Group North – Northern Writers

A piece from John’s autobiography

CHAPTER TWENTY THREE – GROUP NORTH

Group North was the name devised by Harry Kershaw for the small group of
writers who kept Coronation Street on the screen in the very early days.
It was a small group chosen mainly by Harry from Northern writers with
Harry as editor.  It was a tight little squad of writers who he could
rely on to deliver the goods, but as the popularity of the series
rapidly grew he must have become aware that other production companies,
usually via the writer’s agents were enquiring as to their availability.
He organised a meeting of the group in a pub sufficiently distant from
the studios to make it unlikely the meeting might be spotted by any of
Granada’s senior staff.   Those involved were Jack Rosenthal, Vince
Powell, Harry Driver, and myself, but also Cyril Abraham, creator of The
Onedin Line.  Not all were happy at being members of a group and
cherished their individuality. The original intention was to produce
television drama beyond the confines of “The Street and Granada, and to
make original forays even into the hallowed studios of the BBC.  In fact
the only success outside Granadaland was a small undistinguished series
for the BBC.
Harry’s true loyalties, however, were almost entirely in the grimy
streets of the place of his birth.We were there, he told us, because he
suspected that Granada took their loyalty to the company for granted,
but might create a strategy to ensure that it would be difficult for
writers to be attracted elsewhere.   As we discussed the situation it
became increasingly obvious that what he had in mind was a sort of mini
union.
Coming from Harry this sounded very odd as he was not totally
sympathetic to trade unions.   It may be that he shared the same
insecurity as the rest of us in our capacity as freelances; more likely,
perhaps, he had qualms about the company as employers, for they had
acquired a reputation of low budgeting and cost cutting.   Harry said
that we should adopt a professional approach, form a limited company and
work out a system of group writing, starting with story conferences.
Our first objective, he suggested, should be a drama series for the BBC,
created by the group and storied and written by two or three of the
members.
I forget how many meetings we had, and I was only fractionally  involved
in the first creation which was a series called Catch Hand about two
itinerant workers and was commissioned by the BBC.   The next idea for
development was a series based on witchcraft , with a criminal element.
It was titled The Devil in Clover, Clover being the village where that
story was set.
One dark winter evening we borrowed an office in a block on Deansgate
for a meeting to formulate the story.   I can remember that Harry Driver
was saying something to the effect that we would need some information
on automatic weapons and that he knew where this might be obtained, when
he suddenly fell silent.  It  was then that the rest of us became aware
that a police constable was standing in the doorway and had probably
been listening  as Harry described the weaponry.
“You left the bottom door open,” he said.
There was a moment of silence.
“We are writers, said Vince, as if that described the whole situation.

Extract from HE WHO WOULD A WRITER BE by   JOHN FINCH.  His
autobiography, to be published in Spring 2021

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