There’s been plenty said about Crossroads over the years, here everyone from ATV boss Lord Lew Grade to Sir David Jason has a viewpoint.
“Whatever the critics in the press said, Crossroads did a very good job! It did the job it was designed to do. Its ratings were amazing and a heck-of-a-lot of people still like it.” – Noele Gordon
“I make shows for the viewers, not for the critics. 16 million people can’t be wrong.” – Lord Lew Grade, boss of ATV Network 1962-1976.
“Of course [wobbly walls and bad acting] is a terribly sweeping generalisation about a series which a lot of the performances and storytelling was really good. In defence of the production staff and the cast, most of the shows ‘failings’ to hit the mark were the result of hitting everything in a blind hurry, the series was running at a heart- attack rate of five half-hour episodes a week…
“And yet, for all that, it was a big hit. A television juggernaut, massively popular, the ITV network’s second watched show after Coronation Street and sometimes even capable of nudging ahead of it in the ratings.” – Sir David Jason, Bernie Kilyroy, 1967-68
“Why Crossroads used to get stick was it was on five times a week and when you’re on five times a week, of course, you can’t neaten it up and tidy it. I’m amazed and very impressed in the way that they did it” – Coronation Street’s William Roache, Late Night Line-up, 1985
“Rather than watch it die slowly with a smaller and smaller audience we decided to end it while it was still popular.” – Ted Childs, Central Television controller of drama.
“The show was always despised by the executives. They got rid of all the best characters, and did everything they could to make the public turn against it before they pulled the plug.” – Tony Adams, Adam Chance, 1978-1988.
“Well it was a funny time, Crossroads was extraordinarily popular with ITV’s mass audience in those days. Very successful, completely harmless – but the IBA.. ..were rather sniffy about it and in those days it was rather a predacean bunch of the great and the good. And they were rather embarrassed as they couldn’t really be proud of Crossroads at dinner parties and so on.
“And they didn’t like the fact that Independent Television’’s top ten every week was dominated by episodes of Crossroads and they tried to either get its episodes reduced per week or get it cancelled. This is the regulator, who is supposed to be looking after the interests of the public, and when they were pressed as to why they wanted it axed, the IBA Chairman said to a gathering of regional Independent Television Chiefs that ‘the authority finds it distressingly popular.’ What an age that was!” – Michael Grade, Chairman of ITV, 2007-2009 and former boss of LWT.
“To be honest, I don’t watch Crossroads regularly but I am very impressed by the way they deal with human problems which are introduced from time to time. For example, the storyline surrounding the handicapped boy and the business of malaria cases in Britain.
“This last issue was based on my own personal experience and I acted as an advisor for Crossroads on that storyline for a short while. “Crossroads went to enormous trouble to get all the fact just right and won the respect of an eminent professor at the School of Tropical Medicine in Liverpool.” – Mary Whitehouse, Former President of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association. Who became an advisor for a period on the soap.
“I hitch-hiked to Birmingham to audition for Crossroads. I worked for two weeks on the show in 1965, after being titled Miss Crossroads and then left. I joined the Bristol Old Vic. About a year later the casting lady called me up and asked if I’d like to come back for eight weeks. That was seven years ago, I’ve been here ever since.”
“As my character in the show has changed so has the letters I receive. When I was a little goody-goody, I got letters about my hair dangling in the soup or silly stuff like that. Now I get letters from men saying if Vince isn’t satisfying me, they will!” – Susan Hanson, Diane Lawton, 1965, 1966-87.
“I wrote Lonely Old People [for the Venus and Mars album] and I was struck by the image of two old people sitting down in front of the TV on a cold winter night. They’d be sipping a cup of tea and what else would they be watching other than Crossroads? I’ve always had a soft spot for the programme myself.”– Paul McCartney, speaking in 1987 about how he came to record the theme tune with his 70s group Wings.
“I think it is [popular] because it portrays life as people like it to be. It is escapist enough for that. It doesn’t offend. It doesn’t overstimulate. And it does go along in a way that people can recognise and accept what is happening without making them think terribly hard. In short, it appeals to a large section of the tea-time viewing public.”- Michael Hart, Crossroads Director, 1960s-1980s.
“I love singing. I met my husband when we both sang in ‘Iolanthe’. I wish Mrs T had a better voice. Still, her heart’s in the right place even if her musical notes aren’t.. …If ever they create a musical version of ‘Crossroads’, I’d love to direct it. I enjoy being involved in the theatre. I’ve been able to pass on my passion as I was head of drama at the Elliott-Clarke School in Liverpool until recently.. …I was given the part in ‘Crossroads’ after a former student of mine put my name forward for the part!” – Elsie Kelly, Mrs Tardebigge, 1986-88.
“At TV Times we have always recognised what a fantastic show Crossroads was. TV Times has always had a great relationship with Crossroads and has featured it on the front cover many times. We certainly would not want to poke fun at one of the most important shows in television history.” – Ian Abbott, TV Times Editor, 2006.
“I joined Crossroads four years after I first had my casting interview. They just rang up and said there was a part they thought would be suitable for me and would I like to play her. I began my professional career as an assistant manager at the Harrogate Opera House, followed by a spell at the Theatre Royal York. I first performed for an audience in am-dram aged four. My ideal role would be to play Peter Pan.” – Sally Adcock, Jane Smith, 1973-79.
“If Crossroads was shown throughout the country on the same days and at the same time – preferably 7pm – we would be numbers one, two and three in the ratings all the time.”
“I was surprised that they did [axe] it when they did. Because it was doing terribly well, it had very good ratings and they’d done all the advertising and stuff. And we’d met all these targets in terms of “audiences between the ages of” and all that. So, yes I was surprised.” [by the time the last episode aired the show had started to appeal to the younger audiences that ITV wanted.] – Jane Rossington, Jill Richardson, 1964-88.
“Soap opera goes back a long way, I’m sure critics from time immemorial up to Dickens criticised ‘the serial’ which has now assumed the title of ‘soap’ due to the involvement of Proctor and Gamble, back in the early days, back in America in the 1930s.
“Soap opera will always be criticised at various levels, its the rate of time we have to produce it, the frequency of which it is shown and the sheer volume precludes excellence one may wish for in say a single play or a film. “But soap opera has its own standard of excellence by the way it engages everyday people in the lives of everyday people on the screen. It must have been a very successful format, or it wouldn’t have lasted this long.” – Phillip Bowman, Crossroads Producer, 1985-86.
“When I had to play some very hot love scenes with April Clark, Nolly felt it was really going a bit too far. She told the producer so, but he wouldn’t change it. Afterwards, she said to me, ‘I don’t mind you doing it, Ronnie, but I wish you hadn’t done it on my sofa! .. “Very often, newcomers to Crossroads would act as though she [Noele] was the Queen, a star who was difficult to approach. But she wasn’t. She just wanted to be treated like the rest of us.”
“I like the continuity of work in a serial, the chance to develop a character. In a series you encounter an enormous amount of situations, working with one group of people and also there is a lot of contact with the audience. We are very much a people show, for the viewers and they love to let us know how they feel. The letters I get show that people really do take an interest in what goes on, and for half an hour four nights a week really do believe there is a village called Kings Oak.” – Ronald Allen, David Hunter, 1971-85.
“It is a dilemma which could come from a prime-time serial: it’s no good having 12,000,000 loyal viewers if they don’t have the spending power.” [on the demise of the programme being put down to ‘the wrong type of audience’]
“When we first started the series we told the actors more about what was going to happen in the future and it seemed to spoil their performance. Now they are only told a fortnight in advance and the majority would not want to know what is to happen beyond that. Any of the regulars are free to leave any time they want, we do not believe in lumbering an actor with a character if they are getting restless. Even scriptwriters may opt-out of a storyline lif they do not like it.” – Reg Watson, Original Producer, 1964-74.
“I first joined Crossroads just before Noele was sacked so sensationally, she wasn’t easy. She wanted everything to be right and when half the time it was wrong she would say: ‘I’m going back to my dressing room until.’
“But on my first day when I was feeling nervous and unsure, she was the only one who wished me luck. The last time I saw her before she died of cancer was at a Crossroads celebration. Tony Adams carried her in his arms up the stairs. However difficult she might have been she is remembered with a great deal of affection.” – Charmian Eyre, Mavis Hooper, 1981-1986.
“I travel 1,000 miles a week to work on Crossroads. I live in York and commute to Birmingham every day, I’ve done the three-hour train journey each way for the past three years… Its a labour of love working on Crossroads. I have got used to the journey time and just turn the railway compartment into an office and use the time to learn my lines.”
“Before becoming an actor I worked as a railway engineer for nine years, then decided to try acting so went off to drama school for two years. I’ve tried the London lifestyle and I don’t like it. It’s not a place to raise children. I’m currently buying a cottage with my wife Rosaleen in the village of Crayke in Yorkshire where we hope to bring up our three sons in a blissful country lifestyle.” – Albert Shepherd, Don Rogers, 1971-74.
“Everything is carefully researched to make sure we have no inaccurate impressions given. For example, when Sandy had the accident we argued for a long time about whether he would really have let someone who was obviously drunk take over the driving… We had to make sure that the actor, Roger Tonge, realised it would mean sitting in a wheel-chair for the rest of his time in Crossroads.
“Yes it would have been wonderfully dramatic if suddenly he could stand up and walk, but we knew from the start medically that just cannot happen, so it will not happen. Crossroads is about people, real everyday people, so it has to be real we cannot cheat.” – Reg Watson, Original Producer, 1964-74.
“Crossroads was the kind of show that generated a lot of myths and stories but, as one of its actors, I never once saw the set wobble. “I’m the character everyone remembers and I think the [new 2001] show wouldn’t stand a chance without me. I made up the story about going away for a spanner for a year and not coming back, and everyone believed it.” – Paul Henry, Benny Hawkins, 1975-87.
“Enoch Powell had been making those terrible ‘Rivers of Blood’ speeches, which resulted in a lot of racial tension up and down the country, especially in cities like Birmingham. Reg [Watson] must have picked up on this, and decided to create one of the first regular black characters in a British soap… Melanie Harper was Meg’s adopted daughter who, until then, had never been mentioned. Melanie arrived from France, where she had been studying, and viewers just accepted her. It was great. It was wonderful.” – Cleo Sylvestre, Melanie Harper, 1969-71.
“When I was in the theatre as a touring actress on one production I noticed as the further south we travelled the smaller our audiences were. The plays were getting fewer patrons due to television. That changed my career path. I decided television was the place to be, although I always intended to be a behind-the-scenes member of ATV.
“Indeed when I joined the company at its launch, after studying television for a year at New York University, I was a producer and programme executive with no intention of appearing on-screen. That was for ATV London.
“It was really due to a financial crisis that saw me hop onto the other side of the cameras, I presented ten shows in one week for London viewers before moving to the Midlands to executive women’s programming and present lifestyle shows. Those days were hard work but was such a varied life. I hosted the first chat show for the network, a quiz show, daily magazine series, a little bit of continuity announcing, news reading, weather forecasts and sports shows. We’d give anything ago back then” – Noele Gordon, Meg Richardson/Mortimer, 1964-81/198
“A television milestone, Crossroads has enjoyed a new lease of life on DVD and has become one of our best-selling ranges over the years. Due to popular demand, this ongoing series of releases has been created to showcase all the remaining episodes, in transmission order. In its day Crossroads was one of television’s most popular and enduring soap operas..” – Network DVD, producer of Crossroads DVDs, 2005-2009.
“For me, it was a tremendous experience. I was really thrown in at the deep end. It was my first television part and it was very difficult. The pressure is tremendous. At first I was like a rabbit caught in headlights. I didn’t know what to do or what to think. But I was lucky, nothing drastic went wrong. The great thing was that, unlike Play of the Week, if something was not so good in episode one you could always try to do better with episodes three and four.” – Jan Todd, Lucy Hamilton, 1977-79/1982.
“At my age, you don’t worry about being type-cast. We are a very happy company, its nice. Crossroads is such a happy atmosphere which is good as we’re all thrown together so much during the week in rehearsals and recording.” – Morris Parsons, Wilf Harvey, 1971-75
“Through Crossroads I have made some good friends, a lot of good friends. I think without the job I would just die. I would feel like a right cabbage. If you keep working you have an alert mind and it makes I think for a long life.
“It makes you feel younger, I feel half my age. I used to go to garden fetes and things like that and read people’s palms and tell people their future. Then one day a man came up to me and told me that everything I’d told him would happen had come true. It scared me a bit so now I just stick to palm reading.” – Ann George, Amy Turtle, 1965-76/1987.
“Until Charlie appeared on the television screen I’ve been able to hop onto buses if I wanted and go anywhere. Now if I get on a bus people want to discuss the latest developments in Crossroads. It’s a good way to make friends but often I can’t stop chatting and miss my stop.” – Graham Seed, Charlie Mycroft, 1986-88.
“It wasn’t Crossroads they took off. Crossroads had been killed off years before. You cannot suddenly say I’m going to play to a totally different audience, to ignore the existing loyal viewers.. ..you can’t slaughter the cast and take out all those old familiar friends.
“It was never a chore for me or the people I worked with. We loved it, that’s why it hurt when people slagged us off. My aim was to make viewers happy, to help them while entertaining them. After all these years I still derive satisfaction from the fact that there’s a four-bedded unit in a Birmingham hospital for people suffering from kidney disease that Crossroads founded.
“We gave Downs Syndrome children a sense of pride when we showed a [DS] child and gave an idea of what her life was like. Parents wrote in to say they held their heads up high after we did that. My successors took a totally different outlook. They weren’t interested in the family aspect, the caring aspect. It was all pretty pictures and smart speeches. Smethurst has changed it beyond all recognition. ..I can hardly believe what was done.” – Jack Barton Crossroads Producer, 1974-85.
“No one at that time  knew if Crossroads would be a success or not, I was worried about whether the viewers would accept me as a character having been so involved as myself in programmes for ATV for so long. But it worked, and there is now a lot of me in Meg and she’s my best friend. I think she’s very much had a good effect on me too.”
“The response to incidents in the series can be tremendous. When Meg was supposed to be in prison on a dangerous driving charge the local prison was jammed for weeks with phone calls. They were not amused, in the end, ATV had to have a line installed to redirect callers to the ‘Meg Update’ switchboard. But this is all part of the business, and if you don’t enjoy the public response then this lifestyle isn’t for you.
“We get a lot of interaction with viewers in the mail and in the street because we go into their homes four nights a week. We’re their friends in many cases. It’s a hectic life, at weekends I sleep most of the time, catch up on my mail and go out sometimes, but mainly it is all about learning next week’s lines. I am quite happy though, as an actress Crossroads gives me more opportunities to act in dramatic scenes than some actors will in an entire career on the stage. Every week we have to learn the equivalent number of lines as a full-length play in the theatre.” – Noele Gordon, Meg Richardson/Mortimer, 1964-81/1983.
“The sex movies ruined my career. But you know how it is. I was out of work, the birds were smashing, and I’ve always been a born flasher”. Speaking on his sex films after leaving Crossroads. – John Hamill, Dave Cartwright, 1967-68 and 1972-1974.
“The over-55s are a growing section of the population and a valuable market because they frequently have no mortgage to pay and no children at home to support. It is still a very popular programme. If Central were able to change the audience profile to younger viewers then that could be of interest, but I would want to look very closely at what is going to replace it.” [In response to the fact many Crossroads viewers were over 50] – Donald Byles, media director at the advertising agency, J Walter Thompson, 1987.
“I told them [Coronation Street] to forget it. I didn’t plan to do any more soaps, not after Crossroads. You slammed the door and all the pictures fell off the wall – it was too embarrassing.”
“It was when I was in Crossroads playing taxi firm boss Clifford Leyton that the Coronation Street producer, Bill Podmore, wanted a Londoner. He said to the Crossroads producer, Jack Barton, ‘That Johnny Briggs, is he alright?’ Jack said ‘Yeah, he knows his lines, he turns up to the set on time,’ so I was asked to do it and I said ‘Ok, I’ll do three months.’ Then the years have just crept up..” – Johnny Briggs, best known these days as Mike Baldwin in Corrie.
“A TV show would give its eye teeth for that kind of viewership today. Each episode only cost £10,000 to make and brought in £100,000 worth of advertising revenue. I think the truth is that they were ashamed of it. They axed it because it affected their egos. I think it was a very short-sighted decision.. …I simply consider the criticism to be dreadfully insulting to our huge following of viewers.” – Sue Lloyd, Barbara Brady/Hunter, 1979-85.
“Demographics is what it is all about these days, any future serial would have to attract a large, young audience with substantial disposable incomes. Crossroads was beaten by its image. My predecessor, Phillip Bowman, worked hard for two years and improved the technical quality enormously. I brought in National Theatre actors and wittier writers. But the audience profile refused to budge and media people still slated Crossroads without watching it.” – William Smethurst, Crossroads Producer, 1986-88.
“I was in the show for four years, happily so, with quite a major part and I never once saw the sets wobble” – Sue Nicholls best known now as Audrey in Coronation Street, she started her TV career on Crossroads in 1964.
“It is with great personal pride and joy to realise that the scheme, Carers for Carers is still running at no cost to sole carer’s in all areas of the country” – Crossroads’ original director Alan Coleman, 1964-1972
“In Mile High, I had a bit of a conscience so that wasn’t too bad but Crossroads was a baptism of fire. It was tough. I was in a Jacuzzi at 7am of a Monday morning with Emma Noble, Freema Agyeman, Lucy Pargeter and just about any other girl who set foot on the show. And now I’m on to Patsy Kensit [in Holby City].” – Luke Roberts, Ryan Samson, 2003.
“There is a rich seam of comedy here [Birmingham] and lots of great characters. I grew up on Crossroads, so it always struck me as odd that TV has moved towards setting everything in Manchester and Leeds and not the heart of the country.” – actress Jo Enright
“It is not everyone who gets a chance to develop a character as we do in Crossroads. In a long-running play, you have to do the same thing every night. Here the characters can develop in many, many ways – just as much as people do in real life.” – Elisabeth Croft, Edith Tatum, 1966-83.
“I’ve often been asked on whom I based my portrayal of Miss Babs in Acorn Antiques, the TV comedy I did with Victoria Wood and Julie Walters, and which later became a hit West End musical. Many people cite the Prisoner Cell Block H governor, Erica Davidson. It is amazing to watch how similar our characters are, but in fact, I didn’t get to see Prisoner Cell Block H until after we had finished making the first series.
“The hair is similar too, but that was a simple coincidence. Miss Babs came first. My main study was the marvellous Noele Gordon playing Meg Richardson in Crossroads.” – Celia Imrie, Acorn Antiques
“I was 18 and working in the post office. In the local paper, there was a story about them not being able to find anyone to play Sandy in this new twice-weekly series, The Midland Road. [ATV were keeping it a secret at the time it would be daily]. Anyway, my dad said to me why don’t I give it a try? I was interested in acting and had joined a dramatic society, but they never gave me a part in two years.
“I was also rejected by the Birmingham rep. Feeling very nervous I went along to the studios. The photograph I had taken was so awful I didn’t dare send it in. I walked in and a cleaner told me which room to go to. At first, they refused to see me, but after some persuasion gave me a script and told me to go away and learn it. I auditioned twice and got the part.” – Roger Tonge, Sandy Richardson, 1964-81
“If Mrs Overall was based on anyone she would be based on Amy Turtle or Mrs Mac from Take The High Road, not Noele Gordon. Acorn Antiques was originally based on a terrible radio series called Waggoners Walk. Acorn Antiques is more of a homage to Crossroads. The Crossroads fans love it, they love it so much they made me an honorary member of the Crossroads Appreciation Society!” – Victoria Wood, comedienne and creator of Acorn Antiques
|Research by Mike Garrett, Alex Loveless, Doug Lambert, Elizabeth Garrett, Tony Wilson and Ian Armitage.|