In today’s transient working culture you’re less & less likely to find yourself working alongside characters who embody an era. Veterans who have absorbed every shift in management and technology over decades to the point where they are untouchable, in both talent and attitude. That’s why I feel so honoured to have worked alongside Andy Tully.
Andy joined BBC News Editing at a time when you could (almost) get away with murder. This was a golden age of smoking n’ boozing hijinks featuring live chickens, in-suite erotica, and wage-tripling expense claims. This was 1976, it was Life on Mars, and Andy was a pint-sized Gene Hunt. All cheek and no front.
During a job interview in the mid-eighties they asked him what made a good news story. Andy’s reply? “A news story should be like a woman’s skirt. Long enough to cover the subject but short enough to be interesting.” Politically Incorrect but pure Ashes to Ashes, and typical of his refusal not to laugh in the po-face of an increasingly corporate BBC.
When I first met him, almost two decades later, he hadn’t changed. Having edited every type of story on every tape format and non-linear system known to man there was nothing he couldn’t teach me about the art of editing, but it was his joyous approach to the job that taught me the most. Professional? Certainly. Dedicated? Undoubtedly. But on his terms. A family man above all, it was always ‘only news’ and he never suffered fools. There are many stories of Andy essentially bitch slapping pompous producers back to reality, but the classic is the short tale of one poor soul who kept pestering Andy mid-edit under the grievously mistaken impression that Mr Tully didn’t know his job. Eventually Andy just asked ‘Can you read?’, scribbled ’Fuck Off’ on a piece of paper and handed it to him.
Brutally brusque, perhaps, but anyone who mattered would never doubt the producer had it coming, just as they knew that if you matched Andy’s expectations of what a workmate should be, he could be the finest & funniest colleague you’ve ever had. If you somehow exceeded those expectations, he would walk through fire for you.
He always wore a white T and Jeans, and he always said “Egg & Peas!” Half the building wanted to be him and he couldn’t care less about the other half. When he left the building on February 26th he took one of the last vital parts of the department’s old heart with him and we will, genuinely, never see his like again.
Here are the highlights of his final night:
Farewell Andy, and thanks for every minute.