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, 20 June 2013

Covering the G8 in Enniskillen

Sunday 17th June

No stressful excess baggage problems on this trip, any stress would come later in the day. I was on a smooth relaxing ferry trip to Belfast, albeit after a three hours drive from Edinburgh to Cairnryan.
Despite the storm clouds the crossing was smooth
Approaching Belfast
Daybreak political editor Sue Jameson had flown into Belfast’s George Best airport. She came to meet me near the ferry port.

On the drive south to Enniskillen there was plenty of evidence of the security build up to the G8. There was a police presence on every bridge over the motorway, sometimes just one car but more often a few white Land Rovers with their contingent of police officers. There were also a lot moving up and down the road.

The hotel we were heading to was not one of the official media hotels. It was one of the few that was available when the ITV travel company booked it a few months ago.

When it was booked the reservations came with a slight apology from Uniglobe the travel company. The G8 conference would be on in the area so hotels were difficult to get.

Had it not crossed their mind that this was exactly the reason that we were going in the first place.
Our hotel
It might not have been five star or indeed any star but it was close to our location, the rooms were clean enough and the staff very helpful.

Now came the stress that we anticipated.

Sue and I had applied for media accreditation to the conference which is standard practice. During the process we had received e-mails to say that not everyone would be accepted.

That did not worry us or the powers at Daybreak because we were to only two from the programme that needed the accreditation so it was taken as read that it would come through in the usual manner.

A week or so ago we both got e-mails stating that because we were not part of the official party actually travelling with any of the delegations we would not be getting any accreditation.

That was always going to be a problem.

When this happened the bigwigs at Daybreak got on to number 10 to complain but it appeared that the complaints had fallen on either deaf or uncaring ears.

There was no notification came to say that a mistake had been made and accreditation issued.

ITN had been given a reasonable allocation of accreditation and a plan was hatched between them and Daybreak to do some kind of swap. This was apparently done with the blessing of the Downing Street office.

Sue and I had grave reservations about how this was going to work. Swapping photo ID at an event with the president of the USA, the British prime minister and another six heads of state was not really a good idea.

So, after a mile or so walk from our hotel we pitched up at the media centre all ready to have a go at doing the swap. We could not even get to the point where the accreditation is checked properly. The perfectly pleasant and polite guys manning the first line of security told us apologetically that we could go no further.

We had to go to the hotel that was issuing the accreditation we were not really allowed to hang around the media centre entrance. Fortunately there was an offer of a lift to the hotel from yet another amiable local.
Accredited media waiting to get into the media centre
Off we went only to be told when we got there that we had to go back to the media centre to meet Belinda one of the ITN political producers outside.

Then a bit of confusion started to clear. Along with the official accreditation a special yellow overlay pass was required for entry to the media centre.

It was this overlay that ITN were under the impression that we did not have. That was why they were so relaxed about swapping them when various personnel changed shift.

We were given the yellow overlay passes because they had enough to go round.

They were worse than useless at that point without the official accreditation.

At this point Sue decided it was time to get a bit more forceful with the No 10 lot. She called one of the press officers ready to do battle, pointing out that there would be no coverage of the G8 before the lunchtime news if we did not get in to do our live broadcasts from the media centre and we could not get in without accreditation.

"But you've got accreditation. I've seen it." came the bemused reply.

With no helpful lift available we took the long walk back to the accreditation hotel where sure enough there were passes for us.

That had only been about two hours of time we'd wasted, causing minor disruption to colleagues and giving ourselves unwanted stress.

After we had the blue and yellow accreditation passes, and the overlay pass we once again set foot back to check out the live position for the morning.
The vital accreditation and the overlay pass
The backdrop for the live broadcasts..

..from these media tents..
..our broadcasting home for the next two days
Some of the satellite trucks, he'd not come too far

Someone enjoying the river

We also went to the securtity briefing given by Police Service of Northern Ireland's Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

We went to a restaurant in the town and were greeted by the owner like old friends even though neither of us had been there before. He had been talking to some of the ITN crew who were like long lost friends.

Way back in 1987 when on remembrance day a bomb killed eleven people they had covered the horrific story and based themselves in the restaurant.

Monday 17th June

The taxi had been booked to take us to our live broadcast point. It would have been a bit too long a walk with the kit.

It did not turn up.

Another example of how keen people in the area were to help occurred. At 5 am the hotel's boss dragged himself down and personally drove us the mile or so the the media centre.
Inside on of the media tents
The live broadcasts were all very straight forward with not unwanted excitement. 
Sue preparing to broadcast
The relative tedium of an easy morning's broadcasting was pepped up with pinch of excitement when we saw someone swimming in the river.
The mystery man in the water
The police had obviously also seen the swimmer and their fast boat zoomed up to coral him.

I recorded the little event and fed the pictures back to London. They were shown in the programme a few moments later as an example of the part of the security operation.

Later in the day I found out that the mystery man in the water was in fact a cameraman covering the summit. He is a keen open water swimmer and had taken the opportunity to get in some practice.

There was another little security incident back up in Belfast a few days ago.

In he early hours of the morning a man, more than a bit worse for ware wandered into the Raddison in the centre of the city and slumped down on one of sofas in reception.

The staff regarded this as not too much out of the ordinary deciding not to disturb the snoring drunk and just keep an eye on him. A short while later when the guy heaved himself to his feet and proceeded to use the rest of the reception area as a toilet they thought that it might be time to make a call.

The night manager called the non emergency police number expecting the usual hour or so wait after which an overworked officer would wander in to deal with whatever the problem was.

He had no sooner hung up the phone when three white armoured Land Rovers screeched to a halt outside the hotel. The back doors flew open. Heavily armed policemen descended on the hapless drunk.

To his possible career ending embarrassment they discovered that the inebriated guy was one of president Obama's secret service agents in town prior to the president's visit.

He very quickly found himself on a plane heading back across the atlantic to be dealt with.

After the simple and stress free Daybreak broadcasts were over we joined the massed ranks of the political press to tuck into a very nice Killyhevlin breakfast well known faces like Nick Robinson on one side and appropriately enough tom Bradby on the other.

As we neared the end of our poached eggs a rumour started going around about a protest outside the media centre.

"Maybe it might not end up being such a quiet day after all." 

However, it did, the protest was a very slow and calm affair organised by the End Tax Dodging and Enough Food for Everyone lot. 

Sue went off to attend a Lobby briefing and I sauntered in to action down by the river.

I was joined by some other members of the world's media and managed to not to doze off as two boats made their way gently up the river towards us.

One of the boats had big headed leaders as passengers waving as they meandered around on the river in front of us.

The event was mildly comical. Some of my colleagues did little interviews with the spokespeople for the organisations asking about the issues that they wanted to raise.

Even as I filmed it I was pretty sure my shots would never make it out of the camera. The reports that I had done in Sierra Leone and Jordan were a much more powerful statement about hunger and the inequality of life on our planet.

That was pretty much the end of our day's work.
The boats slowly coming up the river.. we could film the "leaders" waving 
During the day, doing tomorrow's live broadcasts from the Lough Erne Resort, where the leaders were actually doing their thing was looking like a firm possibility.

Both Sky News and the BBC were doing interviews with the chancellor George Osbourne. Both Daybreak and ITN were keen to do one too.

My professional part was keen to do the interview. My personal part was not quite so keen because to do it we would have to get up well before 3 am to get to the resort.

The actual summit location was around 10 miles from the media centre surrounded by very strict security.

So, getting to and into the place was a lengthy and tedious affair. 

During dinner back at Franco's we witnessed the big protest march of this G8. It looked and felt much more like a sponsored walk than a demonstration. 

I wondered how much the various media organisations had unnecessarily  spent on security as I saw a some camera crews with their minders, a few carrying rucksacks clearly containing protective kit.

Our colleagues Jonathan Swain and Matt Callaghan were out there somewhere with their security ready to mix it with this less than lethal lot.

At 10 pm when we found out that we would not be going to Lough Erne I was not too unhappy not to have to set my alarm for around 2 am.

Mr Osbourne's people had said that he would not be able to do a live down the line interview for Daybreak, any window of opportunity for us to go and record an interview would clash with our broadcasts and there was no guarantee that he'd do it at all.

Tuesday 18th June 

This morning there was no need for a lift up to the media centre, our taxi arrived on time. Like  everyone we met in and around Enniskillen the driver was very friendly, keen to help and a pleasure to talk to.

We were back under our little tent for the "standupper" live broadcasts.
Another day, another coat for Sue
The only slight bit of excitement this morning was when a journalist from another tent absentmindedly wandered into the back of my shot when he was chatting on the phone.

Oh, and us happening to be around when the goodie bags were given out.
Crisps, fudge, tea, a wee whiskey and some paperwork in the G8 goodie bag
During the day we managed to have a quick catch up with Matt and Jonathan before they headed off to Belfast to get their flights home.

In the afternoon the leaders started to leave and the little town began to get back to normal.
The American delegation..
..heading through the town

Wednesday 19th June

The summit was over, the leaders had gone and the media centre was in the speedy process of becoming an hotel again.

Our final G8 broadcasts came from a very nice house that had just been built beside the river  looking over to Enniskillen's small castle.

ITN had hired it as an alternative location to the media centre for clients that did not have accreditation.
Very early morning view of the backdrop for the live shot

A picture of the backdrop that I tweeted
The front of the house we were using..
..the back beside the river with sat truck outside and camera on the balcony

Another tweeted picture
Another day, another coat, another broadcast
Some swans out for their morning paddle
Could be a beautiful shot from the other way too

After our few broadcasts this morning we said a not too fond farewell to the Railway Hotel. Although, it has to be said that the staff could not have been nicer or more helpful. It might not be a five star venue but, we were treated in a more genuinely pleasant and helpful way than in many much more salubrious and expensive places around the world.

Enniskillen itself was a different story. It is a lovely place filled with people that must rank in the top five of the friendliest in the world.

I drove up to Belfast and dropped Sue off at the airport and then waited for my ferry across to Cairnryan.

I'm not the only one heading home after the G8

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