First up was a wedding build up trip to be a slightly bemused member of the Spotlight Special TV show that was shown on Tuesday 13 Oct 2009 at 22:35 on BBC One N.I.
On stage were a collection of 4 political figures from the Northern Irish political scene and not one representative with a none polarised view point. Perfect time for a few hard hitting questions you would think! Alas, the audience (which included my silly self) were first brought into a room before the filming took place and were given refreshments. Then we were given information on those to be grilled and we were asked to provide questions. Obviously the producer had an idea of a question they wanted to be asked because they came back in to ask if anyone had considered asking such a question and this meant only one thing. A thing I should probably have known... these shows prep those coming on and they’d been given a range of topics and no question was going to be asked that strayed from that. So although you could come up with any question relevant to current affairs you weren’t going to be asking it unless it fitted in with the themes pre decided.
Disappointing to me but understandable... after all most of these people (the politians on stage that is) are just spokes people, they have the final say on things but I’m hazarding a guess they aren’t exactly experts on a lot of what they talk about, without preporation they'd probably be rabbits in the headlights. The real experts are those in the civil service and those whom the civil service liaise with... the people whom, when it boils down to it, answer the questions... rather than those who are given a large salary and from where I’m sitting pretty much just stand up and read the answers. From the resultant questions and answers, this show seemed to be primarily a case of giving another showcase to the extreme view points of the N.I political spectrum - to give them a chance to vent about the issues they’d been prepared for rather than questions the public would like to ask of them. For me, an opportunity wasted by the BBC. Where was the Green Party representative or Alliance was not just what I was thinking but also a question posed by another member of the audience before the show started and it received almost an unanimous round of applause from the rest of the audience. Maybe an idea for the BBC for future shows!
I’m not even going to go into the waffle and array of only slightly meaningful discussion (to me anyway) by the members of the panel. There really wasn’t all that much interaction with the audience, just each Politian debating with another for the most part. Conor Murphy, Margaret Ritchie, Nelson McCausland and David McNarry were the politians in question. All they managed to do was re-enforce my doubt in the usefulness of a political system dominated by polarised viewpoints . Though I was intrigued how Margret Richie was trying to unsuccessfully twist a question asked to her to fit the answers and information laid out in her notes. Kudos to Mark Carruthers though, I gained a new found respect for TV presenters, especially those chairing debates! All the time he had to juggle the questions and answers whilst controlling with hand movements the next speaker and also listening to the production crew and producer in his ear piece! Not an easy task I imagine.
It was also great fun to see another TV studio, in this case the BBC’s Blackstaff House, all those lights and cameras, like Granada Studios in Manchester it’s like a whole other world heading off the street and into one.
A much more entertaining experience came when we went to see Colin Murphy. This was the recording of a radio show due to be aired next year - Colin Murphy's Great Unanswered Questions.
When the warm up is the main star of the show and the first thing said is that there will be no mention of, and I’m paraphrasing this into ‘religious divides of the Christian faith that cause a lot of problems in this neck of the woods’. My thought... this is the kind of show I can really get on board with. Dr David Booth was the resident expert and the subject matter was also right up my street, comedy with a bit of science spotted with mad facts and funny anecdotes. I don’t want to spoil the show for anyone who might catch this on the radio next year but suffice to say it was very, very funny and will be well worth a listen... I will be anyway. Here is the BBCGUQ twitter page.
Last up was Radio 1’s Chris Moyles and team visiting Belfast on the 17th December. Norn girl and I had been to the karaoke event a couple of years back in the beach club bar place the Odyssey and were determined to get to this too. Norn girl in the end was in town at the right time and spotted Aled Jones’ hiding spot. Hence 4 tickets winged their way her way and in the end 3 of us, Norn Girl, myself and my sister-in-law made our way to meet at Subway for a pre event snack. After some news of Norn Girls brush with fame and a foot long sub it was a quick bus ride up to the Queens Student union and a very long queue waiting to head into Mandela Hall.
On entering, it was to the front to set up camp and then to the bar for a drink. It wasn’t long before Aled was out to warm up the crowd with some music and a Santa hat, this went on a wee while and the crowd were warming up, well those who needed some warming at any rate which to be fair wasn’t many... thats one of the best things about Belfast... more so than any other city I’ve had the pleasure to be in, people know how to let their hair down and have fun should the occasion arise and that includes T-Totallers.
Another highlight was Patrick Kielty’s memorable performance of a spoof of Robbie Williams ‘Angles’, however I don’t think he’d quite honed the jokes he tried before hand... it was revealed he’d had a bit to drink so it wasn’t so unexplainable, thankfully he could still entertain with a song none broadcastable for the radio!
It was all in the spirit of the night though and the band and all the Chris Moyles team and the crowd were all great. Hopefully it won’t be long before the team are back again.
So good or bad, this getting out there and seeing the largely positive side of the media being made seems like a good idea. Hopefully more similar nights out will follow... a lot of people might criticise the BBC, but with the value going to see these shows can bring (as long as it doesn’t include the current breed of argumentative local politicians) it might not always be perfect, especially the focus of programming in N.I to my tastes, but they do seem to do a good job. To me, that licence fee, the one that makes a wee dent in the bank balance each year, is worth it.
More comedy shows and the Radio 1 team over again please BBC :)