Cameraman based in Edinburgh, employed by ITN, working for ITV's Good Morning Britain covering stories all over the UK and the world. War Zones, World Cups, Royal Tours and many other less exciting assignments, like interviewing current and ex Prime Ministers have kept me busy over the years working in Breakfast Television since GMTV came on the scene back in '93 and regional TV before that. In 2009 I began to record what it is like to work, the often strange and long hours needed to bring the hard news, human interest and fluffy fun to the UK's TV screens in the morning, mostly broadcasting live.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Gamu out of X-Factor

Monday 4th

My lack of interest and firm belief that the viewers of reality programmes like the “XFactor” and “Britain’s Got Talent” are cynically manipulated by the producers, along with my deep distaste for the way that some of the vulnerable “contestants” are made to look like fools left me woefully unprepared when Carol called.

“You’ll be doing a shoot at a radio station in Glasgow with Gregg this afternoon. Can you also get some shots of the Facebook campaign that has begun in support of Gamu?”, she asked.

I guessed that it must be something to do with the much watched XFactor.

I was right. It appeared that Cheryl Cole had mad a rather big mistake in not allowing this little Zimbabwean girl through to the live singing stage of the programme.

On the face of it the mistake was a double hit.

The first one was that the girl in question was by all accounts clearly better than at least two of the other girls that Cheryl put through.

The second was that although not a native Scot Gamu has been living in a small town not far from Stirling long enough to be regarded as a “nice wee lassie” by the locals in Tillicoultry.

The great Scottish television watching public combine to make a fearsome beast when they sense an injustice done to one of their own.

This beast was already hoofing the sand, snorting and preparing to charge.

I got on my way to report on how this rage was manifesting itself at Real Radio. It had been a phone-in topic all day.

On the journey along the M8 I could not help thinking that this beast had been goaded into anger by being prodded with sharp things by producer picadors and further riled by a red cape waved by the master matador Simon Cowell.

He is savvy enough to know what will wind up the audience and the Scottish audience in particular.

With each “ole!” as the beast charges or just snorts I see him rubbing his hands as media footage, column inches and internet action turns into money in his bank.

I got to Real Radio a little while before Gregg.

The good people there were kind enough to allow me to get the Facebook shots from one of their computer terminals.

When Gregg arrived we went in to Steve McKenna’s studio where he was doing the afternoon programme.

Steve McKenna at work with Producer David in the background.

I filmed him working away with relaxed skill and ease as he clicked away on a mouse, faded music in and out, chatted on the air and took general calls not intended for broadcast.

These calls he answered in a rather funny old woman’s voice and made strange comments like “I’m not sure if I remember that. My mind’s not been right since I had all my plumbing done in that operation.”

We heard the other side of the conversation on the speakers in the studio.

The person on the phone did not react at all to either the silly voice or the stupid comments.

So I think the words are “be warned” if you ring Real Radio in Scotland because they like to have a bit of a laugh.

Are all the Real Radio franchises the same I wonder.

Then came our bit of shooting where he took a couple of calls on the subject of Gamu being thrown out of the X-Factor.

On a technical note I had organised with the producer David to get a feed of the output of the studio sound to go directly into the camera to give me the best quality of audio as possible because often telephone calls are not the best things to record.

Gregg and I were a little surprised that even although there were a stack of calls all lined up waiting to be angry and incensed about the goings on in X-Factor in the time we were there Steve only spoke to two people.

Another surprise was that they were not live or even live with a slight delay.

David screened the “nutters” so that only people with something coherent to say got anywhere near talking to Steve.

Radio even more than TV for some reason attracts the proper sad elements of the lower end of society.

The calls were then very swiftly and skilfully shortened to make them more listenable on air without losing the gist of what was said.

The women that rang in were short snappy and suitably annoyed that it made ideal material for our report.

We were done, the set up shots, the phone calls, the interview with Steve and the cutaways had been shot, time to leave.

Gregg interviews Steve.

We had the bones of a piece done already and it was only just after 4.

Next stop was at Gamu’s little flat in Tillicoultry.

It is not that far away from Real Radio or indeed Edinburgh but these days getting there is a roadwork's average speed camera extravaganza.

We did get there in the end after squeezing along at less than 40 mph between cones and barriers.

As we expected the place was easy to find courtesy of the little group of folk hanging around outside the building some wearing big cameras round their necks.

The pack had begun to form.

We asked what had been going on? Had anyone seen anything or spoken to any of the family? Was Gamu there?

The responses were again pretty much what we expected.

Not much activity, the family namely the mum were not speaking and there had been no sign of Gamu.

The family door had been knocked on lots of times but the response had been the same on each occasion.

They could not speak because there was a contract with the producers of the programme.

Well it had to be done, we had to do the same thing.

The mini pack had a little wager with us as to how long it would be before we came stumbling back out of the gate.

Although as we were from ITV there was a mild bit of speculation that we just might get a bit further.

“Aye right!”

We did not even get as far as the front door.

One of the neighbours was acting as a scary sentinel.

She drew on her roll up cigarette and after she blew the smoke out of the mouth on her pallid drawn face which was framed by streaky greasy bleached blonde hair she told us in a forthright way that Gamu’s mum would not be talking and we would be as well going away.

We joined our colleagues outside again for a little while and then went off to do an interview that had been arranged by the Daybreak office in London with a former Pastor at the church where Gamu did quite a bit of singing.

The Pastor and his wife gave us a good little interview saying all the great things that made Gamu seem not just a superb little singer who had been standing out from the singing crowd for years but almost a saint.

Now it was getting late on and we had to head back to Glasgow to get the material to London to be edited.

We went to the company that does the local news for Scotland during Daybreak. Sometimes we go to STV but relations between them and ITV have become strained over various ITV programmes not being shown in Scotland.

Katie the late shift reporter at Macmillan Scotland showed us in and kindly made us a cup of tea.

Once I had recorded Gregg's voice over I started to send the material down to London.

On a couple of the monitors in the transmission area the pictures and sound that was being played out looked to be out of sync.

I called Daybreak to check and was told that it all looked good at their end.

I got a clear that all my footage was safely in the system in the ITV building on the South Bank of the Thames.

Gregg and I then got into our cars and headed east back to Edinburgh almost in time to get home before a new day officially started.

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