Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Autocue

It's 11.30pm, and I'm on my way back from the BBC in White City, wondering if I'll make it above ground in time to post this blog before midnight. I've been at Television Centre doing autocue for Matt Lucas' new TV chat show. It's one of the last comedy programmes they're ever going to make within this iconic building; a fact which makes me feel a little sad. What child of the 1970s doesn't remember Roy Castle tap-dancing around the doughnut in the middle of the complex, or Terry Wogan whinging about the BBC canteen food. I remember sitting there as a teenager, about to perform with the Northamptonshire Youth Orchestra on Blue Peter, my stomach knotted with excitement. 

Yet soon the place will be nothing but a few listed buildings rented out by all sorts of non-BBC organisations. Children's telly and sport have already migrated to Salford, and everything else is moving to newer premises down the road within the next few months. 

I feel quite honoured to be doing the job. It was my first day today. I was fairly nervous this morning, but  got into my stride relatively quickly and everything went smoothly. I feel tired, having been too excited to sleep, for many reasons, last night, but elated after a good day's work. 

Guests on Matt's show included Maureen Lipman and Julian Clary, who was in the cast of Taboo, so it was lovely to see him again. He seemed confused to find me running the autocue, as he would no doubt also have been to discover I was a composer! I was very firmly wearing my director's hat when we last worked together. 

I forget how much I like doing autocue. It's quite an adrenaline-fuelled experience. If you disengage your brain for even a second, you end up making terrible mistakes  and potentially making the presenter look like a fool. I've done some terrible things in the past, which include royally shafting Jeremy Vine on an outside broadcast for an episode of Newsnight from the Tory Party conference in Blackpool. In my defence, the equipment broke down. That particular disaster wasn't a lapse of judgement on my part, but there have been plenty more where I was guilty as hell.  I once did Charles Kennedy's autocue and wrote Mrs Quim instead of Mrs Quinn.

Ten years ago, I did this kind of work a fair amount, and I can even claim to have been in demand! I've done autocue for all sorts of people including Brucie and Tony Blair (at Downing Street of all places.)  

So much for my week of doing nothing. I have countless meetings tomorrow, am working on Thursday and Friday, and then am off to Manchester next week to start my next film project up there. 

Talk about a roller coaster! 

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