, had techniques changed a lot?

Norman Swallow: Well as I said we were making complete documentaries on film.And it was not until later that we began to operate on 16 film which made all thedifference but that was

57 or 8 something like that. I know the Denis Mitchell, the famous one of hisMorning In the Streets, a famous one of his was 16mm. And I know I'm jumping the gun a bit here but when I was at Ealing Jack Gold made his first film on16mm I remember that was 16mm which will be about 58, but to go back I had a sabbatical, if you'd been 10 years in the BBC you got a break and I had a breakafter 10 years which would have been 56 and I took it in India Pakistan andCeylon as it then was. And it was after I'd come back

Alan Lawson: You said you didn't do anything on your sabbatical

by way of producing anything.

Norman Swallow: No my sabbatical was actually funded by a body called then the Imperial Relations Trust, for I all I know it might exist as the Commonwealth Relations trust but all I had to do was to write something silly like 2,000 words at the end of it all. And they funded me and the BBC paid my salary and so between them I could exist in India and Pakistan and Ceylon for5 or 6 months. I did one little thing because I happened to be in Delhi conveniently for Panorama and I got a message from Michael Peacock who was then running Panorama and I did one or two interviews with Panorama because Ihappened to be there and it was cheaper to get me and a local crew and sendit back than to

send   And the crew all the way from London but that was all I did.

Alan Lawson: When you came back from that.

Norman Swallow: I came back from that in February 1957 and it was soon afterthat that I got the job of assistant head of films at Ealing.

Alan Lawson: Why did you make that change.

Norman Swallow: I think unless my memory fails me it was actually put to me,by whom I know not. I was tempted I know. And I think I made one condition whichyou remember that we also produce films, we were not just a servicingdepartment and that was agreed. I was three years at Ealing, we did indeed make films. I remember Geoffrey Baines and Maurice Harvey were there and I mentioned Jack Gold who was a film editor of course, an assistant editor on our teenagersas he had been and there was a

gesture by Kenneth Adam who was then Controller of Programmes who Cecil McGivernhad promoted at that time and Kenneth Adam said that he would pay so much, £200per film for somebody on our staff like Jack Gold, Bob Saunders who was dubbingmixer, another I remember to make a little film. And if it was good enough to be transmitted and it was transmitted we got the money back to make anotherone. The one I most remember was Jack Gold,'it was about a work's outing, it wascalled the Outing or something to Margate or Southend from the factory. And Iremember that was 16mm, that is why I remember the 16mm connection, but we didto several.            Special Inquiry, we did Second Enquiry a few years lateron the same subjects. It was very successful, it wasn't well made I'm afraid,but certainly Living with Danger was a series which Geoffrey Baines which wasquite good, we did several. We did one about war correspondents returning towhere they had been during the war, again Robert Reid went to Paris were he wasfor the Liberation. Richard Dimbleby went to Berlin

and Dachau. Robert Barr went to the Ardennes. Frank Gillard to Normandy, etc. SP                     Cutforth.

Norman Swallow: No Cutforth didn't go. Murrow went to London or came back toLondon. I don't think Cutforth did one. That was a series. They were producedby the film department and by definition were films.

Alan Lawson: Did you enjoy your time at Films

Norman Swallow: I did really looking back on it. I think we were rather a nicefriendly lot, rather good people. And of course quite a lot of the people likeprojectionists went on and on and

up and up. Mike Tuchner for instance, he was one who began like that.

Stephen Peet: Did you also have a small amount of money in the kitty tosponsor people. I'm thinking about myself, Save the Children Fund in Korea,you let me have and cutting room afterwards. It seemed organised with youpersonally as though you had the power to arrange these things.

Norman Swallow: Well we didn't have the power, perhaps a phone call to KennethAdam might have achieved it. I don't think there was a firm kitty but any ideacould be suggested as an idea and accepted and if it was you got the money, sometimes facilities and stock in place of the money.

Alan Lawson: Can you talk about Kenneth Adam

Norman Swallow: Yes, I liked Kenneth Adam very much and I owed lot to himreally. And in fact he got me, when I left Ealing he persuaded me to do my next job. He seemed quite interested in individuals and I saw him quite a lot.And again Cecil McGivern was still around and I tended to see Cecil more often.But Kenneth Adam was I think good. He was a good head of channel.

He was very good, they were good days in every area and certainly at Ealing. You would know better than I . I got the impression that we all got on rather well together, a good track record.

Alan Lawson: Yes there was a good track record.

Norman Swallow: Certainly, I've just thought of another one. Ken Russell didone called The House in Bayswater which was the flat he had off Notting HillGate. So we did quite a few productions.

Alan Lawson: Was that Russell thing, wasn't it done for Monitor.

Norman Swallow: No, it was during the Monitor great. He was for Monitor butMonitor was off the air and it was summer break and Ken had nothing to do.Again I must somehow have got permission and the money to make it. All ad hoe.

Alan Lawson: Why did you leave film department.

Norman Swallow: I left the film department. I remember being called by KennethAdam to meet him in his flat off the Marylebone meeting and it was at thatmeeting he said he thought the talks Department as it then was needed somebodyin it's documentary area, it wasn't doing terribly well he thought and hethought therefore I should come back and do something about it if I wouldn't mind and if I was up to it or whatever. And after that the Films Departmentstopped making films, I don't know. But I went back, I accepted what he said. Iwas quite keen to enter full time production anyway again. Despite what I said,the Assistant head of films is largely an administrative job. And much as Ifound it stimulating and useful, of course, and I went back and I got amysterious job called chief assistant documentary and general, doc and gen,there was a current affairs Kenneth Lamb. There were two of us, Kenneth lambdid current affairs and I did doc and gen but only for about a year and half. Andit was at that time I moved to Panorama. And if you say why did I do that. I think Paul Fox asked me, I should think, and I was a little bored with the docand gen part.

Alan Lawson: The editor of Panorama was it Peacock or had he gone.

Norman Swallow:  He handed over to Paul Fox I would say in 1960 or thereabouts, 61 maybe. And there was an assistant editor of Panorama vacancy. And certainly I didn't apply for it. It's in the same department.It's still in the Talks Department. So I could be moved without anybody bothering from one job to another which is what happened and I became assistant editor of Panorama until April 63 which I enjoyed. Again I found it stimulating, it was a magazine programme at that time and we had an excellent team of reporters, the best.

Alan Lawson: This is when Paul was editor of Panorama.

Norman Swallow: He was the editor throughout my entire stay. It was verystimulating. We had Robin Day, Robert Kee, Ludovic Kennedy, Jim Mossman, JohnMorgan and Dimbleby in the studio which was a very good team to work with andfor. And I enjoyed that. And I picked up on my Indian trip because LudovicKennedy and I went for two months to India in 1962 which was useful, my previous experience was useful. I escaped from Lime Grove. I

wasn't in an office all the time, although called assistant editor, I did make films, stories

Alan Lawson: Was this the first time you'd really worked with Paul?

Norman Swallow: Yes, I knew him, again back to Alexander Palace, I knew himpersonally, the first time I'd ever worked with. In fact I do remember, this isinteresting about Paul, I remember a conversation with Leonard Miall and GraceWyndham Goldie, it must have been at some social occasion, we were standingdrinking wine so it must have been a social occasion and I do remember saying to Kenneth Adam and Leonard Miall that I thought the Panorama job should go toPaul Fox and I pleaded strongly for this. And they thought I was silly becausesport, Sportsview which is what he did and brilliantly he did it and they said"What does Paul know about current affairs?" Well he had been in the news field previously. I said "I'm sure he's sensibly enough to pick it up."

And he has the kind of qualities of leadership it needs. And it may be a gamble but my guess is he's your man. Because I remember they were fishing around, any name came to anybody, so perhaps I was slightly influential inthat unofficially, it wasn't a formal occasion but I do remember making a strong point. And I'm pretty sure that Leonard Miall and Grace and Kenneth Adam went around tossed the name Paul Fox and other people and no doubt gotthe same response.

Alan Lawson: Paul was a person you had worked with and been a way from andcame back and worked with.

Norman Swallow: Yes, Paul Fox has been a friend in every sense from then on and still is.                              And I enjoy staying with him. And I did work with him intermittently up to that.

Stephen Peet: A programme like that was a very influential programme, itwas every Monday. How did the programme subject matter get chosen, was it a group of the various producers working on it sat around every week?

Norman Swallow: Yes. We had regular meetings twice a week. On Tuesday morningafter the Monday show at which we then pencilled in what we thought we would dothe next Monday, it was all very Paul operates that way because he is a newsman, with very little long-term planning except 2 months trip to India. Thereason for going in the first place was that there was an important election in Bombay.  was the candidate and he won. Normally we got something like that,otherwise Tuesday next week looks like this.

But then it changed of course and because it was on the air Monday andbecause it was topical and also because of Paul's

personality and Paul quite often threw things out on the second meeting whichwas on Friday. And quite often on Friday we had something which we could put onair on Monday but frequently on Monday night not one of them was in it. Iremember in 16 weeks I had one day off, because during the weekends we were offand I had one day off in 16 weeks. I remember that very well. And that was theway it worked. But nobody seemed to complain or bother and it was good that way.

Stephen Peet: What about interference from above. Were you instructed that a certain subject might be useful to do.

Norman Swallow: Grace Wyndham Goldie was Paul's boss and he saw her more regularly than I did. Obviously she must have suggested. I know when I was the assistant when Paul was out of the country and he sometimes was, I was running Panorama, that I do know Grace got on to me about particular ideas.They were fairly obvious one, you've got to cover this in depth because news can't deal with it. And this frequently happened, and why not. If she hadn't suggested it I might, or somebody else might. But most of the ideas came from us up, not from the top downwards. We got on very well, fairly closely with Hugh Greene, the DG, we had close contacts with him, almost a hot line. whichis quite useful

Alan Lawson:  Again a very supportive man.

Norman Swallow: Very supportive. The only time during my BBC career that I could say that what I did was politically censored was in Panorama, Ludovic Kennedy and I went to Aden on our visit to India on route and we sent our story back, we sent all our stories back from wherever we were and Ludo just recorded the commentary on tape in a hotel room and attach it to the picture when it got home. It was the only way to do it in those days of course.           Anyway we sent the Aden material back and we didn't realise till we got home, because it was the first one to go out that in fact that every interview and every statement by an Arab nationalist had been cut outAnd Ludo and I were furious. Paul Fox was away, I was away and whoever made the cowardly decision, I don't know how it was but it must have been one ofhis producers because he hadn't the courage because pressure came from the Foreign Office, Commonwealth Office or whatever it was at the time saying please remove these and they were removed.

Anyway many hears later I happened to mention this in

conversation with Hugh Greene and it was the first he'd heard of it. He said"I've never heard of this." I said "You were there at the time." He said "Noone mentioned it to me at all. If they had gracious I would have been angry, ofcourse it would have gone out." But it really often my belief on these occasions that when the BBC or whoever gets accused of political

censorship, it's often cowardice by somebody the wrong person at the wrongtime in the wrong place: If you got guts I think you can get away with most things. So this was purely   and non typical really. We did some daring things. The rather nasty French politician Georges Bidault came unofficially was not allowed into this country but he came in under a false passport and Paul Fox got to know about this from some nameless mole in Highgate and Paul said to me I think you have to interview, he's coming in, I don't know where he's staying. Anyway he fixed an rendezvous in Kensington. Drove him to Ealing, it was Jim Mossman interviewed him, I'm not sure, and we hung on to the interview until he safely got out of the country and then rang Hugh Greene to say by the way we've interviewed Georges Bidault, we've done it can we put it out please?  It was actually postponed for a week, it must have been about the time of the EEC, slight dispute about the future ofEurope, it must have been Heath and De Gaulle. Anyway Hugh Greene said "Yes but not till next week. It will be a bit embarrassing if you don't mind." We accepted that. It went out, there was a tremendous rumpus, how dare he come to this country. Whitehall ringing up, why didn't you tell us he was here.  Too late, he's gone home. What. Quite an interesting story.  It was writtenup in the press after that.  It is a fairly well known story now. That is the opposite of censorship.

You can do it just wait a week. So I stayed in Panorama till 63.

We were slotted against World in Action as is often the case. we showed World inAction on Britain's Defence. The ITA as it was then banned. Stephen you workedas a researcher on that/

Norman Swallow: No I was working on World in Action but as a directorcameraman. Yes, it was the first programme due to go out.

Norman Swallow: It was on Britain's defence and presumably it was considered tobe too delicate or politically dodgy or whatever and I do remember that me, notPaul Fox was in touch with Denis Foreman and we got the film, presumably fromBrampton Rd., not from Manchester, from London anyway.

Stephen Peet: It was being produced in London.

Norman Swallow: Was it, anyway we got the film. and that same evening, weshowed about 15 minutes which is about half of it to the defence correspondent of the Guardian in the studio to comment on it. He said in my opinion it'sperfectly fair, absolutely right and correct. So that was a useful collaboration.

Stephen Peet: expenditure.

It had a clock ticking round showing the defence

Norman Swallow: That's right. That was interesting. That was in 63.

Stephen Peet: January 63.

Norman Swallow: Anyway I left in April 63 to work with Denis Mitchell as in independent.

Alan Lawson: Did Denis have his own company? Norman Swallow:Yes.

Alan Lawson: So you then joined Denis Mitchell in a private company of his.

Norman Swallow:  Denis Mitchell Films Ltd.

Stephen Peet: What was the idea of that. To be able to get back in productionyourself or directing yourself.

Norman Swallow: Denis Mitchell, by the name Denis decided to start this company and he felt he'd like me to join him. We worked together on and off for quite a long time. He thought there might well be an opening for independent production at that time and would I work with him because he thought then that we could produce and make what we wanted in the hope that we might even be able to sell what we made.  It was all a bit of a gamble.

And I took the risk. I felt 3 years in Panorama was about enough really. I alwaysfelt 3 years is about enough of anything and I have tended to move on every threeyears whether instinctively.

It's not a deliberate act of policy but it has tended to happen, feeling dosomething else. And Denis came along and said would you join me, we'll start acompany. And we were based in Hampstead.

Stephen Peet: This was quite a move because you'd had 15 years regular work withthe BBC so you went out on a limb a bit.

Norman Swallow: 17 years. Yes.   It was new.

Stephen Peet: What did you start with? Did you start with the idea of producing a film and then you would try and sell it to television or you got the idea of television, you go the backing.

Norman Swallow: A bit of each, we worked both ways. We worked sometimes as independents he and i. He made one or two films for ATV, Rediffusion, I, not part of Denis, we could still work as individuals, made a series for the BBC Foreign Service, Bush

House, financed by the Foreign Office, a general documentary series about Britain for which Rene Cutforth did the general one and Ludovic Kennedy did the police, I can't think why. Johnny Morgan  We did this. I made a fewcommercials, not very many. And early on we got our deal with Granada which really kept us going. And the deal with Granada was that one or the other of us would be there at any time but not necessarily both of us which meant we were 6 months each, but not necessarily 6 months, 6 months. We could do whatwe liked so long as one of us was there and that was really our backingthroughout, well until 67, 4 years.

Stephen Peet: Was all this 16mm film?

Norman Swallow: The Granada thing was sometimes on tape. But to go back, at thesame time we did make some films of our own. To go back to the teenagers, theteddyboys, we did make our own update 10 years later which we sold to HuwWheldon who was head of documentaries I presume. So that was an independent production made for the BBC. So we did several like that                                                          made ourselveson our own, we did that. But the Granada thing kept us going.

Stephen Peet: When you were 6 months each were you running a documentarydepartment or were you doing anything they asked you to do? It was a department. We ran a long series called this England which had over 30documentaries under that general title. But we also did some individual ones, sometimes on film but occasionally on tape, to go back to your point, wemade several on tape.

Norman Swallow: This was original wasn't it, it was the first lot of documentaries done on tape wasn't it?

Norman Swallow: yes. in 1963

Stephen Peet: But that meant something very different in those days. I remember seeing pictures of 3 ton vans.

Norman Swallow: It meant using an OB crew you'd use for a football match or areligious service, indeed. It meant the cameras were as bit as studio, yes OBcameras and were connected to a van by enormous cable, absolutely. And thisreally meant we were slightly deceiving the public because when we pretended to be interviewing people in their little homes they were in our studio. I don'tmean in our Granada studio, wherever we went on location, we hired a big room,part of a pub or something we used that as a studio. And a Granada bloke camealong and put little sets, and they looked as if they were at home, but ofcourse,

they weren't. So we did that. That was useful, I did one about a wedding, it wasuseful to have 3 cameras on a church service for example. On an occasion whereyou have an event, an OB it's

useful to have 3 cameras in one place, that's good, that was useful.

Stephen Peet:  It seemed in some ways a retrograde step. Here were not many years before we'd moved to all the light weight 16mm equipment and here you are saddling yourselves with huge equipment. Was that the reason to be ableto shoot with 3 cameras? The second question which goes with it did you  edit for

yourself or did you as far as possible make whole sequences on location and that was it.

Norman Swallow: It was edited. It was edited. Tape could be edited, not as precisely as now but it could be. It was edited certainly and the shooting ratio was 1 to 1 because what you didn't use you wiped and used again. So that was cheap. It was a challenge. Dennis Foreman had given us a challenge.The Granada reason was that Granada were Monday to Friday and not weekends and therefore weekends were football and religious services and so Granada tended to have their crew underemployed and Dennis had this idea that wemight make use of it and would we like to try.

He gave us a week, we played about with it for a week, just around inManchester with the possibilities. we take it on and see what happened. Wemade several in the next two or three

years. We didn't work that way all the time but we did three or four.

Stephen Peet: A Wedding on Saturday is the best known, isn't it.

Norman Swallow: That was the second to be made and first to be shown.

Stephen Peet: And End of the Street Norman Swallow:65.

Stephen Peet: That was updated recently. And then what other ones on tape. They were the main two.

Norman Swallow: Denis Mitchell did one called they had to change us, a boarding house in Manchester where club entertainers were staying in the week. He did one about some slightly dotty religious set in Manchester, I remember. Peter Jones who is now with BBC Bristol did one about a hill farm, it was called A Hill Some Sheep and a Living I remember, in the winter, in the Trough of Boland, North Lancashire. We did one, I think there was one about a club of some kind, night club sort of thing. There were

several but they dropped out after a time and we went on in the usual 16mm format. Most of This England was 16mm

Stephen Peet: And also you employed other directors to make some of the seriesof this England. Or was it all your work?

Norman Swallow: Oh no, Denis and I did very little each. Lots of people came in.

Stephen Peet: They had their first chance to make a documentary.

Norman Swallow: Yes, Michael Apted made his first documentary film his first film for us. That was called The Cop Flies East, about Liverpool supportersgoing to Budapest for a European cup match. And John Irvin did one. A lot ofGranada people did their first film. Leslie Woodhead did his first film for us.Mike Beckham did his first film for us.

Stephen Peet: So it was a training ground as well. Norman Swallow:It was a training ground as well.

Stephen Peet: Who made a Railwayman for Me. Was that yours?

Norman Swallow: Yes. That was awful. It was at Doncaster, a railway works, repairing engines, probably closed down. It wasn't very good I'm afraid.  Ithink Dennis Forman said it was the worst documentary Granada every transmitted. He could well be right.

Norman Swallow: Now you had Dennis Forman.

Norman Swallow:  We worked directly to Denis Forman.

Stephen Peet: Did he want to see things before they went out. I suppose as films it was much easier.

Norman Swallow:  Of course, it was. Dennis did always. One of the things about him he always saw everything.                                    In a most friendly way and most of the points he made to my recollection, and to Denis Mitchells too I'm that we agreed with pretty everything he said. I think that's a good idea. You get too involved yourself, too messed up in the thing and you can't look objectively. And Dennis could not only look objectively, but also with sympathy.  And of course documentary is histhing, going back to his pre television years.

Stephen Peet: 63 onwards coincided with the first years of world in action. Didyou get mixed up in that

Norman Swallow:  Never

Stephen Peet: Or were you completely separate from that. Norman Swallow: Totally separate.

Stephen Peet: So you were there 3, 4 years. Norman Swallow: I left Granada in January 68.

Stephen Peet: So 10 Days that Shook the World that was at Granada.

Norman Swallow: Yes. I left Denis Mitchell Films Ltd round about the middle of 676

Stephen Peet: And what worked for Granada direct* Norman Swallow:Became a freelance yes.

Stephen Peet: And can you tell us about 10 Days Which Shook the World was Sidney Bernstein's and Dennis' idea to make a film on the 50th Anniversary of the revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution not the British Revolution and it was in 66 that they did the necessary negotiation. They went to Moscow.  I was not involved at this stage at all. They hadn't even chosen a producer or director or whatever, I don't think. Whether I was the first choice or the second choice I'm not sure. But I only heard about it, I remember I was onholiday, we had a place in, the Maltese Island and had a message, we weren'ton the phone there. A message went to the nearest hotel knowing I popped in there regularly but might I be willing to consider, an urgent message from Granada, producing a long epic on the revolution. They thought I mighthesitate, I wouldn't hesitate, they said in order to persuade you Denis Mitchell is coming out. Even though he and I were working together for Granada. He came out and it was unnecessary because I would have said yes of course, why not.

Oh. So he stayed for a couple of days. Had a good time and off he went backagain with the message. The next thing that happened was that I went with MichaelDarlow who was eventually accredited with assistant producer or associateproducer, whatever it was it was a slightly nonsensical credit because he wasmore important than that really. Anyway he and I went together to Moscow in November 66 and set it up then and I did nothing else until next November, so it was full time, and Michael, so it was full time for both of us for 12months.

Stephen Peet: Was it a very long film or was it a series.

Norman Swallow: It was one hour,_an hour and half, an hour and a quarter transmission time, 78 minutes

Stephen Peet: All on film Norman Swallow:All on film.

Stephen Peet: Was this your experience of doing things in collaboration.

Norman Swallow:  It was   then, Alexandrov.

Stephen Peet: Was he an assistant or was it in collaboration with him.

Norman Swallow: The credit was produced by him and me. Alexandrov and Swallowin that order. He and I produced it together.

Alan Lawson: You were using Soviet crews were you.

Norman Swallow: Yes. It was a British crew in Switzerland, the Leninconnection, and London of course, so we had British crews, was it John Ray,something Ray the cameraman. I know I worked with him at the BBC he wasfreelance, he wasn't Granada. Anyway so we had a British crew in Switzerlandand London and a Russian crew in Moscow Leningrad, those were the two places wewent to of course.

Stephen Peet: Was it shown also in Moscow?

Norman Swallow: It's never been shown on Soviet television. It's been shown in the cinemas I think, non-theatrically.                          The reason they haven't shown it on television is that it's so familiar. Theyhave rights in Eastern Europe, so called Socialist countries excluding Chinaand Albania in those days. It's been shown in a number of countries in EasternEurope but not on Soviet television that I know of.

Stephen Peet: So it was shot on 16r was it. Norman Swallow:35.Stephen Peet: The whole thing? Norman Swallow: Yes.

Stephen Peet: Because of the Soviet connection presumably, because they hadn't any 16 equipment had they.

Norman Swallow: That's true, we also thought we would like to go as near aspossible to the original for quality as the library material and we felt that itwould be better on 35 than reduce to

16. Most of it was shot before 1917, so for quality reasons we shot it on 35.The other thing was that Dennis Forman and Sidney Bernstein always hoped itmight have a cinema release here but it never did. It really was in a bid forcinema. It's a bit large and noisy for the small screen. And that was thereason for it.

We repeated it a could of years ago, the 70th anniversary. This time we transferred it to tape.

Stephen Peet: Were you able to make use of that extraordinary machine at the BBCwhere you could transfer stuff shot at

different silent speeds to 24 fps or did you have to do it all step printing did you

Stephen Peet: You mean in 87 or 67.

Norman Swallow: 67 was transmitted as 35 mm film and transferred onto tape, one direct transfer.

Stephen Peet: Was that all step printed. Norman Swallow:Yes.

Stephen Peet:  Extraordinarily expensive.

Norman Swallow: Yes. The whole thing was very expensive and way over the topeven at the end. Mind you I think Granada sold it all over the world. Perhaps they got the money back, they're still selling it.

Stephen Peet: Another thing I saw listed which I thought I haven't heard of is The Long Bridge,

Norman Swallow:  The Long Bridge was a World in Action. It was the last thing I did for Granada. My contract ended sometime in the end of 67 and asfrom November whatever it is, the anniversary of the revolution, I had nothing to do. And so I offered myself to World in Action and this particularidea. It was 6 months after the 6 Day War in the Middle East. The long Bridge is really the A Bridge which is across the river Jordan which is as long as a cricket pitch, that's all 22 yards, and that was a World in Action. That was the last thing I did for Granada which we filmed on both side of the Jordan, in Israel and in Jordan.  And I did that and finished it by December 31 and left. And then I was a freelance between then and the summer.

Stephen Peet: Is that when you made The Three Happiest Years?

Norman Swallow: Exactly. That's all I did. That was for ATV. That was aboutWarwick University; the 3 happiest years of your life, students, it was just aportrait of the university, I actually lived as a student in a student room fulltime for a whole term and shot it in the last 10 days of the term. And that wasthe year of student revolt and it was a good year to do that film. I did thatas a freelance by myself, commissioned by ATV. Bob Heller, the late Bob Hellerwas the head of documentaries, a nice guy.

Stephen Peet: Looking back, what times have been the happiest. When you've been a freelance directing a film and being in charge like that or being anexecutive producer or whatever it was called in those days Have you enjoyed all the various hats you've worn.

Norman Swallow: Yes, I think I would certainly say special Inquiry years, Panorama years, rather than my years at Ealing, I like them but I wouldn't put them at the top of the list, This England.

Alan Lawson: Special Inquiry were pioneering years.

Norman Swallow:  Yes they were.  I suppose that's why I enjoyed it so much. Doing something which hadn't been done before                                 I enjoyed this England with Denis, the two Denises because again we really had great freedom to make documentaries or ask people to make the documentaries they wanted to make. Sometimes we suggested ideas but more often people came with ideas to us. And that was a good creative time and I don't remember the exact number but we made over 30 definitely which Denis and I produced in turn. One of the other or us our names were on the end.And over 30 was quite good that was enjoyable.  10 Days Which Shook the WorldI enjoyed for one year's exercise. Then I went back to BBC for Omnibus.

Stephen Peet: Executive producer for Omnibus for 3 years. You wrote somewhere something like the true function of a programme executive is tocreate the atmosphere were programme makers can do their best work with the minimum of interference, which I know is something you believed in all yourlife, from both sides of it. Were you back in this position of executiveproducer of Omnibus giving people a chance to get on with things they wanted to do or did you have a considerable hand in choosing the subjects.

Norman Swallow: It's a bit of each, isn't it. The important thing is that Omnibus in those days, every Sunday night, every

Sunday night, I had in the first year out of 52 weeks I had 42 programmes whichas an art slot isn't bad going. To be fair that did include Omnibus at the Proms in the summer. But it was an extraordinary challenge for me and in a newterritory. I had never worked in so called arts as such before. But I did enjoy it very much and to go back to your quote I believe that the function of anexecutive producer or whatever or head of a department which I later became inindeed to create the atmosphere in which creative people can do their best workwith the minimum of restriction. And this is what I tried hard to do.

And we did extremely well Omnibus at that time. There were some quite famousones. Ken Russell's Delius was brilliant. Some I think were controversial. TonyPalmer's All My Loving, do you remember that which Mary Whitehouse threatened to sue us for that, it was outrageous. It's been shown three times so far unchanged. To go back to, this reminds me this was an interesting period, to goback to the issue of censorship, if I dare, and the way it works, freedom andindependence is a very dodgy issue.

There is no quick solution to this problem how free can people be. As far as Omnibus was concerned and it was an enormous hierarchy, I was the executive producer of Omnibus. Now anybody who made an Omnibus to me producer directorworked first to me. As far as possible I didn't really bother anybody elsefor most of the time. Quite often, 75% of the programmes were never seen by anybody senior to me, though if any of them wanted to and if anybody did, it would only be Stephen Hurst who was head of Arts.

Music and Arts were separate in those days, the same now. Stephen Hurst was head of Arts Features and John Colshaw was head of Music,  I had two bosses so the producer worked to me and I had them. And above them, above Stephen anyway, John Colshaw was separate, was Aubrey Singer who was Head of Features Group and above him was Paul Fox again, thank goodness. Controller of 1 by this time. And therefore my producer, Swallow, Hurst, Singer, Fox. It was almost an impossible situation. Whenever we had regular meetings with Paul Fox, very rare, many about offers for next year, ideas were tossed about, I want to do this or that. It was always impossible. I didn't mention Noble Wilson who was Aubrey Singer's assistant. And all of us had to turn up in Paul Fox's office. And it was mad. It was absolutely crazy. Paul knew it was crazy. One meeting he just slammed his desk and threw us out, I think correctly.

Copyright is vested in the BECTU History Project NORMAN SWALLOW


Stephen Peet: You were talking about these mass meetings in PaulFox's office when you were running Omnibus.

Norman Swallow: The sequel to all this was that what happened thatPaul Fox and I met unofficially for lunch, usually on a Fridaymorning both having found out where everybody else's secretary was,Stephen Hurst and Aubrey Singer, sorry by their secretaries where they were, and we knew where we could go and they wouldn't come. Andwhat happened was that Paul and I fixed the next 5 or 6 Omnibuses there and then over lunch unofficially. Then I went back through the procedures just to make it official. And that was the way it worked, quickly no problems and that was fine that is what happened. Yes someof the Omnibuses they really were quite good.

Stephen Peet: Did you also have to go to the Wednesday morningdepartment head meetings.

Norman Swallow: That's the next job because I became head of Arts Features.

Stephen Peet: Was it while you were running Omnibus that you madewith Leningrad with Love and Eisenstein.


Norman Swallow: Yes.

Stephen Peet: So you took time off and somebody else ran it whileyou were away.

Norman Swallow: Yes they were made over a long time. I didn't taketime off to do them without stopping. The Eisenstein I began in 1968and it wasn't finished until the end of 70. Again I made that withAlexandrov, it was our second collaboration and that was 2 hours

Stephen Peet: That was made more quickly except it was shot twice, once in the early autumn for the weather and once in early Januaryfor the weather. That was done fairly quickly.

Stephen Peet: That was by yourself. It wasn't in collaboration was it.

Norman Swallow: No.

Stephen Peet: I seem to remember you telling me, this is a vague memory, of the incredible speed in which that was made. Is that the one, the Leningrad film, that you really had to get it on the air very quickly.

Norman Swallow: I think it might have been fairly quickly. I don'tknow. I think the editing was done fairly quickly say 3 weeks orsomething like that. Yes. He excuse for doing it was that it was thecentenary of the birth of Lenin. And so to make a Omnibus about the city that bears his name. It was really about the arts in StPetersberg, Leningrad whatever, that's what it's all about of course.So it was an arts show. Then I got Stephen Hurst's job when he left.

Stephen Peet: As head of arts features. Norman Swallow: Correct.

Norman Swallow: That is what Stephen Hurst was. Alan Lawson: Hewent to Radio 3.

Norman Swallow: Yes, Controller of Radio 3. Aubrey Singer wasstill there so I worked to Aubrey.

Stephen Peet: Did this mean you were one more step removed from theactual creative work.

Norman Swallow: Yes it did.

Stephen Peet: You didn't like that perhaps.

Norman Swallow: I stuck it for three years. More or less.

Stephen Peet: Did you have a chance to make anything?

Norman Swallow: I don't thing I made anything of my own at that time. 71-74.

Stephen Peet: There is a note here of something called The LastingJoy. It appears between 71 and 74 on a list_ of things you say you've done.

Norman Swallow: Sorry, it was by Cecil Day Lewis, it was a personalanthology, I knew him he was a neighbour of mine. That's why I didit. He did it from his home

and he died before it was transmitted. Rather sadly in 72.

Stephen Peet: You were keeping your hand in as a programme maker

Norman Swallow: Yes because it didn't take long. He was talking, heselected some poetry and other people read them, some friends of his.John Gielgud was one, Marius Goring another, Jill Balcon. It was aseries.

Stephen Peet: Anyhow it looks like you made the switch back North toGranada in 74

Norman Swallow: Correct.

Stephen Peet: How did that come about. Were you fed up with the BBC

Norman Swallow: It came about because as you have been implying already, why don't we get nearer to programme making again. And Dennis Forman I remember rightly rang me and asked if I would be interested in the thing. I decided I would be. I was also getting a little unhappy with the BBC. Most of the people I knew and liked to work for had gone. Paul Fox had gone to Yorkshire.

David Attenborough who I haven't mentioned was actually Director ofProgrammes during my Omnibus years and head of department years leftaltogether. They were two people I felt most loyalty to and they'dboth gone.

Alan Lawson: Could we go back. You mentioned Stephen Hurst and Aubreyand now you've mentioned David Attenborough. Can you talk about thema bit.

Norman Swallow: Stephen Hurst worked with me during the Paul Rotha days. He was one of the original Talks Documentary producers, making that kind of thing.

That's when I first worked with him. When I say with him we never made the same thing together but we were colleagues in the same department. And he eventually became head of Arts Features and it was Stephen who asked me if I would be interested in the Omnibus job. And I said I would. Stephen was fine, I liked Stephen very much. I see him regularly now. He's alright. He

left me alone. Hardly ever interfered at all. Alan Lawson: what about Aubrey Singer.

Norman Swallow: He was the head of the group and Arts Features was one department in the group. General Features the head was Desmond Wilcox, Science Features, Phil Daily; so we had three departments. Ours was just one of the three. Again regular meetings once a week.

Aubrey didn't interfere all that much because after all Stephen Hurst was between him and me. But frequently he did and later onwhen I became head of the department he was much more involved inthe Alistair Cooke America series for instance which was really partly his brainchild. Stephen started it. They hadn't transmitted any and I think they had made about three. I took over the whole series as the head of the department and worked to Aubrey. Aubrey, I wouldn't say interfere was the word but he got more involved in a sense quite rightly because he was there from the beginning and I wasn't. Then Aubrey became Controller of BBC2 which is what he was when I left.

Alan Lawson: He took over from David.

Norman Swallow: He took over from David, yes David was excellent. This whole business about who oversees anything. There were one or two occasions when I did feel I ought to consult the hierarchy but they were, they were mainly questions of taste, the Mary Whitehouse area. There was the Tony Palmer thing and Ken Russell did a thin" about Richard Strauss, Dance of the Seven Veils. But ooth these were shown without a single change. I think thanks to Paul Fox and David Attenborough who supported me to the end. There was no end. Well there was no catastrophe apart from Mary Whitehouse, but that didn't matter. The Dance of the Seven Veils has not alas been repeated because of copyright reasons because Strauss is still in copyright and his family objected. So it can't be shown. Pity.

Alan Lawson: This is one of the problems with somebody who creates, toget on you have to do something which you don't really want to doexcept for the initial challenge, and then it becomes a bit of abore.

Norman Swallow: That's right. Although I was called Arts Features, my area became much wider, history became my area, Chronicleseries was moved to me from

general features and I was happy to take that. Alan Lawson: Whowas doing that?

Norman Swallow: Paul Johnson. I liked that. And there were otherthings. For some reason, I remember Davis Attenborough if I'd take onPhilip Don who was then in Birmingham and he did one or two of hismusicals, his folk musicals. which David Attenborough wanted somebodyin London. Philip was in Birmingham, he came to London. David thought about me, whether it's an art or documentary I don't really mind butI think David knew I knew Philip and it was his idea we might get on together. Whereas Philip might not have got on with some other people.

Alan Lawson: Like the documentary department.

Norman Swallow: Like the documentary department. So that worked. Idon't think Aubrey Singer was very keen on it. Philip and I justbypassed everybody. So you get these arrangements, humanrelationships. David knew perfectly well that I would get on withPhilip and it would be successful. David was good at that, he did it personally. He approached me personally and I said yes personally. Nobody complained, there wasn't a row of any kind that I'm aware of.So I was in close contact with David but only occasionally.

Alan Lawson: He was a good head of Channel 2.

Norman Swallow: Yes. He was director of programmes the time I'mtalking about. I assume it was David and Paul Fox who got mypromotion from Omnibus to head of the department. I mean I can'tprove that so that's not an official statement. It's my official belief, uninspired by documents. It sounds too likely to be untrue.

Stephen Peet: In 74 you went to Granada to produce. I assume you wentfor some specific series.

Norman Swallow: The Christians.

Stephen Peet: Because that was a hefty lot of work. That was full time for three years.

Stephen Peet: 3 years.

Norman Swallow: 74 to 77, I did nothing else. 13 hours,


all over the world of course.

Stephen Peet: And that was fronted by the University Challenge man

Norman Swallow: Bamber Gascoigne.

Stephen Peet: That was all over the world. Norman Swallow: Yes.

Stephen Peet: Was it a year in preparation, 2 years in preparation and then the shooting.

Norman Swallow: Along the line. The first one was we did shoot oneseparately simply to give ourselves and see what style it would be andthat for financial reasons was in Europe, Medieval Europe, France and Italy, and not very far away, Spain a bit. And we did that one and weplayed around with it. That was a pilot but it didn't go out as a pilot. We did that and thereafter we worked shooting one or twosimultaneously right along. I think when the first one went on the air we hadn't finished the last one, that's normal

Alan Lawson: What was it Norman Swallow: 13hours.

Stephen Peet: Who were the team making it.

Norman Swallow: We had separate directors. Bamber Gascoigne wrote,Mike Murphy was involved, he was full producer, I was calledexecutive producer. And we had a series of directors, Carlos Pasini,Mike Holding, Bas Taylor, to name but four. John Shepherd. SteveTimmins was the full time researcher. Normally you start with a teamand find you haven't got enough people and you get behind schedule and more come in.

Stephen Peet: That was the largest thing you'd done up to date.

Norman Swallow: yes it was. My experience indirectly, on things like America were relevant. And also talking about David Attenborough, he did a series called tribal eye as a front man inhis present role but this was for my department, Arts Features.

SP; This is back at the BBC

Norman Swallow: Yes back at the BBC But I had a bit of experiencein this type of thing, Tribal Eye and America are two that occur to me. And so I enjoyed it. It was called the Christians but itwasn't a Christian show, I mean Bamber Gascoigne and I confessed that he was an agnostic in a sequence in front of the Vatican. We called it the Christians, it was rather gruesome series in many ways, Christians fighting Christians, Christians fighting Muslimsand all that.

Stephen Peet: So at the other of the Christians you had other seriesat Granada. This England started again.

Norman Swallow: This England started erratically, 3 or

4 years.

Alan Lawson: Where was this Stephen Peet: Granada.

Norman Swallow: I remained with Granada. I did one or two others. I was called head of arts for a time at Granada. Jack Gold made a thing with Macmillan which won an Emmy called A Lot of Happiness at that time.

Jeremy Marre did one about Claudio Abado. Also I produced two filmsthat Ken Russell directed about Wordsworth and Coleridge, dramas forGranada.

Stephen Peet: What was Clouds of Glory. Was that a single.

Norman Swallow: No it was two. One about Wordsworth and one aboutColeridge. Trailing clouds of glory bla bla bla is a poem byWordsworth isn't it. Yes. And Ken directed it. Melvin Bragg wrote it.And I produced it.

Stephen Peet: So we come to 77 and you got the Desmond Davis Award.

Norman Swallow: 78 wasn't it, oh you get it the year after. Icollected it in 78. That was really at the end of the Christians, asort of excuse I suppose.

Stephen Peet: And then you did a number of things.

Norman Swallow: Yes, Abado and Murray Pereiya, that was a series

Stephen Peet: So you were really doing more things about the arts now and away from politics.

Norman Swallow: Yes.

Stephen Peet: Throughout the whole period.

Norman Swallow: Yes, Wordsworth and Coleridge are the arts you could say.

Stephen Peet: And then. In a newspaper interview, in October 81 you said regarding an up and coming possible television series about the history of television you said in 81 that you had had friendly discussion with Alistair Milne about the importance of being fairto the BBC and it also said in the same article that Granada's managing director hopes to have the series on air in about a year'stime. This was 1981. And it didn't quite turn out this way because it wasn't all that easy with the BBC, am I right

Norman Swallow: Correct. In the end it was alright.

Stephen Peet: Yes but there was a long argument. Are you willing to talk about that because it was a strange thing because it was ITV what is the history behind that, were the thinking of makingtheir own series.

Norman Swallow: Yes. what happened was that a lot of people were. Thefeeling was that with all the developments in television which weknow about now, this was the time to look back before the whole thing is changed beyond all recognition. This was the 80s was the time to doit. And I know that Paul Fox had the same idea at Yorkshire. In factI talked to him about possibly doing it for Yorkshire. DavidPlowright decided to do it for Granada. Alistair Milne was certainlydoing it for the BBC. Eddy Mirzeoff was making the series. It wasdelicate and difficult of course, understandably so. And the BBC werefairly tough to begin with. Less so as time went by.

Stephen Peet: It was being tough about permitting the use of early material?*

Norman Swallow: Exactly that's all. I forget the limitations theyimposed on us at first, it was pretty restrictive, something like 2or 3 minutes an hour.


Which for an organisation important historically as the BBC is  But itdidn't happen in the end. So diplomacy went on and on. Butfortunately I have a lot of friends in the BBC people that we werefriendly. Alistair Milne took me to lunch and I took him to lunch.Brian Wenner joined us and so on. Eddie Mirzeoff once he started his series which never happened in the end, the BBC cancelled it. Isuppose we got too far ahead and they finally abandoned it which waspretty unfair on Eddie. I'm sorry for his sake, but the time he wasdoing Eddie and I used to have regular meetings. He and I agreed certain extracts he would have, if he would allow us to have anextract, Ken Russell's Delius, we had one clip from that. The thoughtwas that Eddie would have first choice of a clip from a BBC programmewhich was fair enough and having made his choice I could have anything from the rest of it and we worked on that basis. And in the end itwasn't necessary because his series never happened.

Stephen Peet: And also in the end it wasn't on the air by 82

Norman Swallow: 85

Norman Swallow: So it became another immense epic for you which didn't go all that easily for you.

Norman Swallow: No, it didn't. It was too ambitious. Marvellous ideabut over ambitious.

Norman Swallow: Also you hit the period of cuts beginning, very severe cuts all round, in the middle of production I remember cuts provided for programme making.

Norman Swallow: Yes. That's true. It didn't affect us in the end. To be fair we got all the money we wanted eventually but it wasn't easy. My experience might have been useful. But my ignorance was the cost and increasing cost of extracts, especially from the United States, especially with artists from America and so on.

Stephen Peet: This is residuals

Norman Swallow: Yes. You're pay the company in the first place and residuals thereafter. And this was phenomenal and I hadn't really thought of it in those terms at all. I'd gone into it with peoplewho had done it before but it was rapidly changing, and that wasthe


main worry. The money and cost was one thing. The other thing was how increasingly tough they became, like the BBC about what you could have and what you can't have, for reasons which were never absolutely certain. But certainly things they don't like. And their contracts with their people were so incredibly complicated. This was really something I'd never thought of because I'd never had to face up to. It really was very very tough that part of it.

Stephen Peet: But in the end it hit the screen and got sold all round the world

Norman Swallow: I don't know where it's been sold. There was anAmerican version which wasn't the same thing.

Norman Swallow: It's not the same, it's quite monstrous because they used three quarters of a programme, added extra material and made up the length and then Granada had a tiny little credit at the end and it looked as if it was an American programme.

Norman Swallow: It largely was an American programme. Their subject was American television and a bit of British but almost any other country we had in they through out. I had lots of talks with them. Again that was narrated by Ed Newman who did AnAmerican Looks at Britain. I've read the book but haven't seen the series, I've read the book of their series.

Stephen Peet: One way or another I've got the feeling you're notreally happy with the whole thing because it was five years of yourlife. How do you feel about it now looking back on it quietly. Haveyou got tapes of it that you can look at?

Norman Swallow: No. I don't know. I wouldn't mind looking at it.Retrospectively I think some of them were good. Some were not good.One of the best I thought was the one on situation comedy. It wasgood. News and current affairs wasn't bad. Drama so so.

American orientated. I think we went too far. I personally wasagainst this but my producers were for it, too far towards the UnitedStates, largely for language reasons. They speak the same languagetheoretically.

Alan Lawson: It's the sales too.

Norman Swallow: Yes. So I think a_lot of good stuff we could have had disappeared, so you know yourself you were involved. Some very good stuff just went. But I'm biased.

Stephen Peet: It's sitting in vaults at Manchester airport. I found a great deal of stuff, transcripts. I found a year ago and this American professor I met who was doing a thesis about prewar television, I told him and eventually managed to get to Manchester and managed to look at the transcripts which he wasn't allowed to photocopy. He had to copy out notes in longhand. He was delighted with what he found.

Norman Swallow: I knew it was there. I didn't know it was still there.

Stephen Peet t took some weeks.

Norman Swallow: One day I might look it up the series.

Stephen Peet: So since the end of television in quotes, did you continue to work at Granada or are you in the freelance

Norman Swallow: I've been a freelance since then. I am now a freelance. I have been a freelance technically since 1963, apart from Denis Mitchell films Ltd.

Stephen Peet: Doing what.

Norman Swallow: So far my name has been on the screen only threetimes. Other ideas are flying around. I fly kites, who knows whatmight happen next. I've done three documentaries.

Alan Lawson: Some time back, you said you made some commercials.

Norman Swallow: Fisons they were for. Alan Lawson: Howshort were they.

Norman Swallow: Three minutes.

Stephen Peet: Cinema commercials were they? Alan Lawson: Or tv?


Norman Swallow: They could be either in those days, 35mm.

Alan Lawson: Did you have trouble with the agency.

Norman Swallow: No, it worked quite well. The reason they asked mewas they'd seen A Wedding on Saturday and they were impressed by thepeople who spoke and they thought they could get some people in the countryside, farmers, and I was the guy who could get them to speak naturally and maybe I succeeded. It was genuine to the extent that they liked Fisons. It was a commercial, but none the less it was a human commercial. Well you get that now, but then it wasn't. It was nothing very clever technically, rather like A Wedding on Saturday made for Fisons. That's why I did it. That's why they asked me to do it.

Alan Lawson: You didn't do any others?

Norman Swallow: No. The only ones I ever did. When I left Granada I did go back for the update of 10 Days That Shook the World of course which took me a month in fact. Really a technical update,didn't change anything. And we improved the quality, because you can now, with modern tape editing facilities. From our original 35 we could do all sorts of things and the old original newsreel looked much better once we'd played around with it. So that was an improvement. Otherwise I did one 40 Minutes for my old friend Eddie Mirzeoff again. My old enemy Eddie Mirzeoff, I made one for him. I did an update of a wedding on Saturday, a Silver Wedding. And I did a thing with Johnny Speight in Canning Town last year. The interesting thing about the things of what I've been doing in my career is that I've gone back to the subjects I used to begin with at Alexander Palace, back to Caning Town again, Wilfred Pickles went there. And the one I did for Eddie was based in Lancashire cotton towns, back there again, Wedding on Saturday, back there again. So the wheel's come full circle, the same kind of stuff.

Stephen Peet: Any more that you can use?

Norman Swallow: Maybe, I'm not pursuing any at this moment. One ortwo arts oddly enough, Prokofiev is one which may or may not happen.Very expensive. BBC it will be if it happens.

Stephen Peet: What are your feelings about the future, not your own future, but all these things about cable tv, satellite programmes, the quality.

Norman Swallow: I'm obviously concerned with the quality. God knows how many campaigns I'm a member of. Radio and television, there are too many of them probably. I'm on the Broadcasting Committee of the Society of Authors at the moment and in that connection pressurising, that's largely radio. Quality radio is as important as quality television and equally threatened. Yes I am worried, going back over my career, suppose I began that career now in the fieldthat I've been working in, hopeless. I wouldn't know what on earth to do. I'm really glad I'm not in my early 20s trying to get into television to make this kind of thing. If you say do I worry aboutthe future, that is my main worry. I spent my life doing isthreatened with the chop. This is terrible of course. That is the worry. Whether satellite and cable or satellite via cable will ever succeed, will Sky Succeed, will BSB succeed, I don't know, the look as I come in from Greenwich to London, the number of dishes onroofs, every week they increase slightly but no many. I count 7 or 8, that's all, and they tend to be on big blocks, flats, council flats largely. But going round my local pubs in Greenwich I don't know anybody who's got one or wants one.

Stephen Peet: It's fascinating your description. Because in the prewar days of Alexander Palace, people working there as they came in on the trains to London, one or two more aerials going up. And it's the same story 60 years later.

Norman Swallow: But it's all to do with economics, how many people canafford the cost of these things.

Stephen Peet: Or want to.

Norman Swallow: That's the other thing.

Stephen Peet: Is it partly to do with the quality, the standard of it.They're not all that much interested in having yet more channels.

Norman Swallow: I suppose they're happy with what they've got. Withfour channels you can choose pretty well what you like. And into thenight now. You can go

watching into the night. I haven't found, talking to professionals like us but to ordinary people, I haven't found, there is a feeling that maybe programmes aren't as good as they were, whatever that might mean. I often find that as a viewer too. That may be too many things are being repeated because everything has been done.

Alan Lawson: Isn't that the whole point. There is a limit to theamount of original work you can put out.

Norman Swallow: I know. When I say sentimentally the three things I've done since leaving Granada are like things I did in the 50s, that is nothing to be proud of, it simply means you're repeating it.

Alan Lawson: Not quite, but in a way yes. Just an updating, butthere's a whole new generation.

Norman Swallow: The other thing that is worth putting on the record which is acknowledged by the BBC is how much they have not kept in their archives which is sad. When I was going back to Caning Town, this was to the BBC, they had nothing of my original Canning Town material at all.

Alan Lawson: This is again point for somebody like you, you know up toabout 1960 has gone.

Norman Swallow: The original special Inquiry on the Gorbals has gone.

Alan Lawson: The archive position was appalling in the early days.

Norman Swallow: Yes, and that's sad. I could have done with some of the Caning Town stuff. But Granada, the Silver Wedding, the originalstill exists.

Stephen Peet: or somebody like yourself, very few get the chance todo the freedom to do what they want now, unless they are lucky to comeunder the aegis, of somebody like that but it's only

Norman Swallow: 40 Minutes is a good series still. BBC2 Wales, Granada haven't got a this England. Granada can hardly take single documentary spots, a few but not many.

Alan Lawson: What is the reason for this?


Norman Swallow: I'm not an expert.but something to do with the way the network does it's bargaining, isn't it. They're fading away these things. The single documentary will be the first to go, probably.

Norman Swallow: Granada as far as I know are still doing disappearingworld but that's different. You can market that. It's easier to sell6 or 7 than one. This England was a slot, it was a title, like 40minutes is a title. But ITV have no such title at the minutes, exceptfor current affairs, like This Week and the Yorkshire thing, FirstTuesday still exists. There are a few. But for Granada to come in withone off. They've got World in Action still of course. But for howlong. Who knows about that.

Stephen Peet: Panorama, exists, World in Action exists and This Week exists and they're all 25, 30 years old. But that doesn't answer our question about he young bloke coming in or girl coming in wanting to do something personal and individual and one off. Not really. You have to get into a slot. I did a 40 Minutes,that's a slot. The last thing I did was Byline, that's a slot, that"s a slot when Panorama's off the air, that's occasional,lucky I was.

Alan Lawson: Looking back over it would you have wanted to changecourse if you could start again.

Norman Swallow: I don't think so because that"s how I began. Obviously when I went into radio I made the kind of programmes I continued to make when I went into television, and I suppose I wanted to do that at the beginning which is why I asked for thejob and therefore I'm being consistent. I've sometimes wandered off a bit. The arts is a slightly different thing. But then why not. I was always interested as a hobby in the arts, so that's slightly different. But why not.

Stephen Peet: Right back to the beginning you were born in 1921, I remember this because you are one year and one day younger than me soI can remember the date, and did your family background have anyinfluence on how you behaved in 1946, starting off in radio, werethere influences there political or otherwise.

Norman Swallow: I'm sure my social background. My father was aschoolmaster, what would now be a primary


school, a church of England school. But he was the first member ofour lot to break out into the lower middle class. My grandfather wasa signalman on the railways. I've got uncles who worked in cottonmills, coalmines, and I don't think you can forget that really. I wasbrought up seeing my uncles regularly and that was it. And I supposethat was fundamental, I feel sure. I did odd bits of writing, freelance journalism before I went into radio and white often coveredthat sort of area. So I suppose I took it with me into radio and intotelevision. It was nice to take time off in the arts and drama, thedrama relates to the arts most of the time. But if I went intotelevision now, I would probably want to do the same thing but itwould be more difficult. And the important thing is that I have been lucky. I really have felt that I have had a lot of freedom. Peopletalk about censorship, we know what that means, but I mentioned theAden, that was an explained fluke, it wouldn't have happened if Hugh Greene got to know. I can't think of anything, an idea which wasthrown out, unless it wasn't any good, that's different. I can'tthink of anything thrown out on political grounds. I had these rows,moral rows, the Mary White house rows, but then nothing was changed, nothing. And quite a lot of the things I've been involved with havebeen extremely controversial, politically, morally, socially, whatever word you use, often. No doubt about that. You can say a lotof the Special Inquiries were politically dodgy. But did Cecil McGivern see any of them, did Grace Wyndham Goldie, Mary Adams, no,not one. And the point is there were no come backs. It soundsboastful, the last thing I had on the air was the Canning Town, wetook Johnny Speight, the Alf Garnett creator who comes from CanningTown and where Alf Garnett is located, really in search of the realAlf Garnett. I won't go into details, but the areas concerned areextremely delicate. Racist politics, bad language, everything. thatAlf Garnett provokes. We're trying to find out if there are Alf Garnetts around. And you need hardly say politically it was extremelydelicate. WE had two fucks. And a lot of racist views. One bloke saidAlf Garnett and Enoch Powell they've got it right. If the governmentof the day paid attention to them it would be better now wouldn't it.One bloke attacking the royal family, I don't know if we've got agood family or set of neuters. It was dodgy. But what I'm saying, this is second hand and may not be true, people are supposed to havesaid at Television Centre, nameless people, I can

think who they might be, okay, if Johnny Speight and Norman Swallowsay it's alright, it will be. Well the point is, what it really meansis that you've been around for a long time. And you know instinctivelywhat you can do. It's what you call self censorship which a lot ofpeople despise, rightly despise in a way. But somehow withoutconsciously being aware of it, you are aware of it. I think that' s true and I've been lucky and I've probably learned. I don't know. Sono complaints fundamentally, little nitpicking complaints, but in general no.


Norman Swallow's career in British broadcasting, from his joining the BBC in 1946 through to his  involvement in independent production , was that of a major pioneer of the British television documentary and, more broadly, a significant contributor to public service television.