Sunday, 30 November 2008

Dark, bleak, murderous night

It's not really, properly winter until you have travelled to work in the dark and left in the dark. Today, for me, is properly winter. Getting up at 5.45am this morning was not nice. Scootering 21 miles to the ITN building in the freezing rain, was not nice. Turning up for work half an hour early was just stupid. I forgot there wouldn't be much traffic before breakfast on a Sunday morning...

So I got to look at the day file and joy of joys I am doing an entertainment piece, but more importantly an INDOOR entertainment piece. It being a Sunday, and this being London Tonight, I was fully expecting to be reporting from the scene of another Saturday night stabbing in the freezing rain, but no, I have a 10.30am appointment with Martin Freeman, Jessica Hynes (nee Stevenson, from Spaced) and Michelle Ryan. And possibly Kevin Spacey.

Those crazy actor types are putting on their annual attempt to conceive, write and stage six 15 minute plays from scratch in 24 hours at the Old Vic. The writers get in at 7pm, they write all night. They give their finished scripts to the directors at breakfast. The directors have a think then meet the actors at 10 to start line-learning and rehearsals. They plays are staged at 7pm tonight. Then everyone goes and gets pissed.

It sounds pretty cool, and it looks as if tickets are still available. If you have between £75 and £250 to spare, it might be just the thing. The minimum price gets you free drinks. The maximum price is best seats in the house, free champagne, access to the dress rehearsal, a ticket to the pre-performance cocktail party and entry to the after party where all the actors makes speeches and get drunk. If I had £250 to spare I'd be there like a shot.

I will be filming part of the rehearsal process for the 4pm edition of London Tonight on ITV1, which means I will arrive whilst everyone is at their busiest and unlikely to want to disrupt rehearsals to talk to me. Nonetheless, and at the risk of annoying them intently, that is what I will try to do.

Then I'll get back to Gray's Inn Road for 2pm and spend the next hour and a half frantically editing the whole thing together. I will also try and take some photos for this blog if the cameraman has a stills camera.

Monday, 17 November 2008

The Glamour of Television

Welcome to the view from my hotel window by the River Severn: That doesn't really do it justice. It's a lot uglier in real life. Unfortunately getting real life out of a built-in webcam on a solid state netbook which can barely boot up without falling over represents something of a triumph.

Especially as pressing the "shutter" involves making wild stabs at the track pad as the pointer drifts past the relevant link on the "USB camera device" application. The blurry lights represent the warehouse.

It probably covers a good square kilometre of land, and is so big there are road lanes on a nearby roundabout which have "AMAZON" painted onto the tarmac.

Look, here's me: In a hotel room at very short notice ahead of a shoot for Five News tomorrow. What's it all about? I refuse to tell you, but it will be worth the trip, indeed.

Although this pc has the brain power (and the design values) of the average solar-powered calculator, it does also have a full keyboard and 3g connection. It in fact came free with a broadband dongle, which is like getting a free car with your tank of fuel. On the surface, a bargain, but in all honesty, it doesn't say much about the car, does it?

Still, here I am, listening to the radio genius that is Gideon Coe (John Peel's spiritual and stylistic heir) on BBC 6Music, tapping contendedly away, when I should probably be thinking about going to bed.

Gideon is now playing Killing Me by The Primitives. I'm as close to heaven as you can get, sober, tired, on your own in a room overlooking Europe's biggest metal shed.


Friday, 14 November 2008

Radio At The Edge Conference

On Monday I hosted the Radio Academy's Radio At The Edge conference.

A one-day fixture held at the Lewis Media Centre. Last time I was there I was judging a talent competition with Gareth Gates: On Monday, it looked like this: It was all quite fun. I got to have a very nice chat to Iain Lee, and Andrew Collins and Richard Herring recorded their podcast as their session - it's very funny and can be heard by tapping Collings and Herrin into the iTunes store.

Thanks to Lewis PR and Matt Deegan for the photos.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Radio 1 presents the Student Radio Awards 2008

I invented these, I did. That might be slightly over-egging it a bit, actually. In 1995 I wrote to Matthew Bannister, the then controller of Radio 1 and suggested we set up a Student Radio Association (SRA) awards, which Radio 1 sponsor.

To my alarm and disquiet, he wrote back (in those days, kids, that was how bidnid was done), saying he thought it was a marvellous idea and we should all get together and make it happen. Unbeknown to me, Dan McEvoy from University Radio Nottingham had made a similar approach to Matthew and Radio 1 pointed us in each others' direction.

As a result I asked the long-haired Dan to join me on a trip to London to meet a the poshest lady I had ever met (I think she was called Sophie McLaughlin) and a man called Matt Priest to discuss taking all this further. Which we did.

The first ever Radio 1 Student Radio Awards took place upstairs at ULU on Malet Street W1 in 1996. Jo Whiley and Steve Lamacq compered. The Ents manager who gave us the room was called Ricky Gervais. The comic who introduced the bands was Peter Kay. Jarvis Cocker turned up to the gig. I brought my mum. I was quite proud.

This year it's at the IndigO2, in Greenwich, on Thursday.

I will be there, largely in order to feel very, very old. It will be fun.

UPDATE: This piece has been expanded here, after I was asked to write a short history of the first awards for the 2011 SRA Awards programme.


Saturday, 1 November 2008

Going back to Old Trafford

It's been a while.

I don't really call myself a supporter of Manchester United any more, as I don't support them in any tangible sense, or get to any games, other than today. If anyone asks I say I follow United - in that I look out for their results and dearly want them to win everything going, but I can't lay much more of a claim to fervent fandom than that.

Part of the problem is that I am exactly the sort of person real football fans despise, a Southern red. In mitigation, I visited Old Trafford with my godfather at the age of 5, and, as the first professional football ground I had ever been to, it made sense to adopt them as my club. And Gary Bailey had blond hair like me, which was how I ended up being a goalkeeper at school.

My first game at Old Trafford was a pilgrimage as a student, on my own, doing the same journey from Oxford Road to Trafford on a rickety train. I stood on the terraces and was thrilled when my heroes Ryan Giggs and Lee Sharpe started knocking a ball around before the game just a few feet away from me. I don't even remember who we were playing - I think it was either a Cup Winners Cup game against Montpelier (circa Carlos Valderrama - that was surreal watching such an exotic World Cup figure in the flesh skipping along the touchline) or an FA Cup game against Brighton (which we won 2-0 - that's all I remember).

For the last 17 months I have been visiting Manchester on a regular basis to present the Stephen Nolan show. I didn't get my act together to grub up any tickets at all last season, something I was very keen to resolve this time round.

Strangely, two sources appeared within days of each other, and I arranged to meet a colleague of a schoolfriend (who introduced us via email from Australia) two hours before kick off at Old Trafford for a Premier League encounter against Hull.

I met up with Wayne after arriving early and getting roped into signing up for a United credit card in exchange for a free scarf outside the ground.

Wayne is a lifelong United fan thanks to his father - he told me his first game was United vs Benfica in the 1968 European Cup Final at Wembley - not that he remembers much about it, being 4 at the time.

Wayne also appears to be very wealthy. He's got 2 season tickets in the prawn sandwich seats (access to a lounge bar and restaurant, cracking view) and was driving up from London in a hire car this morning before flying back down this afternoon.

I think it's fair to say we didn't have much in common, but I'm grateful to him for giving me his spare seat and providing a slightly confusing insight into the world of global property market indices.

The game itself was weird. United were firmly in control, but couldn't kill it off. We eventually won 4-3, but Rooney and Berbatov were off their game, leaving that Ronaldo fella to put two away, with the other two from Vidic and Carrick (who I once met outside a Madonna showcase in Camden - he was a Spurs player at the time and terminated the interview when I asked if he was going to Old Trafford).

It was great to see 7 goals, but only 2 were at our end and the atmosphere was odd too. When I lived in Oxford I used to go to the Manor ground and by far the best thing about the experience was the wit of the London Road end (although given how dire the football was, that's not saying much).

At Old Trafford there are a fair number of songs, but no one shouts anything other than abuse. Yes, yes I know - I'm watching it in the wrong place. My other contact has access to tickets in the Stretford End - I'll go there next time.

The wonderful thing about the game was seeing a full strength United team in full flow. The worst player on the United side was Gary Neville. The rest - Ronaldo, Nani, Anderson, Berbatov, Rooney, Carrick, Vidic, Ferdinand, Van Der Saar, Evra (and Giggs and Tevez as subs) were brilliant, especially Anderson, Ronnie, Ferdinand and Vidic.

What I was pleased about was that I could recognise all the United players almost instantly, and actually tried an imaginary commentary in my head to prove it to myself. The Hull players might have been from Mars.

In the same way I've always wanted a proper local pub, I've always wanted to go to football games on a regular basis - have a club to call my own, and now I'm that sort of age, have the bonding experience of taking my kids to matches. Sadly, my lifestyle dictates that although I have 4 lovely pubs on my doorstep, I'll never be a regular customer, and unless I move to Manchester when 5live comes up here, and my daughters show an interest in the communal experience of attending football matches, I'll never be a regular at live games.

I have toyed with the idea of taking them to Fulham or Southampton, and trying to get involved in that, but what would be the point? I've got no interest in Fulham or Southampton. I could never love them like I love United.

Although I am the archetypal plastic fan, I have followed them for 30 years and been actively enchanted by them for the last 24.

Oh well, back to the armchair.