Saturday, 21 July 2012

Brewing Up with Heston

Earlier on this week I was in a little place called Darwen in Lancashire working on Heston Blumenthal's new series for Channel 4. For this particular episode he was celebrating the great British tradition of the tea break.  This involved having Heston arrive perched on a giant tea pot, lowering an enormous tea bag into it which I had spent hours stitching up the day before, and then dunking a child sized chocolate and caramel biscuit into a giant tea cup (the biscuit was literally the same height as a small child). Here are a few photos from the day which were taken by my friend Thomas Glover.

Would you like a biscuit with your tea sir? I'll just call 5 other people over to help me carry it to your table.

Have a break, have a Heston's Dunkgestive.

Mr Blumenthal arrives on the back of a truck accompanied by a giant tea pot

More exciting than the Queen rocking up to the party, at least Heston gives you unlimited cups of tea and biscuits!

And for my next trick...

...I will need some assistance from my rather oversized teabag

What a lovely cuppa

Lets get dunkin'

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Blue Peter's Big Olympic Tour

Last week I was on a bit of a downer after The Children's Media Conference. For a month and a half leading up to it I've had back to back work lined up but nothing set in my diary for afterwards so it got to Thursday and after sending masses and masses of emails all week to people chasing up potential work with no results I was feeling slightly sorry for myself. I watched the lunchtime showing of Neighbours and jumped into the shower before sitting down in front of the laptop once more to pour over all the jobs websites again when two exciting things phone rang and I got offered a two day job at the end of this week working on Heston Blumenthal's upcoming series then an hour later my phone rang for a second time, this time from a lady at BBC Learning practically begging me to work on Blue Peter's Big Olympic Tour at the weekend which would involve me hopping on a coach with the rest of the BBC Learning crew the very next morning to make our way down to Bournemouth for the big event on Saturday.

I was meant to be going down to see my dad at the weekend in Gloucestershire but obviously you don't turn down such offers (even if they're not paying you for your services) so after doing a bit of grovelling to my dear papa and conveniently forgetting to mention that I was doing this as a labour of love I was officially added to the call sheet which consequently has the Blue Peter ship on the bottom of every page which I got a slightly excited about. Just to put my excitement into context, Blue Peter and Newsround are the two programmes that made me decide that I wanted a career in television in the first place. I was a classic CBBC child growing up and my ultimate goal has always been to one day work on either of those two flagship programmes so it's kind of a big deal for me.

On Friday morning I shoved a few things in a bag and made my way to Manchester Piccadilly Station which is where the coach was departing from, I introduced myself briefly to the few people I had spoken to on the phone the night before and we all set off on a six hour coach trip down to the south coast. As luck would have it, the girl who I met first and sat next to on the coach was put into the same hotel room as me so when we arrived we dumped our stuff and instantly headed towards the beach.

After seeing some rather exciting looking beach huts, paying a grand total of 60 pence for the privilege of walking along the pier (a season ticket cost a whole pound) and watching Twist and Pulse prancing around a stage as the warm up act before the Olympic Torch got there, we decided to get back to our hotel room before heading out to meet the rest of the BBC Learning gang for a lovely meal at Ask where we got to meet the rest of the team properly. Much food and a complimentary glass of wine later, one of the team announced that it was 11.30 already and that maybe we should all go to bed soon seeing as we had a taxi coming to pick us up at 6:50 the next morning to take us to location.

For those of you who don't watch Blue Peter and have never heard of the Big Olympic Tour (shame on you)  I shall fill you in on what goes on during the day...The Blue Peter team go to a different location every week following the Olympic Torch around the country, there's a live outside broadcast that happens at 9am which gets shown on the CBBC Channel and BBC2. Then for the rest of the day there are various events dotted around a field that tie in with the Olympics which is where I came in. I was located in a tent called the My Sports Report tent, which was set up as a little mock studio and aimed to teach the general public about chroma key technology (more commonly known as green screen). The kiddies could try their hand at operating one of the cameras or the vision mixer or they could get on stage and dress up as an Olympian or be a co-presenter. We had some rather interesting kids on stage during the course of the day, one of the co-presenters was the most adorable three year old who as soon as she sat down grabbed the mic and started rambling on about being a ballerina. The biggest challenge was getting the children to form a nice orderly queue and trying to persuade them that being behind the camera or on the vision mixer was just as fun and important in the television making process as being the guest star.

Half way through the day, I accidentally exposed my Blue Peter ship tramp stamp tattoo to the rest of my little team and they were trying to persuade me that it would be a good idea to march over to Barney Harwood (he's one of the presenters) and expose my back to him. I was highly reluctant despite everybody reassuring me that he wouldn't think I'm a crazy mad woman but fortunately for him, the opportunity didn't arise. Besides which I was too excited about wearing my totally beautiful high viz jacket and didn't want to have to pull it up  for no good reason.

All too soon it was time to hop back on the bus and make our way back up to Salford. It was a great honour to work on a Blue Peter event and with the BBC Learning team and I had a lot of fun doing it but my story doesn't end just yet which is where we skip forward to the following Monday. 

My friend has come up for the week and my flatmate has taken some time off work as well. They are both highly nerdy boys and on the bus back to Salford on Saturday I caught wind of the Batmobile making an appearance on the Piazza at MediaCity. With all three of us free to do whatever we like for a week, I dragged them both over there yesterday morning to marvel at it but I wasn't counting on Blue Peter recording a little piece for this week's show. Barney was standing around in the rain right next to this wondrous piece of machinery and I thought I would take the opportunity to do the thing that I was too chicken to do at the weekend. I walked up to him, apologised for interrupting and launched into an abbreviated version of the story  you've just read...then I turned around quickly and flashed my back at him. I'm guessing he was slightly in awe because he asked to take a picture of it which later appeared on twitter. What a result!

Barney's reaction after taking a photo of the best tattoo he's ever likely to see.
nb. I apologise for all the photos that are featured with my back turned to the camera....I'm not a very photogenic person so it's probably for the best.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Children's Media Conference

Last week I trundled over to Sheffield for the 8th annual Children's Media Conference. I'd heard about the conference just after it had finished last year and I still don't know how I hadn't heard about it before seeing as it's almost on my doorstep. Judging by the website it looked like quite an impressive event full of networking opportunities with big shots in the Children's Media industry but the tickets were beyond my budget and I would have to sell an arm, a leg, possibly a few of my teeth and all of my hair to afford a full price ticket with all the trimmings included. Instead I decided to offer my services as a volunteer for the duration of the conference.  I think it was probably the best decision I've made all year. Not only did I get to attend this amazing event for free and have my accommodation, travel and most of my meals paid for me but I also made a lot of fantastic new friends. I also discovered that I have some pretty nifty leadership skills  that had been lying dormant waiting for such an opportunity to arise.

I received an email a few months ago saying I had been designated the role of  Technical Director which sounded quite impressive but I didn't really understand what that would actually involve until I got there for my training the day before the conference started. I soon discovered that I would be put into one of four showrooms to oversee and explain the running order of the individual sessions that took place in my allocated showroom. This meant that I was to blame if everything went horribly wrong or even if something went a little bit pressure at all then!

I had two technicians, two runners and up to six speakers in any one session  and half an hour between each session to get everyone out and get a new wave of people in. This meant that I had to ensure all the speakers were miked up asap, that they knew about how tight we had to keep it and that they stopped talking when they should (aided by our wonderful traffic light piece of tech that was placed on their table) and that they read out the house keeping notes at the start and end of their session. I also had to make sure we had the right number of chairs and water bottles on stage, the techies had connected everything they needed to connect and knew the running order of the slides and videos, decide when we were good to start the session, let everybody know that we were starting the session, make sure the opening music was playing and then get the runners to open the doors to let the hoards of people dash in. For the busy sessions (there were a few) I had to make sure that people didn't leave empty chairs in between one another which meant that either myself or one of the braver runners would go down to the stage and ask everybody to shuffle up to the end of the rows. This happened beautifully some of the time and less beautifully at other times. Then there was the Q&A sections where I had to make sure my runners got the mics to the people who wanted to ask questions and then when it all finished I had to make sure everybody got the hell out as soon as possible, do a quick whip round to make sure there was no rubbish left in the isles and then get the next lot in to do it all over again. It was a bit mad but after the second session my smile was less forced and I actually relaxed into the role and by the time we had wrapped at the end of the two days I had been told that I had done a very good job by more than one person.

When I wasn't screaming on the inside and I had clocked off for the day there were the networking parties to attend in the evenings. This mainly involved taking full advantage of the free alcohol that was being forced into my hand at regular intervals, fighting my way into the path of the staff who were making the rounds with the canapĂ© trays, chatting drunkenly to people who had interviewed me the week before for a job that I didn't get and dancing around like a loon to Thriller. It was all good fun...well it was before one of the straps on my dress broke and I had to keep tucking my dress around my bra strap every five seconds so as not to expose myself to the world. Apart from that it was all amazing.

To wrap it up here are a few personal highlights from the event:
  • Meeting Ben Faulks aka Mr Bloom but not realising who he was until half way through my conversation (he does a much better job at disguising himself than Clark Kent ever did)
  • Picking up a business card at the end of one of my sessions that had been dropped on the floor only to find out that it was Ian Prince's business card (he used to be the editor of Newsround back when I was still in the target age range to watch the show without people telling me I should possibly grow up and he is somewhat of a hero of mine. I always thought it was cool that he had a very similar surname to Matthew Price who was one of the presenters at the time). I'm thinking of framing this wondrous piece of cardboard and putting it on the mantelpiece!
  • Having the Head of Cbeebies as one of the speakers in one of my sessions and chatting to her at the end. She is a lovely person and she told me to get in contact with her when she comes back from her holiday in a fortnight.
  • Getting some good hints and tips from people about breaking into regular work as a freelancer at the BBC.
  • Sitting in front of Anna Home at the key note speech thinking that it was such a surreal moment in my life.
  • Realising that a girl who I previously worked with for a big event with CBBC and Cbeebies at the start of the year actually used to live with my ex house mate for three years before she moved in with's a very small world!
  • Meeting some amazing fellow volunteers and making lots of new friends. 

The whole four days I was in Sheffield was such an amazing experience and the city itself is truly beautiful and nothing like how it's portrayed in The Full Monty. I had very little sleep whilst I was there and despite having a rather sticky bathroom floor in my Travelodge room and missing nearly all the tennis matches that Andy Murray won I cannot wait to do it all again next year! 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Versatile Blogger Award

At the start of June, my old school chum Fayebe (her actual name is Faye but school nicknames are difficult to shake off) who owns the delightful little blog Cartwheels and Bubbles nominated me for this award. Her blog is full of beautiful and tasty looking things that she has made by her own two hands and it's always a delight to see what she has been up to. I highly recommend taking a gander because it will put you into a deeply happy place.

I'm not entirely sure what being a versatile blogger actually entails, in any case I don't think my blog posts are particularly versatile, I just write about what I'm doing with my life and what I would like to do. The more I try to figure it out the more I liken it to something out of Charlotte's Web, I might start charging people to come around and gaze in awe and wonder at the versatile blogger sitting in the corner but if it means that the campaign to ensure I don't get killed and made into bacon sandwiches works then surely it'll will be a good thing right?

I am normally the one who always breaks chain letters and the such but I've just finished baking a friendship cake (it's like a chain letter but in cake form) and managed to do the next bit in passing it on to people and it was a nice thing to I got to bake a yummy cake. I now feel I should do some more spreading of the love and I am determined to not be the person who lets this die. Now I've accepted my responsibility these are the things I have to do:

Nominate 15 fellow bloggers who are relatively new to blogging
Let them know that you have nominated them
Share 7 random facts about yourself
Thank the bloggers that have nominated you
Add the Versatile Blogger Award picture to your blog post


Below is my highly comprehensive list of super awesome blogs that you should definitely check out (I could only think of nine though):

This is my bible to working in the TV industry as well as....

I would probably still be in Chester going nowhere with my life if it wasn't for this blog

 My little chum who I've worked with on a number of jobs. She's done very well for herself and is a fantastic person...give her some love!

A very talented young lady who is going many places

She was a runner who sat opposite me when I did work experience at CBBC many moons ago and now look at her! 

A guide to lots of yummy things in Manchester

These guys are more obsessed than I am and for that I applaud them

My ex housemate's blog about issues facing the gay community

My cousin's blog about moving to and living in Melbourne, all his photos make me highly jealous!


Here are seven chosen random facts about myself:

1. I have the Blue Peter ship tattooed onto my back.
2. Nearly 10 years ago I decided it would be a good idea to audition for Pop Idol wearing just my underwear...I was 17 at the time.
3. My first celebrity crushes were Richard O'Brien and Andi Peters.
4. Neighbours is my favourite thing on telly in the whole history of telly. Some days it's the only thing I talk about.
5. I hadn't been to the dentist for 8 years until last week.
6. I have a birthmark on the sole of my left foot (I thought I would tell you this just in case you are ever asked to identify me in a morgue or something).
7. I like a man with a bum chin, bum chins are sexy!

So that's pretty much me. Thanks again to Fayebe for nominating me, I shall treasure this award until I win a BAFTA.