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, 11 February 2010

Fuel Poverty and Bye Bye Tyne Tees

Thursday 11th February

I had a great night’s sleep and with the sun still shining I was looking forward to a nice pleasant drive up the M6.

That was all I had to do. There were no plans apart from me getting home.

That was until I heard Carol’s voice. I knew then that there was something for me to do that would delay my homecoming.

I had to shlep from Manchester up and across to Newcastle Upon Tyne to do a story about fuel poverty.

This was going to be a real one man band job. There would be no reporter or producer there. It would be down to me.

At single mum Michelle's house in an estate in Walker, one of Newcastle’s well know areas I did a little interview with her about the amount of money she must spend on her gas each week.

Out of a weekly benefit income of a bit more that £200 she has to spend £40-£45 just on gas for heating and cooking.

I set the camera up so that I could see the little monitor that is on the left hand side of the camera and stuck an earpiece in my right ear to monitor the sound.

I got it all focused and framed and off we went.

I was glad that she was not the kind of person that moved about during the chat because if she had been it would have been a nightmare with the camera locked off.

Half way through the interview two of Michelle’s girls arrived home from school in the characteristic fashion, all noisy excitement.

After the interview I did a few shots of Michelle cooking the kid’s meal and her playing with them.

Michelle set up for her Interview.

Once that was done I made arrangements to get the tape fed to GMTV from Tyne Tees over the river in Gateshead.

On my way there I had a poignant moment when, in the fading light I passed the old Tyne Tees building in City Road. I should say what is left of it.

What was many years ago the shiny metal exterior of the new part of the studio complex was partially demolished.

The only thing that still stands is the tall circular tower that was used to house dishes that received pictures from outside broadcasts from the race courses and football grounds in the region.

On my journey in on the train from Edinburgh it was my marker and always brought a smile to my face.

The Transmission Tower now Minus the Tyne Tees Logo.

The largest of the studios was ripped wide open revealing the large space that was once the home to programmes that in the 1980s I fondly remember working on.

“Friday Live”, the lively local discussion programme hosted by Chris Kelly and Gillian Reynolds that welcomed the weekend after “News at Ten”, “Razzmatazz” the children's pop programme that had all the pop stars of the day performing for an audience of hyped up kids, and of course the first television programme to combine live television with live music and was Channel 4’s first flagship show, “The Tube”, amongst others came to mind.

A Final Look at Studio 5, the Lighting Grid still there High Above the Studio Floor.

Even without the benefit of rose tinted specs or a candy coated memory those were great days.

The people that I worked with at City Road did it all with pride and passion. There was a tangible sense of commitment to the various skills and arts that go into making good television.

From the board room members down to the guys that manned the car park barrier there were characters and personalities that are hard to find in these much more market driven corporate entities.

The Tyne Tees name Hidden and soon to be Gone Completely.

Although the Tyne Tees operation moved away to the modern call centre like building, in an industrial estate near the Metro Centre a few years ago, the sight of part of the old building being torn apart and the rest shrouded in netting ready to have its heart ripped out had my eyes moist and brought a lump to my throat.

I felt a real sadness for the times past, the good ones and the bad. Memories of the many highly skilled and motivated friends and colleagues that were forced out of the industry over the past years flooded my mind.

I was struck at how it affected me. I left Tyne Tees almost twenty years ago. I had only been there for nine, albeit formative years.

It is only now that I have an inkling what, in my days at City Road the miners felt when the pits started to close one after the other.

No wonder they fought to keep them open. I felt the way I felt with a gap of nearing two decades and a time there of a mere nine years.

The miners had generations down the pit and were facing an immediate uncertain future.

A Boring Bit then Brainteasers.

Wednesday 10th February

I got my kit out the boot of the Peugeot Estate hire car in the Granada TV car park.

The bitter wind was making the snow swirl around me stinging my cheeks and hands.

It was one of those strange days when the sky was mainly blue with a bright winter sun yet their were a few maverick clouds chucking out needles of ice.

I was keen to get inside the building as soon as I could.

The warmth of the welcome from the Irish lady on reception helped me shake off the effects of the cold.

Elaine Wilcox was doing a background report on the horrific story of a woman who was on trial for allegedly starving her daughter to death.

We were doing an interview with a chap from the British Association of Social Workers.

Granada had allowed us to use a room just off their newsroom for the interview.

I was pleased to see that it had enough daylight coming in nice and softly that I would not need to put up any lights.

I got set up as our interviewee gave Elaine some background information.

One of the issues that might be at the heart of the case was that the little girl and her siblings had been taken out of school for home schooling and there were questions to be asked about the checks made on children in these circumstances.

In a nut shell what Elaine had asked in a telephone conversation with this chap and his boss was if the powers that currently existed were enough to allow Education Welfare Officers be able to call on and see home tutored children at any time.

On the phone she had been told no they were not.

However, no matter how she tried to illicit this answer from our man he would not come up with the goods.

I have seldom heard anyone use so many words and take so long to say virtually nothing.

I felt Elaine’s frustration as she struggled in vain to get any kind of usable sound bite let alone the one that she had been lead to believe she would get.

When the interview came to an unsatisfactory end I am sure it was a wry smile that played over his face when he said to Elaine,”you didn’t get the sound bite you wanted”.

In sensitive cases there is a great reluctance for people to say things in case they up set some one or some organisation or other. That’s just understandable.

However, when a reporter asks and get told that they will get a certain thing in an interview and then it is not forthcoming it can be rather annoying.

During the interview one of the Granada news reporters stuck his nose against the little widow in the door of the room.

This was a room that is often used for interviews for the Granada nightly local news programme, because we were doing our one there he, the Granada cameraman and their interviewee were unable to come in.

They had to brave the sunny chill on a balcony outside to do their interview.

The Granada Crew Out in the Cold Thanks to us.

I packed my kit up and Elaine left for a trip to Birmingham to do an interview with the father of the little girl in question.

I went off to see Steven Kay in Bolton and get the postponed Brain Teasers done.

He came out into the school car park to meet me.

The last couple of days with his brother Vernon featuring on the front pages of at least one of the red tops had definitely taken there toll on him.

He looked a little drawn and his slightly unkempt designer stubble was not a fashion statement.

When we went into the classroom to shoot the Brain Teasers Steven said that it was very strange having some one so close to you make unpleasant headlines, particularly when all that Vernon had done was have text conversations with friends who happen to be very sexy girls.

Oh, and the texts were a bit on the hot side.

However, he had not been caught doing anything particularly bad, like having an affair with a mate’s girlfriend.

As Steven had said to his mum, probably the only person to be pleased with the headlines would be John Terry.

We did the Brain Teasers as quickly and simply as possible.

Steven was, not surprisingly less focused than he normally is but did come up with the goods.

Also it did not help when he was having to deal with various text messages a lot of the time.

When we were done I made a trip back to Granada where I left the tape containing the rushes to be sent down to GMTV from the Granada TV news traffic area.

It had been a longish day but not too long so after some food I got to my hotel with the prospect of a long night’s sleep.

Bolton or Bust (by text)

Tuesday 9th February

The sun was shining making the cold seem not so bad.

I was all set for an nice stressfree pleasant drive to Bolton to do some more Brain Teasers with Steven Kay.

They’re becoming a bit of a regular thing. The day after I got back from Lapland in December I was in his classroom doing some Christmas themed mind melting posers.

Olly the producer in London called to ask if I had set off.

The way his question was asked rather breathlessly and his audible sigh of relief when I answered to say that I hadn't, had me thinking straight away that there was a problem.

There was a chance that Steven could not do the planned filming this afternoon.

His brother was all over some of the front pages of the tabloids for having rather raunchy text message conversations with sexy ladies.

Steven felt that he might have to go and look after their mum and dad and possibly protect them from the posse of paps that could besiege them.

It was not a firm no at that point so I set off fully expecting to be turned round. I would rather have to turn round than sit waiting and end up having to rush.

Sure enough after about forty minutes down the road I was making a u-turn and going back to Edinburgh.

I was happily enjoying a few free hours when the phone rang.

“Private number calling”, it said on the phone’s display.

I knew that was the bell ringing to end my free time.

Steven’s shoot was going to happen tomorrow afternoon and there was a little interview to do in Manchester before that.

So I wandered back out to the car and retraced my route south.

At least there was no time pressure because I was just heading down to a hotel to spend the night so that I would be ready for the job in the morning.

The journey was uneventful with the M6 not putting any barriers in the way like breakdowns or accidents, just a couple of average speed camera sections through road works.

I got to the hotel in time for a proper nights sleep. That doesn’t happen very often.