Monday, 27 February 2012

A Wander Around the Garden of Dreams

I like wandering around MediaCity, I figure it's good for the soul and since I live only a 15 minute walk away from the place, I haven't come up with a good excuse not to. Today was one of those days when I just wanted to go and stretch my legs but today I also had a very specific reason to take a trip to this most hallowed and wondrous place. On Thursday 23rd February (only four days ago), Princess Anne went to a very special function within the MediaCity complex. This wasn't just any function, this was the grand opening of the new Blue Peter Garden.

The Italian sunken garden complete with fish pond, sundial and the
hand, foot and pawprints of past presenters and pets

Unfortunately I was unable to get there on the day due to work commitments but I knew I couldn't put it off for long so today I trundled off with my camera to take some cheeky snaps of the northern incarnation of the garden of dreams. For those of you who don't know, the Blue Peter Garden had been set to move up to MediaCity along with the rest of BBC Children's ever since the BBC made the announcement that they were moving a whole load of departments to Salford. However, the logistics of how exactly they were going to relocate the garden obviously proved to be a bit of a challenge. At one point they were considering having a rooftop garden situated on top of The Studios building but it wasn't until a couple of weeks ago when the press release confirming that the garden was going to be in the Piazza, which is completely open to the public, was issued. Features from the original garden at Television Centre in London were transported to MediaCity including the Italian sunken garden, the statue of Petra (the first Blue Peter dog), the sundial, and the hand and footprints of past presenters - Lesley Judd, John Noakes and Simon Groom along with pawprints of past pets - Shep, Goldie, Jack and Jill and Fred the tortoise (although I'm not too sure if tortoises have paws as such).

As the garden is in a completely open space, obviously the question of how they are going to deter people from trashing the place was at the forefront of my mind but rest assured dear readers, there was a security guard watching over it when I got there, which was handy because I roped him into being my photographer's assistant) and he promised me that there will always be someone on duty standing next to it at all hours. Below are some photos I took to preserve the memory of the first time I visited my own personal Mecca. I'm sure there will be other occasions and I apologise for the lack of sunshine but hey, that's Manchester for you!

Potted plants surrounding the fish pond

Myself with Petra. Coincidentally I finished knitting the jumper at the
weekend and couldn't resist dressing up for the occasion

View of the garden which is situated right next to the MediaCity tram station

Current presenters Helen Skelton and Barney Harwood had their hand and
footprints set in concrete to mark the opening of the new garden 

Who needs security! Petra looks like she's handling things just fine

Thursday, 23 February 2012

How to Fail a BBC Interview - part 1 of 5

I know I promised a ranty blog post about the BBC application process in general but as I was typing it out, it mutated into a really long and boring essay of all my previous interviews for jobs at the Beeb. So in my editorial decision I have cut it down into small, readable and [hopefully] less boring chunks about my cringe worthy experiences of trying to infiltrate the BBC. There will be five initial instalments (with a bit of background reading at the start) but I'm pretty sure there will be more bloggable experiences in the future.

* * * * *
It all started in the summer of 2007. I was a second year student studying Journalism at the University of Chester. My main aim in life was to become a Newsround presenter (this has since changed when I came to the realisation that my mind turns to mush as soon as there's a camera pointing in my direction). As part of my university course it was required for me to undergo a work experience placement. Whilst most of my fellow course mates let the university find mind numbingly dull places for them to waste six weeks of their life contemplating why they had ever been born, I went straight to the top and applied to do work experience for CBBC.

When I got the call saying that they would love to have me for a month down at Television Centre to work on a programme called Do Something Different (DSD for short) it was possibly the greatest feeling in the world. I was off on the most exciting adventure ever and going to be sharing corridors with the likes of Konnie Huq, Chris Jarvis and Lizo Mzimba in the East Tower (the former home of BBC Children's). The first thing that popped into my head when I emerged from the White City tube station was "it looks exactly like it did on Live and Kicking". This was my dream and I was well and truly living it! I spent the happiest month of my life there. It really was the most fantastic working environment I've ever experienced, everyone was so wonderful, friendly, and enthusiastic about their job, which after temping for many years you quickly come to realise that this is not the norm with most work places. On my last day, the team brought me chocolates and a card, something that I wasn't expecting and something that they assured me they didn't do for everyone.

During this month I came to the definite conclusion that I had made the right decision about aiming for a career in broadcast media. At the time my future career path to happiness went exactly along the lines of: go back to Chester, finish my degree, get a job with the BBC soon afterwards where I would live happily ever after for the rest of my working life. That was the plan and I completed the first part of it at least, I graduated in 2008 with a shiny 2:2. However during the time it took for me to finish uni, the BBC had announced that they were going to be moving out of Television Centre and relocating a large selection of their departments to Salford. This was fantastic news I thought, not only will I get a job with the BBC but I don't even have to move down to London for it.

So I waited and waited and waited some more and in the meantime I was applying for jobs all over the country. Eventually I received an email from the BBC inviting me to an interview up in Glasgow for their Runner Talent Pool so I caught the train up two days early and made a long weekend out of it. I visited friends and family that I don't often get the chance to see and then trundled along to Pacific Quay to await my doom. The interview was set up in two sections, there was a group exercise with two other candidates (both of whom, I discovered whilst chatting to them in the reception, had far more experience than I had) where we had to create a schedule for two hypothetical runners during the course of a day from a hypothetical brief that covered a whole three sides of A4. We had to sit in silence for half an hour making notes and then have a group discussion afterwards to bounce ideas off each other so we could come up with an effective schedule between the three of us. We also had an adjudicator sitting in the corner of the room to watch over us writing her own notes about our performances. For all intents and purposes, it was the most stomach churning exam situation ever. I am a very practical person, I love keeping myself busy and being at the hub of a problem in the real working world. In a normal working environment I would be able to come up with a load of useful and practical suggestions, however sitting there in silence with the ticking of my watch boring into my brain, it was impossible to focus. This meant that when it came to the group discussion I had little to offer and tried to compensate by encouraging and praising the other two (they give you brownie points for that). When I got feedback from this interview about a month later they told me that I should pay more attention to briefs and that I needed to contribute more to the group discussion. However (they were obviously really struggling to find something positive to say about my performance) I was the only person who remembered to factor in a lunch break for the runners.

The interview wasn't much better, if was full of "give examples of when" questions and it seemed to go on forever. The only question I felt I gave a reasonable answer to was “You’re driving Edith Bowman to the studio along the motorway. You’re already running behind schedule but then you get a flat tyre. Edith wants to get out of the car and hitchhike to the studio. What do you do?”

That evening I went back to my uncle's house and drank lots of whiskey. A few days later I stopped beating myself up about what an incompetent fool I was and put it down to experience. The main thing I learned from the ordeal was that BBC interviews were just as long winded and ridiculous as the application forms.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Welcome and Hello

Hello and welcome to my brand spanking new blog where I will be telling anybody who cares to read my future posts (I'm not holding out for a huge fan base but a couple of people would be nice) of the trials and tribulations that I face whilst trying to break into a full time and sustainable career in the television and film industry and possibly recount some amusing stories of the sort of people I meet and things I get up to along the way.

I decided to create this little web space after claiming that I already have a blog of this nature set up when filling in the most recent (and truly horrifying) BBC Production Talent Pool application form. I reassured myself at the time that it's not technically a lie if I take the trouble of actually setting up a real blog straight afterwards and so true to my word, this blog has now been truthfully and officially spawned into existence.

In honour of said BBC Production Talent Pool application form, my next post will be dedicated to it and the BBC application process in general. This will have to wait until tomorrow however as I need a day to recuperate and pretend I didn't spend every waking hour of the last three days filling it in (or pretending to fill it in when really I was actually using my time to procrastinate like I have never procrastinated before). Besides which, I have set aside the rest of today to prepare for the great pancake feast of 2012 so you can all go home, stuff your faces full of battery lemon and sugared goodness and come back tomorrow when I will be pouring my little heart out about the soul destroying way in which the BBC goes about in its quest to find new talent.