Originally posted Friday May 23, 2008
At the moment I am working more than usual and do not have the time to both post and visit. So I have decided to rerun some posts that I wrote before my blog was read.
Last night the BBC programme Question Time came from Chester and I was in the audience. I had never seen a television programme made, so was interested to see how it was done. The venue was a local school with facilities far better than anything that I remember from my school days. The audience was asked to arrive between 6.00 and 6.30 pm with the recording taking until 9.30 pm. I thought that we were going to be in for a long evening of takes, retakes and cuts but the hour long programme itself was recorded with no breaks from about 8.30 pm. On arrival the ladies' bags were searched and the men were frisked. Then we were offered tea or coffee and biscuits in exchange for writing a question a on a card. At about 6.45 pm a very suave looking David Dimbleby appeared and explained what was expected from the audience. Then at about 7.15 pm we were shepherded into the auditorium and once everybody was seated the floor manager chaired a dummy set using audience members as panellists. This allowed the crew to check that all the microphones and cameras etc were working and everything was correctly set up. While all this is going on the programme editor is sifting through all the questions to choose those that will actually be put to the panel.
Next came the moment that the audience had volunteered to be there for - those who had been selected to put their questions were announced. I was very surprised to find that I had been selected to ask a question. The questioners were asked to stand so that the recording crew could mark where they were in the auditorium then we were taken to a room off the auditorium. Our questions were returned to us so that we knew what we were to ask and we were advised to stay alert as the questions could be asked in any order or may not even be asked at all. By now it was about 8.15 pm and the real panel and chairman arrived. David Dimbleby announced them in the order that they sat around the Question Time table. Tony Hall, Hazel Blears, Francis Maude, Christina Odone and Simon Hughes. Hazel Blears is tiny. She is so small that they had to put a cushion on her chair so that she could see over the table and if we could have seen under the table I bet her feet did not touch the ground. Determined at least not to have a bad hair day she had been to the hairdressers. So recording time had nearly arrived but before it did the panel were asked a 'warm up' question. Then there were a few minor adjustments including powdering of noses and foreheads before the programme was underway.
The panel area was amazingly brightly lit whilst the auditorium was only dimly lit. During the recording an army of sound engineers and camera men dressed in black t-shirts and jeans silently glided around the auditorium and stage. The whole session was all very professional without any hitches. Once recorded we then had to wait a couple of minutes for it to be checked before we were allowed to go. By now it was 9.30 pm - one hour and five minutes before transmission. As we left the programme was being played back in the reception area of the school.