Royal Wedding ‘ the day it was’

There’s not many moments in your life you can look back and say ‘wow’ it was well worth it. I’m still recovering from my aching feet, early morning hours and running around from the last week and the final day. 

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Exactly a month ago, when I went to work on the ITN news desk for the royal wedding, little did I know what I would be doing and where. After a month of editorial research, relentless interview chasing and production work of the British royal family and everyone linked to them, I was given the responsibility of being Producer at Westminster Abbey with Presenter and royal correspondent for ITV news Romilly Weeks.

A lucky spot I’d say close to the BBC and Sky News TV crews,  I realised only the day before, I got a chance to experience views of not only the British, European and foreign royals arrivals but also the newly weds Will and Kate

Obviously, it was a much earlier start to the day than expected, but not as bad as the camera and technical crew. They were there since four O’ clock that morning all set up and raring to go. I got there for seven, picked up my comms unit, some food for the presenter and crew, and was there for seven. Something I learnt in my first week at ITV, to be a good producer get the guest speakers, editorial research in place, and logistics right but to be a great producer, also feed them and find your crew a place to sleep. As Sarah Hill, Foreign News Editor at ITN puts it ‘ The job of a producer is part editorial, part logistics and part baby sitting.’

It  was a cold morning and everyone was freezing, quite unusual especially after experiencing some good weather in the past few days. The live interviews arranged before the service went as per schedule. Our presenter interviewed the grocers frequented by the couple in Bucklebury ‘The Shingadias’ called Hash and Shan Shingadia. This was followed by an interview with Edward Gould, Kate’s former head of Marlborough College who said ‘ she was popular but understated’ while she was studying there. We also had a quick chat with Tom Bradby, ITN political editor, a trusted friend of Prince William, and the lucky one to get an exclusive to the engagement in November last year.

In the meanwhile, I also saw interviews going on with the other TV crews next to me. Apart from the pre scheduled interviews, I thought this was a great chance to poach some of the interviewees that were at BBC or Sky after their interviews. Things you have to succumb to get the job done. I was lucky enough to get hold of Gareth Thomas,  Welsh professional rugby player. Boris Johnson, Mayor of London had to decline as the Abbey were closing doors for their guests to be seated.

After the service we also got a chance to speak with Ian Thorpe, Olympian  swimmer and founder of Fountain for Youth in 2000, Harry Meade, friend of William, Van Straubenzees’, parents of Thomas Van Straubenzee, who is said to have helped Harry with his best man’s speech. Not forgetting to mention Patrick Cordingley and his gorgeous wife, and Ben Fogle, NBC Presenter and friend of William, who declined again. He is also said to be a look a like of William and mistaken by people passer bys on several occasions.

Unlike most who might have caught the event on TV and saw close ups of guest arrivals and their fashionable attire, it was hard for me to glean  from  the point I was at. But I did get a chance to get my own live footage and photographs. And the best of them all, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leaving the Abbey after the church service

It didn’t end there, this was followed by a trip to our studios at Canada Gate, Buckingham Palace to deliver some tapes. I had to battle crowds to actually get there, though i should be the last person complaining .My press pass helped me breeze through the crowds, some of the advantages that comes with the job. Having got there in the nick of time I got a brilliant view of the couple leave Buckingham Palace in the vintage Aston Martin , which I thought was a happy and sweet ending to the whole ceremony.  

Emma Hoskyns, Programme Editor at ITV was in tears when it was over. This was the only thing she was living, breathing and sleeping in the past six months. I can imagine how relieved she was. Steve Nicklin, Unit manager got in the champagne and it was celebration time.


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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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.

Techno triumph at Royal Wedding broadcast

Technology spells no bounds today. I can’t imagine journalism a few years ago, it must have been challenging or required more people to carry out the same job. Today, its almost a one man show, well infact it just is. Journalists are expected to  research, produce, script and deliver and try and ensure you’ve exhausted every possible medium to publish your story.

The reason why I’m on this is because, today I was learning how presenters will be accessing guest profiles of about a 1900 international and local well known figures from their iPad’s. Catering to a television audience of 2 billion is no easy task. A whole system is in place and is put together so that on the click of a button, they have access to a host of European and world royals and foreign dignitaries that arrive on the big day outside Westminister Abbey and Buckingham Palace.

Its easy if you are The Beckhams or Elton John, but god help the presenter and crew if its someone who hasn’t been prominently in the media. Its taken weeks of collating research, images, facts and figures to arrive at this stage. On the day, when the presenters are outside the Abbey and infront of Buckingham Palace, I’m sure it will be every bit worth the effort.

Behind the scenes at ITN

I’ve been a bit under the weather these days, thanks to the so called Influenza. But life goes on at work, sometimes I think the weather has got something to do with the way I feel. There hasn’t been much sunshine, so to say !

When you work in Television, one thing is always be ready for a surprise. Especially when you are a Freelancer, more reason to be challenged by what’s going to be thrown at you in the day. Well today was no different, apart from  a huge learning experience in the ITN studios and control rooms.

Fortunately, I got to attend the Royal wedding rehearsals at the ITN studios in the basement. It was cold and dark, and a million television screens of all sizes infront of me. There were five people in the control room and the publicist of Philip Schofield. He is the presenter of the ITV Morning Show and Dancing on Ice. In the Green Studios were Philip Schofield and Julie Etchingham.

When we watch television, its hard to say , how much actually goes into the programming, planning and production, especially  if it involves broadcasting a live event. Its easier to do pre recorded shows, but live TV, can be demanding. One of my colleagues told me, its not what you do, its the little thing you didn’t do that becomes a problem. Hence, always be prepared.

The producer, was informing the presenter of different cues, possible questions during the broadcast. I always wondered if Presenters are as well informed and  intelligent as they are thought to be , well some maybe but  definitely not all.Everyone in the control room seemed highly strung, and couldn’t afford to lose a second of concentration. We were watching lots of archival footage of the 1981 Royal wedding of Princess Diana to Prince Charles. The Outside Broadcasting camera’s were set up in different areas around ITN, to give a taste of what it would feel like on the actual wedding day.

Before this I was unaware, there were rehearsals to events like these in the first place.

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.