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.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Come back! Quick!

Monday 4th June

Low cloud nestled in the dips between the hills, trees sticking out like ghostly skeletal fingers as I drove Colin the sound recordist and me to Lanark. If we had not been a little bit pushed for time I would have stopped and taken a few photos the scene looked so beautiful.

A few moments after the call time we pulled into the quiet town. Dave was starting to get organised to deploy his satellite dish.

Dave's dish
It had been a bit of a homecoming for correspondent Nick Dixon and producer Christina. They had both come from staying overnight with their respective mums.

It felt a bit eerie being the only people around in the bright early morning chill.

We were in Lanark because the little its annual Lanimer day celebrations this year was coinciding with the queen’s diamond jubilee festivities.

Very quiet at five thirty am
The peace and quiet did not last for long. We had a cast, of not quite thousands but many tens of people, cars and horses turning up. Oh, and the local minister who thought he was a horse.

The local police getting ready to go off shift also arrived to check that we were not up to any mischief. They then set about helping with a combination of crowd and traffic control.

The cops make sure we don't cause too much disruption
Our first live broadcast was at about twenty past seven. It took until not much before seven before our participants were assembled.

We had a large group of highland dancers, a similar sized group of street dancers, a lot of the parents and friends of the dancers, this years Lanimer queen with last years and a host of previous queens with big hats including Elizabeth who had worn the crown sixty years ago just like her namesake, various worthies bedecked in ornate sashes and chains, Jonathan the young prince on his horse and his four mounted outriders, a small group of women and kids dressed as guards, complete with tall bearskin helmets, a vintage Bentley, a cake and of course bagpipers, four of them, not forgetting Hugh in his horse costume.

Christina with Hugh the horse
A bit of last minute make up
Along with a couple of big broadcasts we had various little live shots scattered throughout the programme. We were not too popular with the programme producer when we had to say no to one of those live shots because we were busy trying to organise our disparate throng.

Getting so many people sorted out in order choreograph a live broadcast in a very short space of time is never easy. The lead in to the first broadcast was upon us before we knew it.

We had organised it as best we could in the time but when we had done it and come off air we knew that as far as were concerned it had been a bit of a shambles.

Nick, Christina and I put our heads together to make sure that the next one would be much better.

So, once we worked out how we would do it we had about forty minutes to manage our cast, musicians, extras, animals, vehicles, props and sort out cues for entrances, exits and music for the pipers, highland dancers, street dancers.

Nick had to decide to whom he would talk to and what they would say in as a concise and understandable manner as possible.

Those forty minutes felt like about five.

Getting ready to go live
We were given a short standby. At least this time we all had a good idea if what we were doing and how it should go.

I heard the PA count out of the item before us. I cued the pipers to play.

The studio threw to us. Over the skirling din of the pipers Nick heard the cue and started to speak.

Two and a half minutes later it was all over. It had not gone exactly as we had rehearsed but it had pretty much gone to plan. We had managed to cram all the elements with the exception of the Bentley into the time given.

It was all over. The mass started to wander off. I called into to check with Dave the technical director that it had looked and sounded alright.

He answered his phone by saying, “hold the line.”

I then heard a key being pressed and him saying, “Lanark! Can you hear me Lanark?”

I said, “Dave it’s me I’m here in the phone.”

He cut to the chase, “they want to end the programme on a live shot from you with everyone in it.”

Without cutting the call I instantly called out to anyone in earshot, “don’t leave yet!”

We had five minutes to go until the shot.

Christina, Nick and I dashed about rounding up as many of the departing people as we could.

I asked the caretaker of the church that we were in front of if he had a stepladder. He heartbeat he had produced one that was the perfect height.

We corralled our group. I climbed the ladder and once again we were albeit very briefly on air with a bit of enthusiastic waving and dancing, not to music. We hadn’t had the to get the sound system up and running again.

The final shot
Getting that final shot

This time it had to be the end. The programme was off the air. It was over to Lorraine.

We relaxed over a very nice breakfast in a little café right beside our location.

Nick said that when he leaves television one of the things that will live in his memory is my pained expression as I try to figure out how to get so many people to do and say so much in so little time and for it all to make some kind of sense.

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