Royston Mayoh – In Conversation

One of the biggest names in British television production and with a career spanning a staggering seven decades, writer and director turned actor and performer Royston Mayoh went from sweeping the studio floor at ABC Didsbury Manchester to become one of the most prominent TV producers of his generation. Yet unbelievably as a young man, entertainment was never on Royston’s radar and instead he studied mathematics and didn’t expect to have a career in anything. Finding himself sweeping the floor of the studios in the north east might have been regarded as a lowly position but it inadvertently offered him a taste in what would become his world for the next sixty years.

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Securing a role as a camera operator at ABC Manchester in the late fifties, Roy had a taste of the new medium when television was still in its infancy. Working on music shows including Boy Meets Girls for ABC Television brought him into contact with the legendary executive Brian Tesler who saw potential in Royston’s flare for television and promoted him to trainee director which became the integral catalyst to his career in entertainment. This coincided with the emergence of Rock and Roll which encouraged television to capture the essence of pop music for the first time. 


In 1962 Royston secured a directing role on ITV’s flagship talent show Opportunity Knocks and saw the show through its golden years. This brought him into contact with the formidable Hughie Green who was both the presenter and creator of the show. It was here that Royston realised the true genius of Green, who unlike most of his contemporaries, couldn’t sing, dance or tell jokes which was a common theme for the biggest entertainers of the day. Instead he used the television camera to create a powerful relationship with the audience and gave members of the public a nationwide platform for the very first time. Opportunity Knocks was Green’s sole creation and he was the beating heart of the series from auditioning contestants to the cutting edge of interactive television. For Royston, it’s impossible to overlook Green’s significant contribution to the success of the show which reigned supreme on ABC Television (which later became ITV) for eighteen series until 1978.


Working very closely with Hughie Green for a number of years gave Royston the opportunity to get to know the enigmatic original TV star reasonably well and observed his kind and innocent nature on countless occasions. Unfortunately the passage of time hasn’t served Green’s reputation well as he continues to fall victim to his dreaded curse of tabloid hearsay which has put a dark shadow on his legacy. The revelation of being the father of the late television presenter Paula Yates further tainted his controversial character. However, Royston wholeheartedly believes that Green had no idea and went to his grave oblivious to the fact. Since Green’s death in 1997, Royston has made it his mission to reclaim Hughie’s legacy and allow him to rest in peace with his place in the pantheon of TV history assured.


Another significant figure who benefited from Roy’s flare for television was the irreverent Kenny Everett when he became director on Thames Television’s The Kenny Everett Video Show in 1978. Together with writers Barry Cryer and Ray Cameron, Roy created a format which would showcase Everett’s irreverent take on the world. As an accomplished sound engineer, Everett was blessed with an amazing ear for noise and knew instinctively how to tell stories through sound which had made him a popular figure at Radio 1. Roy understood that if they could capture this creative side of Everett and allow him the freedom to play around with the visual medium in the same way as he approached radio then he would be a star. Royston joined the show in the fourth and final series replacing the great David Mallet before Everett became part of the formidable BBC Light Entertainment output of the late seventies.


Having conquered British television, Royston became interested in contributing to the international television output and a posting to India made him fulfil such an ambition. The culture in Asian countries encourages the public to consume entertainment in a totally different way from western society. Outdoor entertainment is a huge phenomenon and the use of colour and texture play a dominant role. Live entertainment and public exhibition remains at the heart of Indian culture which encouraged Roy to think creatively about the content he was producing. This was a complete revelation from the formulaic style of British television and provided the perfect platform to diversify his career.


In 1999 Roy was selected to form part of the production team for the BBC’s 26 hour millennium extravaganza which followed the sun all around the globe as the world welcomed in the year 2000. Among a team of senior producers, Roy steered the live extravaganza hosted by Michael Parkinson and Gaby Roslin as they presided over New Year’s celebrations from every corner of Earth. He vividly recalls his vast production notes read like a bible and the pile of papers containing camera angles and descriptions was immensely thick and heavy. Yet working with the legendary Michael Parkinson was a complete joy as he remains the ultimate unflappable polished broadcaster who can deal with anything and provided an understated confidence to proceedings which could cope with anything. 


At retirement age, Roy would have been forgiven for wanting to hang up entertainment boots and enjoy the fruits of his labour. Instead he forged a whole new career as an actor and stepped from behind the camera to take centre stage. Performing ten minute monologues to a live theatre audience was something which he thought unimaginable when he started life as a cameraman. However his career has now come full circle but he still maintains that behind the camera shall forever be his favoured position. Cameo appearances in Emmerdale and Death Comes To Pemberley have indulged Roy’s flare for drama but there’s no doubt that behind the scenes is where Roy prefers.


In 2013 Roy’s acting skills were put to the ultimate test when he joined the cast of the ITV hidden camera show Off Their Rockers. Following similar lines as Dom Joly’s popular early noughties prank show Trigger Happy TV, Off Their Rockers centered on old people reclaiming their youth and being just as silly as children. This ethic remained with the series until the third series when Roy believes it reverted to smutty stunts in order to secure cheap laughs which sadly removed the innocence from the show. However, Roy still enjoyed making three series of harmless fun and after a lifetime behind the camera, it was liberating to step into the spotlight.


For over sixty years, Royston Mayoh has been delighting audiences all over the world with a precise eye for detail and passion for entertainment. Whether it’s nurturing talent, creating big budget television shows or directing music events, it’s all done with the intentions of the audience in mind. One of the most prolific television executives to have ever graced a television set, Mayoh helped to set the benchmark for mass audience viewing and remains a true pioneer of the art. It was an honour to interview the legendary Royston Mayoh and hope we can revel in the glory of his major achievements for many years to come.