A view backstage at Beverley Minster

At Last, the Beverley Minster Show!

Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford reflects on his brush with fame.
I can’t say I was paying attention, you understand, but there was a 1.2 second glimpse of my manly profile and ponytail at 3 minutes and 21 seconds into this Sundays Antiques Roadshow, and a further 1.1 second glimpse a mere 33 seconds later – so I am told.
I can’t say I noticed (he lied).
Of COURSE I was watching intently – eyes unblinking as I scanned for familiar (and even family) faces. Yes, my entire early Sunday evening revolved around watching two BBC programmes filmed earlier in the year at the Minster – and why not? It was two weeks of (highly enjoyable) disruption with very, very long hours during the actual days of production and I wanted to relive those memories.
The anticipated pleasure was somewhat reduced by the need, over the last few weeks, to reprogramme my VCR every time the BBC changed its mind about when it was going to broadcast them. However, eventually, schedules and reality coincided and I settled down for a good, hard stare. 
First impressions – didn’t the Minster look gorgeous during Songs of Praise? The designers installed just a few uplights with coloured gels and they made the space underneath the organ screen and the arches down the nave look absolutely vibrant. We’re currently thinking about changing our 40 year old lighting system (which was designed when bright, white floodlighting was all the rage) and I hope some ideas from Sundays programme have been absorbed.
It was fun scanning the congregation for familiar faces and, no, I didn’t know most of those you can see onscreen, but that’s not surprising. Many of those who attended were there by invitation from the BBC or the Minster – members of other churches and, equally importantly, local choirs. Don’t forget, it’s “Songs” of Praise and would be a pretty poor programme if no one could sing.
And I wasn’t in it – not one solitary shot. Not that I mind, you understand – but please excuse me if I just have a quiet few moments to myself……..
Anyway, the Antiques Roadshow was better, with those two brief shots of me in the background – oh, and it featured a few thousand other people as well. I had a quick smirk when Fiona announced that the Antiques Roadshow team had worked hard to get the Minster ready after Songs of Praise had finished. A time-lapse camera showed the congregation leaving and then stalls being erected for the experts but what it didn’t show was Virger John and me single-handedly (all right, double-handedly) shifting all 600 chairs out of the nave to leave a nice empty space for them. All their team had to do was carry a few silly old tables in once we’d done it – easy.
And my day was spoiled when a silly expert refused to say my family heirloom was a valuable antique. £10 – £15 tops! Man’s a fool.
Sorry, don’t mean to sound grumpy because I actually loved it all. I thought the two programmes were magnificent advertisements both for the Minster and for Beverley itself. The individuals and crews involved couldn’t have been any nicer to work with and we virgers have some fantastic memories to take with us into our (imminent) dotage.
We were also made aware that, for every minute of programme that was broadcast the editor had one hour of film in the can and so, inevitably, a huge volume of good stuff was going to be left out. So no surprise that some of the things we helped set up were missing.
However, we know that there is going to be a second Songs of Praise from the Minster because they recorded two episodes in the one visit – the next one is scheduled to appear in January (but don’t set your video recorders just yet, Minster-fans). So the shots of Aled Jones in our treadwheel may yet see the light of day.
The producers of Antiques Roadshow also say there might be enough good material for a second programme from their visit. If that’s so then I may yet have the chance to tell you how I became a stunt double for Fiona Bruce.
Unless, of course, the BBC wishes to give me a (very lucrative) contract to keep quiet. In which case I shall produce any future blogs under my new title of ‘The Stig of Beverley Minster’.
First published September 2010 


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