1 Jan 2003 1 comment. tbs.pm/2275
Colin Weston, one of Granada’s most popular announcers, started his career at ABC in Teddington.
“I had always been a fan of television continuity, especially in-vision announcing, so I was thrilled to start my career at ABC in Teddington. Although I was in the post room, it was on the same floor as the Presentation Department, which fired my enthusiasm all the more.” As a life-long presentation enthusiast, Colin always enjoyed seeing how each company performed, but ironically never saw any of ABC’s output.
“As a Londoner, I never had the chance to see ABC themselves, watching ATV London on a weekend instead. By the time I moved north, ABC were closing anyway.”
With the reshuffle in ITV in 1968, Colin took his chance to apply for continuity jobs around the network, including at the new Yorkshire Television. “Competition was fierce as there were many displaced announcers looking for new homes. Naughtily, to improve my chances, I applied to YTV in Leeds under two different names and got two interviews. I didn’t get either job, but did get two auditions – though they didn’t notice that I was the same person!”
He also sent an audiotape to Granada in Manchester, and was very surprised when they replied. “I was called for an interview, and almost immediately hired. Granada was preparing for their new 7-day contract, and I was lucky to be be given the job with training from Don Murray-Henderson, the chief announcer.”
At Granada, his style wasn’t necessarily popular. “Granada hated ABC. The rivalry that the company felt for the weekend contractor was very high, with the Bernsteins themselves expressing a dislike for David Hamilton’s presentation style. The friendliness was seen as unprofessionalism by Granada.”
Don Murray-Henderson’s training regime seemed designed to prevent Granada going down that route. Colin was instructed never to give his name out during the closedown, and to avoid mentioning the presence of ABC on weekends if at all possible. Above all, announcements had to begin with “‘This is Granada’ and never ‘You’re watching Granada’ or other variants on a theme”. Despite the coaching from the chief announcer, Colin managed to earn his nickname of “Fluff” by forgetting the name of the transmitter on his first day on air. “I had to do the authority announcement, and the name of the transmitter – simply Winter Hill – fled me. So I ended up saying something like ‘This is Granada from the… transmitter of the Independent Television Authority’. I looked up to the transmitter controller who had a look of complete disbelief. Glancing down again, I saw why – the text of the announcement was taped to the desk!”
From that incident, Colin learnt the importance of handling the inevitable fluffed links that happen to all announcers, by “smiling and pushing on. The viewers will always notice a silence and a frown, but forget a smile and the announcer pushing on regardless.”
After 18 months at Granada, his style – more ABC than Granada of the time – had begun to grate with Granada, and his contract was not renewed. “However, I was in a good position to move on, and soon found myself freelancing for Anglia and other regionals. At Anglia, my style of presentation managed to get me into trouble again.
“The station was showing a promo for a blockbuster movie with hundreds of second-string stars. When the promo ended and the camera light came back on, I said ‘Well, there’s one to miss,’ and announced the next programme. As soon as the light went off, the telephone on the desk rang – the head of presentation had seen my ad-lib and bollocked me for it. Fortunately, I kept the job and lived to see another day!”
Within a short time, his style of announcing was back in fashion again, and Granada was on the phone asking him to come back. He returned in time for the introduction of in-vision announcing at the station. “I got the impression that the Bernsteins were not happy with the idea of introducing in-vis announcers and were nervous of the idea, despite it being standard practice almost everywhere else on the network.
“We all had to re-audition for in-vision jobs, and this was a major worry for poor Don Murray-Henderson. He had been severely injured in a road accident some years previously and had scars on his face. The make-up tests showed that they could be hidden, which was some re-assurance, but he was killed in another road accident, and never really got to perform in-vis.
“In-vision announcing went ahead, but it was obvious that just one error on the first day would have had the decision changed and out of vision would have returned.”
Although firmly ensconced at Granada, Colin continued to work for other stations as a fill-in announcer. His favourite was Tyne Tees in Newcastle where “all the scripts were written by the duty announcer, and we each got to choose what we promoted and when – heaven!”
When pressed, he refused to name a least-favourite ITV company, stressing that all were enjoyable for a jobbing announcer, but noted that “London Weekend in the 1970s were not as much fun. The transmission controllers were ex-Rediffusion London and everyone seemed consumed with the idea of competing with Thames. This meant that announcing at LWT was far too earnest.”
Border Television was perhaps the most interesting, as “each announcer had to do everything for himself. I had to ferry tapes between transmission control and the library and pick my slides out of a basket and take them to telecine before each programme ended.”
Back at Granada, his favourite shift, more because it fitted in with his sleep patterns than anything else, was the late shift. Here he got to close down the station each night, and was the announcer on the night that the station closed for the final time when 24-hour television arrived. The extended hours were welcomed by the announcing team as they brought a shift allowance, but the 6pm-6am stint was very tiring.
The new hours were not welcomed by Granada management, however. “Granada, along with most of the other companies, accepted 24-hour television under protest. It was something that the IBA thought was a good idea, but Granada couldn’t see the point. And when you see what those extra few hours were filled with, you can see why.”
When doing the daytime shift, Colin had little to do but watch for breakdowns from ATV, except “during half-term, when the repeated schools programmes were locally generated – including the indicator clock – with local continuity. This meant that anyone watching got to hear the voices of the duty announcer from each region in turn.”
The evening shift brought him into direct contact with that most famously-awful of soap operas, ATV’s ‘Crossroads’. His announcements before and after – almost always disparaging of the farrago in front of him – became famous in the region. “I received more letters from fans Crossroads than from anyone else. The strange thing was that they tended to praise what I was saying about the show. No one at Granada ever mentioned my disparaging of Crossroads, but then the mutual antagonism between ATV and Granada meant that, while saying things bad about ATV programmes wasn’t exactly sanctioned, it was more or less condoned by Granada management!”
When Granada took over Yorkshire, the continuity for the (then) three regions moved to Kirkstall Road in Leeds. Colin, not wanting to move or commute such a distance to make announcements for so many regions at once – and out of vision at that – accepted redundancy from the company. Whilst retaining fond memories of his 30 years of announcing, he’s also in some ways glad that he’s no longer at Granada.
“The programmes and the continuity are now so poor, it seems a shame”, he says. But he’s still busy, with working as a film extra and using his impressive and warm-sounding voice to do voiceovers for commercials and videos. Colin Weston proved to be a television enthusiast and historian of some note, as well as an accomplished announcer and voice artist. ITV has lost one of its most talented stars by letting him slip through their fingers, and they would do well to learn from that lesson.