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, 10 January 2013

First Designated Flag day in Belfast

Wednesday 9th January

This morning saw the Union Flag flying, or more accurately, hanging limy in the cold still air above the grand old building for the first time since the decision had been taken to fly it on designated days only.

Today was the Duchess of Cambridge's birthday, one of those designated days. 
Matt the satellite engineer had parked the tuck slap bang in front of the City Hall. 
Our satellite truck on the pavement outside Belfast City Hall
The Sky News edit/satellite van

At first sight that would have appeared to have been the ideal place for the shot. 
However, the important feature, the white flag pole that the Union Flag would be  hoisted up on had the background of the brightly lit, light stone of the building's dome tower. Hence it was pretty difficult to see, particularly on camera in a wide shot. 

So, to avoid the trees and put the white line of the pole against the black of the sky we set the camera and assorted paraphernalia on the corner of Donegall Square.
Our position on the corner of the square
Richard checking things on his iPad before broadcasting
Zoomed in on the empty flag pole against the black sky
The first little while was quite busy. We had a succession of broadcasts of varying lengths and another down the line interview with a guest, Eamonn Mallie the renowned journalist and commentator, which involved getting him rigged with Richard's microphone and talkback quite quickly because there was not much time between the end of Richard broadcasting and Eamonn doing his bit. 

When he arrived he had time to have a chat with Richard. He was very proud of his red scarf emblazoned with white silhouettes of horses. They represented the famous Lipitzana horses from the Spanish riding school in Austria. 
Eamonn chatting to Richard..
..then doing his broadcast
It was good that he was well used to doing these things because when a bus with the noisiest squeal from its engine stopped at traffic lights not far from us he did not hesitate in his flow.

The squealing noise was almost painful in our ears. It must have sounded horrendous on the telly. It did get a mention from Matt Barbet at the end of the interview.

One of the best things about this morning's rather chilly  location was that there was a cafe Nero just over the road from us. We made good use of it. 

As well as doing the live broadcasts I had to be ready to get the moment when the flag was hoisted up the pole. 

We had been give a number of times by various different people who said that they had inside knowledge of when it was going up. 

We were pretty sure it would not be when the sky was still black. My preferred time was around 8 am when the sky, if it was clear, would be a deep saturated blue. 

Eamonn, who said he had a man on the inside told us with certainty that the time would be 7:45 am.

Some had said around first light and others at sunrise. 

Sunrise would not have been good for us as we would be off air. 

When the sky started to lighten and the possible time nearer, we wondered if there would be any form of gathering to witness the raising of the flag. 

The only crowd building up consisted of people like me attached to satellite trucks with cameras on tripods. 

A few folk obviously on their way to work shook their heads and expressed a sense of incredulity over how much fuss there was over this flag as they passed. 

So the general feeling of pointless madness that seems to be prevalent on the mainland over this issue was also mirrored here.

With the sky getting less dark I thought it prudent to get London to start recording my output to make sure the earth shattering event would not be missed. That was about twenty minutes to eight. 

The locals might not have turned out but, in truth some of the world's media had. 

Unsurprisingly the Irish Chanel RTE was there, I was chatting to Ian the cameraman as we waited, there were also representatives from Sweden, Germany and Canada. These were just the ones that I had spoken to and knew where they came from.

Eamonn's firm prediction, rather like the Mayan apocalypse came and went and nothing happened. 

At just before 8 am we saw the dark shape of a person against the deep blue of the sky appear on the roof.

We saw the unfurling of the Union Flag. I started filming. Richard called the office to confirm that they were recording at there end as well. 

The figure then attached the flag to the cord and with no ceremony pulled it up the pole. 
There was no breeze to take hold of it so it just hung limply in the cold still air. 

It was a supreme moment of no drama. 
The flag is up but not quite flying in the still air
There was not long between the momentous happening and Richard going back on air for his final planned broadcast. We wanted to make sure that it had been recorded and would be ready for transmission during the broadcast. 

It was not until almost the second the director said "cue" that we heard that the pictures had been turned round in time. 

There was just one more live shot for me to do at the start of Lorraine's programme and then were were done. 
City Hall looks more like a winter palace in the morning light
During breakfast we got confirmation of what we hoped for and suspected would happen. It was time to go home. 

I opted to give BA the companies cash by going via Heathrow rather than be robbed again by Flybe. The flight tickets might have been a little more expensive but, the excess baggage was less than one fifth of what the greedy airline charged. 

However, after the longer two flights to Edinburgh the laugh was on be because when I got there only one of my four bags came off the baggage belt to meet me. 

All of my kit was still somewhere in the bowels of the baggage system at Heathrow.  

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