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

Monday, 17 June 2013

A week on Dads Day Off with Gethin Jones

Monday 10th June

I was filled with dread in the taxi on the way to Edinburgh airport to catch my Flybe flight to Manchester this morning.

All my previous flights had cost the company far too much in excess baggage charges and had been a general nightmare.

This time proved to be very different because I was only taking minimum kit along with the camera.

Before I knew it I was sitting comfortably waiting to take off having had no stress at all with my two check-in bags and the two pieces of hand luggage which included the camera.

In the afternoon, at the location for tomorrow’s live broadcasts I met Christina the producer and Ray the rigger, they had driven up form London.

We would be doing a bit of a tour of the country with Gethin Jones. He would be surprising some dads who had been nominated by their family as being rather special.

Tomorrow we would be bursting in on a meeting at an architects office to surprise Martin. He had helped his little girl Darcie exceed the professional's gloomy prognosis on how her Cerebral Palsy would affect her life.

It took us a wee while to sort out the logistics of where we could park the satellite truck out of sight and how much cable Ray would have to manage.

Once that was done we could set our minds to much more important matters, where to have dinner.

When in the Manchester area with time it has to be the Curry Mile on Rusholme's Wilmslow Road. 

We decided on a restaurant but on what proved to be sound advice from our Asian taxi driver we ended up in a restaurant called Lal Qila. The meal was excellent.

When the poppadoms came there was the usual tray of dips. On the tray was a rather vivid green spicy chutney. It was certainly one of the best things I have ever tasted. I was so impressed with it and asked what it was made of.

The manager was slightly cagey about the full ingredients. What he did tell us was that it consisted of green peppers, green chillies, mango chutney, mint and coriander.

At the end of the meal he produced a takeaway dish full of the amazing stuff.

Tuesday 11th June
Greater Manchester

The satellite truck was parked in front of the Toll Point Bar around the corner from the office.
The truck outside the pub

Sound recordist Pete gets briefed by Christina
Handy when a 24hr McD's is not far for a bite of brekkie
We did a couple of short teases with Gethin and some of Martin's family obviously including little Darcie, and friends that had turned up to enjoy the surprise.
Christina telling our little crowd what would happen
Gethin has a chat with little Darcie
Gethin and the ladies

On the cue from the studio we went, along with the friends and family to the office and managing to avoid stumbling over some wheelie bins burst in on a meeting that had been set up as a rouse to get Martin into the most accessible office for us. 

It was the usual madness as we piled into the room without much room to manoeuvre.  Gethin then introduced the little film that had been shot detailing how supportive he had been of little Darcie, raising over £45K for an operation for her. 

I got Martin framed up so that the shot could be put in a little box which was inserted on the screen as the vt was playing.

His reaction was not extreme but emotional enough to make good television.

When the excitement was over, we had taken a few photos and said our goodbyes we were out almost as quickly as we had gone in.
After the broadcast. Martin's beside Darcie
It had gone well the feedback from the office in London was good. One down three to go.

The rest of the day was taken up with the drive to the next location near Ascot, stopping off at a motorway services Waitrose to collect lunch and then doing a bit of a recce of tomorrow's location.
Only day one and already it's all too much for Gethin
Christina there's a strange Welsh guy behind you
My travelling lunch..
..featuring the dip that we were given last night

Wednesday 12th June

The truck parked up..
Sat' engineer Simon and Ray pulling out the camera cable
Simon, sound recordist for the rest of the week
Gethin hiding in the crew bus putting his earpiece on
This morning's surprise was on Mimo. Last year he had been in a really bad motorcycle accident from which he was very lucky to survive.

His two daughters had nominated him. His treat was to get a Lamborgini to drive around in for the day.

Family and friends checking out the car
Doing one of the short teases
Posing with Gethin 
Once again everything went without a hitch, well except ray almost falling over some other wheelie bins.

Mimo's reaction was exactly what we wanted. The little film moved him to tears.

The car's now in the drive
Time for more...
This morning we had time to hang around for a cup of tea and chat with the family and have a bit of a laugh.

Even more inside..
..a bit wacky, that's Mimo in top
The ladies doing the important job!
Then we were off to Portsmouth which was only a relatively short drive away.

It was pity that the weather was so rubbish because we had time to have a look around the old dock area after we had been to have a look at tomorrow's location and worked out where the truck would be parked.

HMS Warrior brought back memories for me. I remember doing a lot of filming on board her when she was being restored in Hartlepool.

The whole area and HMS Victory in particular brought back lots of memories for Simon the sound recordist and Falkland's veteran. His ship was sunk during the war. 

He was based in this area during his time in the navy.

When he came back to Blighty after the sinking he spent time as a guide on Nelson's flagship.

Simon back on familiar seas
HMS Victory

Thursday 13th June

It was a long, but straight cable run from the truck to the house where we would spring the surprise.

Jamie was Tia's surrogate dad. She had nominated him because her father, Tony, had died of pancreatic cancer four years ago. Before he died he had asked best friend Jamie to take care of his precious daughter. 

Jamie had been true to his mate and aided by his parter Jodie, helped Katrina, Tony's wife, look after Tia.
Doing one of the teases in the truck
Screenshot of a screenshot of a photo Gethin took of me at work
What you looking at Ray?
Hiding in the bushes for one of the teases
Rigger Ray ready for action.. the tension builds before the surprise
Once more everything went according to plan. Jamie told us it had been the best day of his life. His surprise had been a message from Ian Wright, a signed Arsenal football and tickets to a game.
Another pose on the doorstep
Tia and Jamie
We did not have time to enjoy this morning's hospitality. I sad goodbye to my partially eaten doughnut and half drunk coffee.

Gethin needed a lift to the station to catch a train to London. He had to go for a medical in preparation for a trip to Afghanistan later in the year.

Dumping him at the station we set course of Coventry.

It was a short trip to just inside the M25.

Friday 14th June

Sometimes a recce is sort of unnecessary because things like cable runs and the place to park the truck are obvious.

Yesterday's was vital because there was nowhere to park the tuck that was not private land.

The ideal place for the truck was the car park of an old people's home.

Christina, using her undoubted Scottish charm got permission form the estate manager to use the car park.

So, this morning when we turned up it was all sorted. What we did do, or rather didn't do, was to fire up the generator that powers the truck until the last moment because we were right outside a few of the rooms and did not want to disturb the residents.

Danielle, now a mum herself had nominated her dad Neil because when she was eight he had rushed her into hospital, his fathers intuition telling him something was seriously wrong. 

It turned out that he was right. Danielle had Meningitis. Acting on his gut feeling had effectively saved Danielle's life.

It was a busy morning for Dad's Day Off on Daybreak because not only were we doing our bit in Ewell near Croydon there was a crew at Weston-super-Mare with Laura Hamilton springing another surprise.

Also we had a guest with us to help with rugby fan Neil's surprise. James Haskell one of the England players had come along to present Neil with a couple of tickets to an England game.
James arriving

Being a rugby man himself Gethin immediately got on with the banter. I'm not sure if James thought it was a stitch up being confronted with a Welsh presenter, Scottish cameraman and producer.

Just seen a ghost Gethin?

Sat' engineer Simon puts them in the spotlight

James and Gethin

In our satellite truck we watched Laura do her thing. The look of total bemusement on the Dad's face was superb. So far every reaction had been at least as good as we had wanted. None of them had any idea it was going to happen.

We did a few more little teases this morning than we had previously, making the most of our large guest.
Ready to go on the final tease
On the way to spring the surprise

We were probably more nervous about this surprise than any of the others this week. If anything is going to go wrong it often happens on the last day.
Final briefing from Christina

Almost ready to go
We need not have worried it all went off well. It was a little bit messy from my point of view but I did not miss any reactions and the shot of Neil holding his grandson's hand when the little film was being played was lovely.
Another happy family

James did have a friendly go at me after we had watched it back in the truck.

"I need to have a word with you about your camera angles." he said. "You make me look like a giant."

"But you are!" I replied looking up at him.

"Fair doos".

No time for anymore small talk or accepting hospitality this morning. As soon as we had finished packing up I was whisked straight off to Gatwick airport to get my flight north.
Flight home lining up on Gatwick's runway 26 Left for take off