Classy and approachable, it was actor, theatre director and TV continuity anchor Charles Foster who kickstarted my career. When I joined Granada in 1975 he was already one of the station’s defining voices and within a couple of years, as the Presentation Department moved to in-vision links and local news, he became one of the company’s best-loved faces as well.
Most obituaries will lead with his continuity and voiceover work but he was a theatre guy, through and through. I saw him in the tricky role of Milo Tindle in SLEUTH – if you know the play, you’ll know what I mean – and he joined Manchester’s Library Theatre Company as the narrator/Mysterious Man of Sondheim’s INTO THE WOODS. He served as chair of Shaw’s Playhouse 2 Theatre and was a long-standing member of the prolific Crompton Stage Society.
We were a convivial department working strange hours, and Charles was always great company. When he spotted my youthful creative leanings he invited me to write something for the society to perform. I have to say that the show I came up with was not great. It wasn’t even good. But it was a first effort elevated by a talented and committed cast and I was sufficiently encouraged to do more. Charles played a lead role in my first radio drama as a future police officer in pursuit of a cyber terrorist. He was there for my first steps in filmmaking as an arms salesman who sets up a colleague, seduces his missus, and is pursued to pay the ultimate price down in the hidden canal systems of Manchester.
Yep, that’s right. You wouldn’t think it from his sharp-dressed, warm, and naturally elegant screen persona, but as a performer Charles was game for anything.
After I left Granada and started to make my freelance way he wrote me a lovely letter of encouragement. When good-quality bootlegs of our radio shows appeared online I sent him CD copies but he’d changed address, and I never heard back. Now I wish I’d tried harder to track him down… but you always think there’s time. When I recently heard from the Cutaway Comics guys that he’d been involved in some Manchester TV nostalgia events, I put out feelers for contact details so I could send him the republished novelisations of those same early dramas. But it’s not to be.
Those were happy days, making stuff. It would have been great to do more, and every now and again I’d slide one name or another into lists of casting submissions; people I’d worked with in those early years in the business, people I’d studied drama alongside before that, people whose real talent had put my own into perspective. But as a writer you don’t get that kind of clout.
Charles was a part of my life. And if you ever spent time in that country of the mind called Granadaland, there’s a good chance he was a part of your life too.