Royal wedding madness

The final day has arrived and its tomorrow. Much work has gone into the royal wedding preparations in terms of editorial, production and logistics not for one month, but for the last since months since the engagement was announced I hear. I was at the media rehearsal at Westminister Abbey today, and one thing I’ve learnt,  working in live television is highly stressful and exhilarating at the same time. The whole experience has been challenging everyday in the past one month but definitely one where you look back on and say ‘what was I doing there’

The whole country is celebrating. You can tell by the street parties, the buntings, royal ads in supermarkets and café’s, and all sorts of promotions. While I was walking from the Abbey to the media stands at QE2 ( where all the local and international media stands are) I had the opportunity to get a glimpse of some of the overnight campers from all over the world, who call themselves loyal royal fans. They were adorned in tiaras and glitter, carrying the union jack with wills and Kate embossed in the centre , and comforting themselves within the walls of colourful tents.

I’ve been assigned the role of  St. Margaret’s Producer, just a few steps away from the abbey and have to ensure my pre scheduled guests will arrive on time and interviews will take place without any glitches. I‘m hoping technology won’t let me down. Its not even my wedding, and I have never planned something in my life, up to the minute.

I’m nervous and excited, its all surreal and the magnanimity of this event has suddenly dawned on me. Guess I need not say more as these pictures from Westminster will give you a better idea of the live atmosphere outside the Abbey today.

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London Marathon 2011

When you live in London, its hard not to be a part of an event , especially in a city buzzing with so much activity. One certainly cannot be oblivious to what’s going on around you. One thing’s for sure, you just never seem to run out of things to do. Its either a music concert, the theatre, a gig, a food tasting event, a gig or even soaking up the sun.

Yesterday was the 2011 London Marathon, which saw thousands take part in the city’s event to raise money for charitable causes, right from cancer to homeless children, war victims, arthritis, leukemia, heart disease and many more. Among them were my colleagues from ITV news, Bill Neely, Ronke Philips and John Battle.

Being a Sunday, I started to lazily catch up with the Marathon on TV with my cup of coffee and jam on toast.
It wasn’t long before and I was itching to get into the heart of the city and experience the actual vibe in the streets, which  was exhilarating. Listening to the interviewees and watching the runners on TV, I had to get out there.

Trying to make my way to the Westminister Station from the jubilee line was a bit of a struggle. With less than two weeks  to the royal wedding, I’m quite inured  to battling crowds in the underground.

When I finally got to the Abbey, I was amazed by supporters chanting positive messages to runners, and flashing message boards with words of encouragement. Since I obviously couldn’t be a runner at the time, it atleast felt good to be in the streets supporting others. I noticed every one that took part in the competition wasn’t necessarily a professional but were also amateur enthusiasts. There were people of all ages, sizes. It didn’t matter if you were young or old or where you came from. The spirit was tremendous.

Some of the runners were dressed in fancy dress costumes, which was a spectacle to look forward to. Though I’m not sure, how they managed considering it was 20 degrees yesterday but all the way through they didn’t seem the slightest bit unwavering and enthusiastic till the end. Who particularly caught my attention was Richard Whitehead, a double leg amputee who ran on prosthetic legs. He beat his own record by finishing in two hours , forty two minutes.

They all cried, huffed and puffed, but were determined to go on and of course without much of the crowd support and encouragement, I ‘m sure it wouldn’t be the same. On my way back in the tube, I was seated next to a mother who was nursing her son with ice packs who had just finished the run. She was absolutely delighted for him, you could tell but at the same time she was anxious about his dehydration.

It was nice to see fellow passengers in the train congratulate and offer him a place to sit and relax. Such was the beautiful spirit of the London Marathon!

Princess boot-camps – Shallow or not?

‘Princess boot – camps’ or ‘royal boot – camps for aspiring princesses’ , it baffles me, the level to which society can stoop to in the run up to the royal wedding.

On the royal wedding desk at ITV these days, I am excited about working on such an event with a mass global appeal but at the same time overwhelmed with all the frenzy. Great for British tourism, but its unbelievable the extent to how property giants, chinaware, retail, hotel industries and now summer camps have cashed in on the event.  I work in media and It would be hypocritical to say I’ve not been a part of it, but yes we have exhausted every possible angle on the story and will possibly continue to do so until the big day arrives

To make matters worse while watching the news this evening, I stumble on this story on ‘Bootcamp for wannabe princesses’. At the camp little girls are taught how to curtsy infront of a fake queen, stir their tea and eat without leaving crumbs on their face. Seriously, parents is this all you aspire for your daughters. Its sad enough little girls or women are at the receiving end of many stereotypes that have been thrust upon them over the years. And the latest being ‘how to be a royal’ or ‘bootcamp for wannabe princesses’ just reduces the level of ambition and aspirations for a future society. Whatever happened to the noble professions such as teaching, medicine, finance  architecture, science, technology, or sport.

I learned a lot about interest from overseas countries in my Royal Walking tour earlier, particularly, America, Japan and Canada. Now I also hear american summer camps introducing a session on becoming a princess. Moreover, for a three week long session, the cost is $4000. Agreed, the emphasis would be on teaching them manners and how to carry themselves in society, but wouldn’t you rather invest that money in developing an extra curricular skill such as painting, or music or art. Instead of just learning how to be a princess and wait for prince charming to ride you off to a castle on a horse someday…oh how I wish , NOT!

Learning the royal wedding trail

Little did I know , when I went into work today I would be on the team for the recce of the royal wedding route. So the ITN team set out on a walking tour this afternoon which started out at Buckingham Palace and ended at Westminister Abbey. Two weeks back, I was on a walking tour of a different kind, more to understand prominent spots of significance, also frequented by the royal family

Unlike my earlier royal walking tour last month, this one was to identify key areas where cameras are stationed, the ITV studios, local and international media to get a tangible idea in the course of our planning, ahead of the big day.

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We were lucky to have Jim Cathcart, who has been with ITN for about thirty years, and he took us through the tour.Having covered some of the biggest events in the royal family, don’t think anyone could do better to fill his shoes. He seemed to know it all having covered Prince Charles and Diana’s wedding, Princess Diana’s death, The Queen mother’s 100th birthday, Prince Edward’s  wedding to Sophie Rhys Jones and more.

He informed us of approx 85 ITV cameras that will be strategically fitted on poles and different points along the way to  follow through with the procession on the day. And this is only ITV, can’t imagine how many more it will be together with foreign media. This will include a bit of access to a few of the BBC cameras and will ensure coverage of  every little detail from Prince William leaving Clarence House to when the newly wed’s kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Areas around the Buckingham Palace have been given names of commonwealth countries such as Canada Gate, South Africa gate and so forth

I was delighted to know I would be stationed outside Westminister Abbey, and would be responsible for getting hold  of some of the key 1900 guests. Getting involved in an event of such a calibre, makes you feel like its that of your own and you just can’t afford to screw up. Exciting and a bit daunting at the same time, but definitely something to look forward to.

The logistics still seem quite hazy, but hopeful to get some clarity closer to the dates. In the meanwhile, there’s a lot more work to do.

Royal Wedding fever grips London

If you live in London, its hard to be oblivious to the festivities and street parties ahead of the Royal wedding. That’s what the average person on the tube or in the bus is talking about or atleast aware of. And if you are a tourist, that’s why you are here at this time of the year, and suddenly Westminster Abbey has moved up on your list of things to do in London.

The streets are thronging with souvenirs, tea towels, and chinaware of Prince William and Kate Middleton. With less than a month to go, the countdown has begun. The shops are filled with funny celebration hats. The metro newspapers run the latest update on the big event and has exhausted every angle on the story right from, who finished their stag party to, what the transport is going to be on the day.

For me personally, I’ve never been such a keen follower of the Royal family, until a month ago where I started working on Royal Wedding news at Feature Story News. Now at ITV, and that’s all I eat, sleep and think about being on the Royal Wedding news team. Apart from just the family, today I was trying to track down celebrity attendees and guests at the wedding so that we can sort logistics for the big day. I saw maps of the big event going around at work. Why can’t Buckingham Palace press office,  just release the list of attendees? Speaking to the Commonwealth Secretariat was  certainly of no use and when it comes to things like this, Buckingham Palace press office is always tight lipped. I don’t blame them .

Well but knowing the profession we are in, we just don’t give up. Thankfully, the internet with all its wedding update phone applications, online news and timely royal RSS feeds, its hard to miss what’s happening. Using all the resources at hand, after relentless calling , I managed to nail a famous  personality for an interview, who is also a friend of Prince William

So I’m keeping my fingers crossed on that.

First day at ITV

I wonder how many find themselves in a situation like me,  where you annoy a receptionist at a TV agency to get through to the main editor and hope against hope never to see them again. What happens three months later, you get a broadcast internship at the same company.

Such was my experience this morning. I was at the ITV building to start my first day of a TV broadcast internship. And as luck would have it, it was the same receptionist who turned me away last time I went by to drop my music documentary. She said I looked familiar and I said it  must have been someone else.

Anyways, the Assistant News Editor on the Royal Wedding team was there to see me. I was taken in on a short tour around ITV, shown the pantry and the news desks. NBC was working alongside and in the middle was a team working on the  London Tonight show. The feeling of being in a real newsroom atmosphere was surreal. I loved seeing TV screens all around me, it was busy, noisy, chaotic, just what I had always imagined a newsroom to be. Everyone was busy, or atleast seemed it. There wasn’t much time for chit chat and I was immediately given my desk space.

I was assigned to the Royal wedding team. There’s quite a few of us working on this beat, and yet so many aspects of it still remain unfinished. The logistics are intense. I wouldn’t have imagined, the planning and preparation that goes into events like these, until I worked alongside the team and looked like they had been doing it longer.

I was mainly handling production and research on European and Arab royals, Ministers and foreign dignitaries. I thought by the time it is the wedding, not only will I have adequate knowledge of the Royal family in England, but also from all over the world.

It was very different from what I experienced at Feature Story News. I was learning a lot, but I also missed following other news on Libya and Japan. I missed my colleagues at FSN and I was pretty much restricted to my desk. At Feature story News, I loved getting out and doing the occasional interview or go filming around London. Guess that’s what comes with being associated with a bigger TV production company, the roles are defined and there’s less flexibility with what you do.

Anyways its too early to say, it was only my first day !