Yesterdays news is a documentary of tomorrow
Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford recalls some experiences with the BBC.
I am trying to write this column in a way that doesn’t make me look either big-headed, or falsely modest. I shall probably fail but, if I do, please at least give me credit for trying. Anyway, I do promise that this will be – cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die – the very last time I mention ‘Songs of Praise’ etcetera.
It all seems so very, very long ago now. When the closing credits ran over the January 2nd edition of S. O. P. (as we insiders call it) and the final shot of Beverley Minster faded out it was as if a whole stage of my life was finally over.
That may sound melodramatic but don’t forget that, back in May 2010, we had massive excitement because BBC1 was rolling up with two different production crews to film Songs of Praise and Antiques Roadshow over a single week. This activity was the culmination of many months of planning, dozens of texts and phone calls, visits, discussions and long hours on site. This was a pioneering cooperative effort for the BBC and fairly big news in the broadcasting world: we had BBC news crews filming BBC programme-makers as they filmed while another film crew took more film of the production for subsequent transmission in Europe. Exciting times, if somewhat crowded on occasion.
The end result, as far as we were concerned, would be two editions of each programme but, four months later, the BBC had only broadcast the Antiques Roadshows and a single Songs of Praise. Until the second one was shown there was a sense of unfinished business. However, that one has now been transmitted…….. and it’s all over.
A strange, empty feeling. Nothing more to look forward to – all those hours and hours of recording and interviews cut down into two programmes lasting about 90 minutes in total. Less than two per cent of all the material on which dozens of people worked so hard has finally made it to the screen. As far as most of the world is concerned the rest just never happened. Shots, scenes, plans, interviews, even entire themes now exist merely in the memories of those who took part and will never be seen.
I’ve got virtually no complaints about the editorial decisions made – the whole process has produced four marvellous advertisements for both the Minster and Beverley and we’ll wait to see if that translates into greater tourist numbers when the new season starts. However, on a personal level I would have liked to see more shots of our own choir and rather less time given to the four members of Blake who were featured twice with legs akimbo, yelling loudly and producing some rather dodgy vibratos.
And I wasn’t in a single shot – not that I care of course.
Why should I? After all, I’m now on a BBC website near your computer because the BBC was in town again before Christmas, this time with just a bus rather than a fleet of transporters. This was part of their Video Nation project which aims to build a (rather selective) archive of recordings about life in Britain today and in the past.
Beverley was one of the first places visited and as a result of a lot of work by volunteers there are now two short films about the town available online at http://www.bbc.co.uk/videonation/videos/index.shtml (go down the index to 22nd December for both items).
‘Bus to Beverley’, covers the history of EYMS’ buses, focusing on their uniquely-profiled roofs that allowed them to pass through North Bar – provided they were driven properly – with some anecdotes about what might go wrong with an over-enthusiastic driver at the wheel.
‘Historic Beverley’ has me as a presenter using my own words (although not necessarily in the order I said them). Don’t worry, most of the time my face is out of shot and my hands are stuffed firmly in my pockets instead of waving around like normal. This isn’t because waving hands are distracting on camera, it’s because it was bitterly cold when we filmed. People have told me the film looks quite good and is very interesting.
So far I haven’t heard from the BBC or Steven Spielberg about any future filming work so I’m back polishing the brasses and annoying ancient spiders. Now I know what George Lazenby must have felt like after ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’.
First published January 2011