My Mentor: Will Wyatt on Brian Wenham
‘He was an inspiration in that you really wanted to get it right for him'
Monday 05 November 2007
I met Brian Wenham when he was the BBC's head of current affairs and I was a producer. He didn't give me a job there, but he did when he became the controller of BBC2.
He was an incredibly encouraging and trusting boss and I got a lot of things on the air that we wouldn't have otherwise because of the space he gave me – The Trial of Lady Chatterley's Lover was the first time the word "fuck" was used in a scripted drama and the first time "cunt" was used on British television, and it was Brian who encouraged me to do it.
When I was head of documentaries in the 1980s he was terribly good at giving one a steer, but if a programme had gone out that was no good, you got a note from Brian saying, "Last night, bit rum?"
He became a good friend and one could talk things through with him. He would give you tips about the future and was supportive in personal and emotional terms.
He gave you a lot of rope and trusted you but he could also be quite analytical about things and say why you had made some dumb choices of presenter or subject. He was an inspiration in that you really wanted to get it right for him; he had the ability of making you want to please him.
Brian let me start the 40 Minutes documentary series, and he also commissioned Boys from the Blackstuff. Although he was very disappointed not to become director-general, he became much more relaxed once he was out of the fight for high office – he said that he was "beyond ambition".
He died 10 years ago. He's one of those people that you miss, and if I'm ever with people who were around at that time the conversation will quickly turn to Brian.
Will Wyatt is a former deputy director-general of the BBC and produced this year's Wyatt Report on 'A Year with the Queen'. He is participating in BBC Question Time at the Sheffield Doc/Fest, which is sponsored by 'The Independent', 7 to 11 November. Brian Wenham was the controller of BBC2 from 1978 to 1982
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