I love getting out of the studio and broadcasting from different venues. Whether it’s the party conferences, a phone-in with Ed Miliband in a Hastings hotel or in a tent on College Green I love it. The adrenaline flows, it’s different and there’s always an element of seat of your pants flying. Listeners don’t really mind if something goes wrong. It all adds to the fun of the fair.
Which brings me on to today’s events on College Green. Shelagh Fogarty had been presenting our live coverage from 12 noon until 4pm, which is when I went on air. I arrived about an hour before that to find that there were various protesters sited a few yards from our broadcasting point. One was extolling the virtues of Jesus Christ and was fitted with a microphone. Another chanted ‘All Politicians are Liars’ ad nauseum. Shelagh coped with it womanfully but it was clear that listeners at home could hear it all. Last time this happened to me the protesters eventually got bored. This one was more durable. Just before I went on air, Shelagh’s producer tweeted this…
Gave me a laugh, anyway. Anyway, as my show started, he kept chanting. And kept chanting. Just when you thought he was stopping, he’d start up again. As a presenter you don’t even want to acknowledge he’s there or that he’s affecting you. I assumed my headphones would keep him out of my ears, but I was to be disappointed. In truth he didn’t have too much effect on me apart from once when I was interviewing Sir Ming Campbell I couldn’t think what my next question was. But I noticed on Twitter that people were becoming increasingly irritated by what they were hearing. Some were switching channels. One lady emailed: “Can’t you shut the window or something?” Bit difficult when broadcasting from a tent/gazebo. Others were urging me to go over and silence him physically. Well the last time I tackled a protester, it didn’t end very well, did it? So I smiled sweetly and adopted the old showbiz maxim of ‘the show must go on’.
But in the end a decision had to be made. If this guy wasn’t going to go away, we would. There are some fights which just aren’t worth having. So at 5.15 I handed over to my colleague Tom Swarbrick back in Leicester Square, we hopped in a cab, and I was back in the Leicester Square studio and back on air fifteen minutes later. I explained what had happened, but no one seemed to care. It was most certainly the right thing to do.
Our ‘pitch’ was one we have used before but it’s unfortunate it is right near the public exit from College Green onto Great College Street. In future we’re going to have to insist being located further onto the Green. So in a way, it’s just as well this happened now and not in the days after the election. Forewarned is forearmed, and all that.
The lesson here is to make a decision and then buy into it and don’t be afraid to share what is going in with listeners, but in an understated way. They will understand.