Based in a “dank and dusty” church hall in Blackman Lane in Leeds, the earliest days of the BBC’s regional news and current affairs programme were decidedly unglamorous. Indeed, the very first edition of Look North when it began life in 1968 was presented from a boat as York flooded.
The man responsible for establishing and defining the nightly bulletin was Bill Greaves, who has passed away at the age of 81 following a heart attack. As editor he shaped the programme into a respected source of news and current affairs.
A talented all-rounder with a passion for news, sport, drama and more, Mr Greaves’ eye for a story was central to Look North’s early success, leading to countless stories from Yorkshire being picked up and carried nationally by the BBC during his tenure.
Under his stewardship, Look North went on to be commissioned to produce 30-minute special programmes in addition to its regular news output, capitalising on his team’s ability to deliver compelling stories to tight deadlines.
Colleagues recalled his gift for identifying, recruiting and nurturing talent both in front and behind the camera. Mr Greaves was responsible for giving many of Yorkshire’s most talented broadcast professionals the opportunity and encouragement to make their mark in television. Harry Gration, who has presented Look North since 1985 was among them.
Mr Greaves, who lived in Harrogate, once recalled his surprise upon being shown the former church that would serve as Look North’s first studios.
“When I first clapped eyes on All Souls in Blackman Lane, I thought they had to be joking,” he said. “I’d come down from London on a day trip to meet local freelances and say hello to my new domain. I’d just been appointed news editor of the BBC’s North Region and was eager to please. But the insouciant smile playing around my lips froze in to a rictus grin as I entered the dank and dusty interior.
“My instructions were to be on the air by March. It was November 25 already and there was only me and this peeling office. I had nightmares for weeks to come but soon I was too busy to worry any more.
“We de-rigged the ancient Outside Broadcast, installed mobile film processing outside the front door, convinced the church Brownie pack they should meet in the room beneath the studio at some time other than 6pm (the time Look North was then broadcast) and recruited as good a bunch of guys and gals as you’d ever wish to meet.”