I have been a regular viewer of Question Time (QT) on the BBC for a long time now. Quite why I do so is open to debate as my wife often worries that I will burst a blood vessel every Thursday evening. However, I watch it anyway and use it as a chance to ‘blow off steam’ and have a good healthy rant. Well, last night was my chance to do so in person, an opportunity I had been waiting for for some time!
It all started a couple of weeks ago when I was watching the US election special and heard that QT would be heading to Dover (which just so happens to be close to where I live). After watching the broadcast I visited the QT homepage and filled in my details on the application form….then promptly forgot that I had done so. Then, out of the blue, I received a phone call at work from the BBC inviting me to attend Thursday night’s recording. The caller from the BBC then checked through the details of my application form and asked me what political events were on my mind. Conscious of the fact I was at work in a public area, I kept my answers equivocal so as not to cause consternation amongst our borrowers. Not an easy task, but I had a damn good crack! I spent the remainder of the day (and the following day for that matter) babbling excitedly to all those that would listen (and many of those who would not if they could help it) about my debut on national television….I should really get out more.
Once I got home from work I had an email giving me the details of the venue and instructing me to email a question that night and prepare a further one to present upon arrival at the set. I chose a question on the economic situation and hoped that it may be picked. My hopes were raised that evening when the central point of my proposed question was discussed on Newsnight. Did Paxman sneak a peak?? Maybe not but it’s a nice thought!
On the day of the broadcast I was required to arrive between 6-6.30pm at the Western Docks in Dover. Upon arrival I was greeted by security men waving those scanner things over my person (which always makes me feel uncomfortable. Why? I have nothing to hide.) and was ushered into a reception area where I was given a list of panel members and a card to write a further question. The panel for that evening were:
After waiting around for about 45mins, the legend that is David Dimbleby came out to speak to us all and explain how the program worked as well as sharing a little of his past experiences with Dover. I have to say, he was exactly as he appears on TV. Calm, considered, charming. If anything, my opinion of him went up after watching him live. The very definition of professional.
After another 20 minutes or so we were led through into the ‘studio’. When we had taken our seats the floor manager asked for five volunteers to act as panel members whilst the test the lights/sound/pictures. The volunteers were promptly chosen and a debate was mocked with each volunteer acting as a substitute for the panel members that were due to arrive later. I got so involved in proceedings at this stage, I completely forgot it was just a test. When the topic got onto rudeness amongst the young, I piped up with my frustration at the negative portrayal of the young in the media and was relieved to receive a very loud round of applause by the audience. Bouyed by this, I went on to attack those calling for national service by questioning whether it was a good idea to train ‘youths’ that are supposedly ‘out of control’, how to use a gun. That went down well also. I felt confident that when the time came, I would raise my voice and get my face on telly.
After another small delay, the panel came out and we were nearly ready (by this time those that were asking questions knew that they were to do so). The first question was a ‘test’ question designed to double check that everything was ready to go. The test question was on Obama and his recent election victory. After a few people had their say, I once more plucked up the courage to pipe up and was spotted by Dimbleby who then asked me to speak. Having spoken, I was rather disturbed to find the Tory on the panel responding directly to me and, shockingly, agreeing with me. I must have made a mistake somewhere!
Once the test was done we started filming for real. The filming began at around 8.30pm and was recorded as live. Apparently, they only remove anything if there is any swearing (‘Jonathan Ross style’ as Dimbleby put it). What we saw was what we got. At this point I realised that if I spoke out (again!) i would definitely get on TV. What an incentive!
After a while I found an opportunity to contribute to the debate. Now, we were told before the recording to ensure that if we put our hands up we kept them up until the topic moves on or we are picked. If you put your hand down you weren’t chosen. Sadly, in my case, I had my hand up for a full ten minutes (with very hot lighting beating down on me and sweat pouring off me) and was beginning to think my arm was about to drop off when suddenly, as if by magic, I was called upon (much to the annoyance of the old chap in front who had his hand up almost as long as me!). Sadly, my comment was met by absolute silence. But still, I did my bit so I was happy. The remainder of the program flew by and, before I knew it, it was time to leave. Incidentally, when the panellists were leaving the set, Shirley Williams drew loud cheers of support from a number of women in the audience. Upon hearing the cheers she seemed a little puzzled about what was going on but she obligingly gave a little wave in acknowledgement. I don’t always agree with what she has to say, but I do have a certain amount of respect for her. And I think she would be a rather lovely grandmother!
After leaving the set, I rang my wife and my dad to let them know that I would definitely be on that night’s QT. As I started driving off, I came to a bit of a tricky junction at the terminal that meant I couldn’t see what was coming. Luckily, a certain Brian Moore was walking past and he waved me out to indicate that it was safe to pull out. Having been on the receiving end of his courtesy however, I miserably failed in doing the same in return. Even though he was clearly walking to wherever it was he was going, and it was chucking down with rain, I failed to even ask if he wanted a lift. What an idiot. Now, I hate rugby, but imagine Brian Moore sitting in your passenger seat. That would have been pretty cool. Ah well.
So anyway, that had nothing to do with libraries whatsoever, but hey, who said it was exclusively about libraries anyway¹? If you look hard enough there are messages about access to information and the digital divide. No, really. Somewhere in there. Honest.
If you are interested in seeing the broadcast, you can do so via the BBC’s iPlayer here.
¹ Incidentally, I never intended my politics to emerge on this blog, that’s not what it is for. However, I’m sure you can forgive me for posting about this. Can’t you?