• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

From football to Night Flyte

ALOT of television people are running scared about the changes sweeping through the industry. Not so John Adams.

Loading article content

He is in the new wave of independent producers and looking forward to the challenges of the last decade of the century, particularly as they are occurring just as he is about to enter his fifties, which he regards as the most important decade of a person's life.

''Leaving aside the prospect of financial gain, I am looking forward to making best use of the experience I have gained over the years. Knowing that you are working to one of nature's deadlines and that there will be a lot of exciting things happening during those 10 years fairly gets the adrenalin flowing. So far as I'm concerned, there is no time to sit around worrying,'' he says.

Already he has got off to a flier with his recently-formed, Glasgow-based Starcatch company. Together with two other independents, Field Illeray of Glasgow, and DBF of Edinburgh, he has been commissioned to produce a mammoth 24 hours of programming for STV's late night Thursday discussion series, Night Flyte, which will run intermittently until November, with the possibility of more to follow. He will be doing 12 of the hour-long programmes, the other two, six each.

Starcatch has already proved an appropriate title. He has two of Scotland's leading lights working for him as programme hosts -- William McIlvanney and one of the Herald's award-winning columnists, Brian Meek. Gus Macaulay of Field Illeray, hasn't done too badly either, with Shadow Chancellor John Smith, a man who could be Prime Minister before the the Hogmanay show that will see in the year 2000. Hugh Lockhart of DBF has got Peter Clark, right-wing freelance journalist whose hobby is restoring castles. The four, though established in other fields, are breaking new ground as presenters.

McIlvanney and Meek have already had their baptism and are about to appear again. Next Thursday McIlvanney and some guests will be sitting around the coffee table talking about the theatre from the artists' point of view, asking, in effect: who is out there? With him will be Morag Fullarton, director/writer with Borderline; actress Morag Hood, actor Stevie Hannan, plus two drama students, Shan Khan and Melanie MacHugh. Meek, also a politician and a sports writer, will be host the following week, looking at ''The Dark Side of Sport'' --the pressures, the politics, the money -- with Allan Wells, Sam Torrance, Linsey MacDonald, John Beattie, Ally McLeod, and Ian Archer.

The Chambers Dictionary definition of the word flyte is ''scolding match,'' implying that the series could consist of a lot of angry exchanges. While agreeing that spontaneous outbursts are always likely, Adams says that the word was chosen mainly because it provided a good title that tripped easily off the tongue. Basically, the idea is to capture the atmosphere of late night conversation. The sub-titles of the programmes might be provocative, such as the Peter-Clark-hosted one on Thursday past about ''the awfulness of Scottish cooking'' which saw Clement Freud simmering gently, but the idea is to air points, seek solutions, rather than score debating points.

I don't know if it is to be on the menu, but a topic that could always do with another airing is the one about English people holding key jobs in Scotland because it should be pointed out that Adams is an Englishman in Scotland. I would argue that there should be no objection in his case in view of the fact that: (a) A lot of Scots have taken top TV jobs in the south; and, (b) He has not so much taken a job as created one that will, in turn, create more jobs. Apart from which, he has been here for nearly 20 years.

Indeed, there is a case for having people like Adams -- no matter what nationality -- because creativity is one of his strong points. When he first came from London, it was as a development officer with the Scottish Film Council. In this capacity he showed a definite flexibility by setting up Cinema Sgire which reached into the Gaelic communities of the Western Isles. It was designed to encourage people to make movies themselves and it succeeded in creating a lot of material of interest today and which will be valuable for future archives. A lot of elderly people were filmed recalling what life was like towards the end of the last century, first-hand memories that might have been lost for ever.

''I would have liked to learn the Gaelic, but, unfortunately, there was not the time. Quite a lot of the filming that was done had English sound tracks,'' says Adams.

Next, he was seconded by the Film Council to set up the new Film House in Lothian Road, Edinburgh. During the transitional period, he worked there with Lynda Myles, before her going off to America, then returning to London where she worked with David Puttnam. She was one of a group of successful women discussing feminist issues on the first Night Flyte chaired by McIlvanney.

Adams then returned south briefly as manager of a cable television station in the days when cable was highly unfashionable. Next, it was back to Glasgow, working for the BBC, where he started by doing a research project into community radio before a spell of administrative work. He got into television by working for Gordon Menzies, producer of Scotch & Wry, on the networked Afternoon Show which was presented by Barbara Dickson and Penny Junor.

He directed for three years -- which he found to be ''a very good way of learning the nitty gritty of the trade.'' He made a series of countryside programmes for Menzies, whose other capacity was head of education TV, before helping in the making of a memorable five-part series, Only A Game, charting the history of Scottish football.

It was written by William McIlvanney and voiced by him in those quasi-religious tones that were to prove a godsend to the BBC's Comedy Unit when it was discovered that Jonathan Watson (Brian in City Lights) could do a remarkably accurate impersonation. The result was a take-off spin-off for the Naked Radio team, including two best-selling cassettes, starting with Only an Excuse?

Adams followed this up in a sense the year before last with a half-hour television programme about Celtic's centenary. McIlvanney was again the voice and this time did quite a few of the interviews. They had enough material to release a 90-minute video cassette called Celtic 100.

Adams had been involved as a freelance with the BBC throughout this long-running association. He showed an increasing ability to tackle a diversity of tasks. Although he worked on two major television documentaries about football, he says he is not a football fanatic. And in the year that he did the Celtic programme and video he also went to Java to do some filming for a research company on water engineering.

Last year, for BBC Scotland, he directed Northern Lights, the autobiographical documentary, written and presented by another Herald columnist, Jack Webster. It has been nominated for one of the forthcoming Royal Television Society awards. Talks are currently taking place for him to do a new BBC TV series, and he hopes to get a major drama off the ground next year -- a 90-minute film based on Billy Kay's play, They Fairly Mak Ye Work, to be done on location in Dundee.

Adams runs Starcatch from ''the Scottish Home Office,'' in other words a room in his Partick home where there is a phone, and answering and fax machines. He says: ''In order to survive as an independent, it is essential to run a lean operation that can be expanded at short notice by hiring people and renting facilities. Sensible collaboration with other independent companies is also advisable. We do this on a complementary basis with Night Flyte, hiring the shell of the Blackcat Studio in Glasgow for two days, then moving in with our four presenters and guests for half a day each.''

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

PARCH1.592132