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.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Anne Scargill and Betty Cook respond to the death of Margaret Thatcher

Tuesday 9th April

When the news broke yesterday my Twitter time line overflowed with a sudden deluge of opposing opinions.

There was certainly no sitting on the fence or vacillating views to be seen.

Within moments, in one hundred and forty characters or less there were messages ranging from glowing tributes of eulogy to gloating joy, giving links to rapidly made celebratory videos.

Margaret Thatcher was dead.

As a Scot and having worked as a cameraman for Tyne Tees in the eighties when the miners were on strike and the interest rate on my mortgage was at fifteen percent it would be fair to say that I was not her biggest fan.

On one memorable occasion when I covered a visit that she made to Teesside I came so very close to being very unprofessional by making my feelings felt.

The reporter I was working with was doing an interview with one of the local Tory MPs as her tour was going on in the background.

It was during a period after the miner's strike of increasing unemployment in the once great industries of the north east like steel making, coal mining and ship building.

Luke, the reporter, asked the MP, Richard Holt about this state of affairs.

Mrs Thatcher's ears pricked up. Breaking away from her entourage she stormed over berating us about how things were not as bad as were being claimed.

Recently she had, in response to another ex-Tyne Tees colleague's question about conditions in the north east, labelled us as "moaning minis".

At the end of her characteristic tirade she signed off by saying, "at least your industry is alright!"

She instantly turned on her heel and flounced off immediately followed by her acolyte who gave us a firm lipped, arrogant "that's shut you up" nod as he scurried in her wake.

It was all I could do to restrain myself from going after the pair and giving them some home truths.

That very morning Tyne Tees had made the first in what has become an almost never ending series of redundancy announcements.

Yesterday I did not have to wait too long before the call came from Carol in London.

Could I go to Doncaster or at least somewhere in the South Yorkshire area to do a live broadcast from a mine that had closed down?

When I set off on my five hour drive this was all the information that I had.

By the time I got as for south as Durham, Doncaster was confirmed as my destination.

When I got to my hotel at around ten I found out that I would be working with Daybreak's northern corespondent Katy Fawcett.

This morning at about four thirty am as I was driving the short distance to the location for the live broadcasts, a mine that was still up and running, Hatfield Colliery, I got a call from George the sound recordist.

He had already arrived at the main gates of the colliery to be told, in rather brusque and forthright terms that we could not be anywhere near them.

After a little bit of a recce when I arrived I found a position that would allow me to get a shot with the pit head wheel in the background without incurring the no nonsense wrath of the gruff burly security .
The satellite truck in position

Our temporary broadcasting camp. The pit wheel on the left in the background 
It turned out that Katy would not actually be doing any live broadcasts and all that we had to do were two down the line broadcasts with a couple of guests.

A taxi pulled up at our location and deposited these guests.

Arthur Scargill's ex-wife Anne and her friend Betty Cook were here to give their opinions on Margaret Thatcher to Kate Garraway and John Stapleton in the studio in London.

It was a bitterly cold morning.

So, in the relative warmth of the satellite van George got them kitted up with talkback units and earpieces so that they could hear the questions from John and Kate.
Katy gives Betty an idea of what sort of questions to expect
The pair are in their eighties with all the frailties that are expected brought on by the ageing process. 

The one that concerned us this morning was the loss of hearing.

They were both finding it very difficult to hear the programme.

George tried many of the tricks up his sleeve to improve the quality and volume of the sound.

He even tried using a small induction coil that Anne could wear around her neck enabling her to use the T setting on her hearing aid.

That didn't work because it did not have a T setting 
George trying to help Anne hear the programme talkback
So, with the whistle of the biting wind, the rumble of the succession of huge trucks trundling past us, combined with the pair being very hard of hearing things were not going to be easy.
Getting ready for the first broadcast

Katy checks how long to go before they are live on TV

When we went live they did find it difficult to hear but, they still managed to give great passionate interviews, pulling no punches about how they felt about Margaret Thatcher and her policies.

They were needed for two broadcasts. There was almost and hour in between them. We took refuge from the stinging cold in the truck.
Betty and Anne. Two real characters

The two forthright down to earth Yorkshire women regaled us of stories of arrests, restraining orders and occupations.

Up until the strike the mining communities were very patriarchal. As the it wore on and things got harder for the families the women started to take more of an active part rather than just a supporting one.

They joined their husbands on the picket line, eventually, just like their male partners knowing that they would probably get arrested at some point.

It was not long until they formed their own organisations some of which continued to fight long after the strike had ended.

Betty and Anne were founder members of Women Against Pit Closures and in 1992 managed to get down a mine and stayed there for five days in protest against the programme of shutting down even more mines.

Anne is still under court order not to go within a mile of the house of one of the mine bosses because she had gone once and dug up his croquet lawn.

When they were up to all the acts of protest the police had to be very careful about how they treated the women. Before embarking on an action they were given some pretty solid legal advice and when they were arrested, which was fairly often, they were able to call on heavyweight help. The renowned civil rights campaigning QC, Michael Mansfield was in their corner ready to come out fighting.

Margaret Thatcher may arguably not have directly or deliberately helped the cause of women in society but, indirectly she most certainly did, by forcing a whole generation of working class wives, mothers and daughters to become involved and achieve things that they had never even though about.

She may not have believed in such a thing as society, just the individual. Betty and Anne are living proof that there is surly a thing where it is not every man and woman for themselves with pure greed as king but, communities that help and support each other and compassion is queen.

In the second broadcast Anne and Betty still had difficulty in hearing. Like the previous one this did not prevent them being both forceful and eloquent in their their arguments.
Waiting to go on air

After they came off air they asked if it had been OK. It most certainly had been.

A taxi arrived to take them home. We said good bye.

The two octogenarians with a cheeky zest for life, a sparkle in their eyes and genuine warmth in their smiles waved as the taxi pulled away.

I departed Yorkshire for my longer than expected drive home feeling privileged to have met such principled and resilient people.
My road home blocked by a fire.. my mirror, the fire chief arriving

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