N.-W. gives first night verdict

The Manchester Even Chronicle gives its judgement on Granada’s opening night

All agree – If they keep this up we’re ITV fans now


Evening Chronicle masthead
From the Evening Chronicle for 4 May 1956

COMMERCIAL television entered the vault of the Wellington Inn, New Bailey Street, Salford, amid a blue smoke haze and an unbrokern buzz of conversation.

Games of darts and cribbage went on in the background, and for a time nobody seemed to notice that a new era had arrived.

The Wellington was the first Salford inn to be granted a TV licence, and landlord Arthur Marland lost no time in having the set, which stands in a corner of the vault, converted for last night’s Northern TV curtain raising.

When the landlord announced “Time, gentlemen, please!,” the customers who filled the inn were acclaiming the new force in the Northern entertainment world.

Regular customer George Eland of Melville Street, Salford, declared: “If this is ITV I’d rather watch it than the BBC any time — that’s if they can keep it up.”

Three men in a pub with a television set on the wall
They had stopped the game of crib to watch the boxing on ITV. Now the excitement was over and it was back to the cards and a pint in the Wellington Inn, Salford.


And sitting beside him, Mr. Joseph Grogan, Short Street, Salford, commented: “The variety and boxing were first-rate — definitely a better programme than the BBC give us.”

Making a wide circuit of the Manchester area to test people’s reactions to the first night of commercial TV I found these verdicts echoed in such diverse suburbs as BRAMHALL and GREENHEYS, DIDSBURY and ARDWICK.

In fact, applause came from all quarters. Criticisms were hard to find. There was just one question on everybody’s lips: “Can they maintain the standard?”

In small terrraced houses and large suburban villas TV parties heralded the beginning of commercial television in the North. Friends and relatives dropped in; cocktail parties were arranged.

Major surprise was the way in which viewers accepted the advertising sequences. Instead of being irritated by them, most of the viewers I spoke to regarded them as a pleasant novelty. Most women said they enjoyed them very much.

One or two people complained of wavering pictures but these complaints were widely scattered and seemed to be mainly due to minor aerial faults.

And in Greenheys Lane, GREENHEYS, Manchester, I found a man who was getting a first-rate picture on an indoor rod aerial — the same one which he uses for BBC reception.

He is Mr. Cyril Mundell who told me: “I think many people have been too hasty in having special aerials fitted. I am getting just as good a picture as they get.” Certainly I could find no fault with it.

While praising the first-night programmes, Mr. Mundell had one complaint: “I didn’t like the advertising between the rounds of the boxing match.”

Here is a selection of comments from people I interviewed during my three-hour tour:


Mr. Martin Fleeson, Hawthorn Road, GATLEY: “It has been a pretty good opening. The variety show was at least up to BBC standard. I shall not stick to one programme or the other but shall be selective.”

Mr. Edward Taylor, Blackley New Road, BLACKLEY: “An excellent picture and a very good night’s programme. I found the advertisements interesting and thought they were put in at the proper times.”

Mr. D. H. Harris, Church Road, NORTHENDEN: “I enjoyed the boxing and the variety show. The advertisements didn’t bother me and I thought the opening, showing the people who had done the work behind the scenes, was excellent.”

Miss Shirley Unger, Bury Old Road, CHEETHAM HILL: “It has been a splendid beginning, and if they could maintain this standard I would desert the BBC for ITV programmes.”

Mr. G. T. Pitt, Northenden Road, SALE: “My reception was of mixed quality, but the programmes were very good. The adverts slipped in between the rounds of the boxing were not too bad.”


Mr. W. J. Woodward, Brookdale Road, BRAMHALL: “Very enjoyable indeed. We were very well entertained and, having an American wife, I think we shall probably be looking at ITV more than the BBC.”

Mr. Kenneth Coulbourn, Old Meadow Lane, HALE: “If the programmes keep up this quality the BBC will have to look up. The dancing standards of the Tiller Girls was miles ahead of the Toppers.”

Rosalina, the invisible, steals show


GIRL who stole the limelight INSIDE Manchster’s [sic] Granada TV centre on Northern ITV’s first night was the girl the viewers DIDN’T see.

Startling platinum blonde film star ROSALINA NERI — known as Italy’s Marilyn Monroe – arrived unexpectedly with JACK HYLTON and had the time of her life being photographed and interviewed.

Voluptuous Miss Neri, speaking excited broken English, provided the only frivolous note in the tense atmosphere of the studio.

As the studio clock hands stole towards zero hour of 7-30, technicians checked and counterchecked equipment and last minute arrangements, with outward calm and efficiency, but you could feel the nervous tension in the air.

Three worries

There were three big worries.

1 — Would ARTHUR ASKEY arrive in time? Flying up from London by chartered plane, Arthur was an hour later than expected, but still 25 minutes before the opening announcement.

2 — Would No. 2 camera burst into flames as it had done at rehearsal the night before?

3 — Would the unrehearsed interviews over-run their time, and have to be cut short for the link with London at 8 p.m.?

But nothing went wrong.

Granada chief SIDNEY BERNSTEIN, the most openly nervous man there, smiled for the first time that night, and murmured: “Well done, chaps.”

Great job

Two men in dinner jackets
Jack Hylton and Arthur Askey share a joke.

The journalists came flocking in to talk to Mr. Bernstein, Hilton, Askey, Reynolds, ITA chairman SIR KENNETH CLARKE [sic: Clark] … and, of course, Miss Neri.

“Everything went smoothly. The boys did a great job — they’re a grand bunch,” said Mr. Bernstein.

“Big Hearted” Arthur posed for pictures with Miss Neri — ” She’s just like Sabrina,” he cracked.

“I’m giving her a spot in my next ITV variety show. She may become a regular feature,” said Jack Hylton.

Quentin Reynolds was talking about the decline of juvenile delinquency in Liverpool — “It’s a great story. I’m covering it for an American magazine.”

Jack Hylton paused in front of one of the monitor sets. “That’s a Lancashire girl — great friend of mine,” he told Miss Neri. On the screen PAT KIRKWOOD was singing.

For the technicians it was all bouquets and no brickbats. But there was no celebration.

“I feel so happy I could fly right round the studio,” said 23-year-old floor manager CARL ROBERT.

So Mr. Bernstein gives two parties


SIDNEY BERNSTEIN was in great form when I saw him at his Midland Hotel party after the opening night had ended.

Mr. Bernstein, in fact, gave two parties, one in the small ballroom for his advertising staff and friends and a private one for his relations and personal friends in Suite III on the first floor.

Nothing was spared while Mr. Bernstein was away supervising the actual programme at the studios. Champagne flowed, television sets were scattered around so that no one missed a single electronic moment of TV the Granada way.

And later, when Mr. Bernstein himself arrived, we walked along the corridors arm in arm and he couldn’t hide his delight at the way the first programme had gone over.

“We’ve had complaints from Germany,” he quipped, “saying they didn’t receive us very well.”

And Mr. Howard Thomas, managing director of the weekend TV contractors, ABC, seemed well satisfied with the way the Winter Hill transmitter had behaved.

Manchester viewers impressed, but

VIEWERS in the Manchester area are impressed — but they are not convinced commercial television has all the answers.

They believe that by careful selection of programmes they can get the best of both worlds — ITV and BBC.

The Evening Chronicle put several questions to viewers after last night’s commercial television opening. Here they are, with percentage replies:


Yes No Doubtful
Were you favourably impressed with the opening night of ITV? 100
Do you think ITV will provide better entertainment than the BBC? 28 18 54
Do you think you will watch ITV to the exclusion of the BBC? 100
Do you intend to pick the best of both programmes? 100
Do you find advertising spoils your enjoyment of commercial programmes? 23 77
Do you think the ITV programmes will be able to keep up the first-night standard? 28 26 46

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