Lancing College remembers Brideshead Revisited with two of its creators
3rd May 2013

Derek Granger with Anthony Andrews at Lancing College

Lancing College has an enviable reputation for its lectures and debates. Its distinguished alumni include Evelyn Waugh, David Hare and Christopher Hampton; and the students’ debating society is one of the most active and exciting in the country. The College holds an annual Evelyn Waugh Lecture and Dinner to thank all members of the Lancing Foundation and those who donate generously to the School.

Evelyn Waugh attended Lancing College from 1917-1921, where he was inspired to hone his writing skills. The 2013 lecture was a very special occasion: Derek Granger, producer of the iconic serialisation of Waugh’s most successful novel, Brideshead Revisited [first broadcast in 1981], described the filming of the book, and was introduced by Anthony Andrews, the actor, who made his name as Sebastian Flyte in the series.

Derek Granger, a Brighton resident, met Evelyn Waugh nearly 61 years ago when he was staying at the Royal Crescent Hotel. Granger, who was then a journalist, knew of Waugh’s fearsome reputation and rated his chances of getting an interview as almost non-existent, but he made a circumspect approach and was astounded to learn that Evelyn Waugh would be happy to meet him.

When Waugh appeared through the revolving doors, he stood foursquare, more exaggerated than the cartoon version of him by his friend Osbert Lancaster: the black and white chequered suit, the fob watch, the bristling stance, the piercing blue eyes. It was like the sudden sighting of some rare and fabled beast in a clearing in the jungle!

Waugh remembered Brighton well from half-term treats with his parents during his school days at nearby Lancing College and recalled the haunts of his youth with evident nostalgia. Granger asked if he had any tips for authors? “There is only one rule for a writer - the early application of the bottom to the seat of the chair - and to keep it there as long as possible.”

Derek Granger became the first critic of the Financial Times, and a founder of the FT’s famous Arts Page. He produced many award winning programmes as well as ‘Brideshead Revisited’, including Country Matters, World in Action and Coronation Street, and also produced two feature films, ‘Where Angels Fear to Tread’ and Evelyn Waugh’s ‘A Handful of Dust’. He was also literary consultant to Laurence Olivier at the National Theatre.

Anthony Andrews, the well known theatre, television and film actor, won a Golden Globe and BAFTA TV Award for his performance as Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited. He introduced the evening, explaining that when he first read Brideshead Revisited, he was lost in a fabulously intriguing world, and when he closed the final page, the character he could not stop thinking about was Sebastian Flyte. Being part of this series which was to become a beacon in television history, during the Golden Era of British television, was a privilege and a life-changing experience.

Derek Granger, and the Director, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, scripted ‘Brideshead Revisited’ for television. They were determined to keep to the novel’s convoluted form. ‘Brideshead’s’ stellar cast included Laurence Olivier, Claire Bloom, John Gielgud, Stephane Audron, Diana Quick and Jeremy Irons.

‘Brideshead’ took nearly three years to make. It cost £10 million, a huge sum for its time. It was highly experimental as a TV production, being made entirely on location and shot on 16mm film. Thirty years ago, almost all television was made in the stark confines of the studio with huge, trundling electronic TV cameras following the action. By contrast, for example, in ‘Brideshead’, the filming of the storm in the Atlantic, and beginning of Charles Ryder’s relationship with Julia Flyte was shot in eight different locations: the two state cabins were specially made, built on rockers, and shot in a large rehearsal room; the ship’s corridor was located in an empty office block in Manchester; the ship’s lounge was created in the fashion store, Biba; the ship’s cocktail bar was in the entrance hall of the Park Lane Hotel, the decks of the liner were on the Q.E2; the background seascapes were from stock footage; and the ship’s dining room was in the Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool, where prop men were hidden under the dining tables ready at a required signal to twitch the table cloths so that cutlery, glass and china could cascade onto the deck.

Thirty years ago, there was no multiplicity of channels available, no sophisticated recording devices or catch up facilities on the internet or iPlayer. So, when it was put about that duchesses throughout the land were cancelling their Monday dinner parties in order to watch ‘Brideshead’, there was probably a mild element of truth!

The effect of the programme, when it was aired, was uncanny. The Brideshead look became all the rage, Brideshead fashions crammed fashion store windows, and endless feature articles filled the newspapers and magazines. There were even Brideshead parties!

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