Yesterday I was in the studio audience for a Spotlight Special show.
Spotlight is a topical current affairs programme that covers a wide variety of topics, usually it’s very interesting. Occasionally they do a ‘special’ where a small studio audience get to ask questions to a panel of politicians and public figures.
Last week I was interviewed by a BBC researcher who asked about my political views and made up a profile of me based on my job and standing in life. They told me they were looking for a wide spectrum of people so the questions thrown at the panel would be balanced. The researchers seemed to be particularly interested in the fact we home educate our children and I felt a lot of the interview was based around questions about that.
The day after my interview I received the show tickets in the mail plus a sheet where I could write down any potential questions I may have. At this stage it was not known to me the topics that would be covered on the program, some of it could be based on news events. I was told to watch the news that weekend and just show up!
On arrival at 6:30pm, which is three hours and ten minutes before the show is aired, everyone was taken into a lounge area. In that area you were given a list of who was on the panel and a short biography about each person. Everyone was also given a pamphlet outlining a few current news stories as possible points of discussion.
The panel of experts were:
Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, he’s a Sinn Féin MLA,
Emma Little-Pengelly, she is a DUP MP,
Fergus O’Dowd is Fine Gael TD,
Professor Monica McWillimas, former politician and Human Rights Commissioner,
Dr Graham Gudgin, an economist.
As you can see the panel covered a broad spectrum of political views, with some being neutral to Northern Ireland Issues.
About half an hour before filming we were directed into the studio, while we were seated you could see lots of workers busying about doing sound, lights and camera angles. The massive lights you can see at the top of the photograph literally burned on my cheeks, the heat generated from them was tremendous. I could feel cold air blowing in from behind me which was to compensate for the heat of the lighting.
After a short while a few people had been chosen to initiate questions so they were given individual microphones which clipped onto their clothes. The rest of the audiences were served by a number of sound men dressed in black who had microphones on long poles to reach whoever was speaking. For each bunch of people there was two sound guys, after a little while I just forgot they were there.
There was a large camera boom which swept back and forth, you can see it on the right hand side of the photograph above.
Just prior to the show we had an audience warm up, which was a bit of a practice run where they asked questions like what we had thought about privacy on face book and the current issues in the news regarding it. The warm up was fun, obviously. They also gave us our instructions regarding applause, we had to do a super long applause at the start and the end of the show.
Then the panel came out, got their make up done and they had a little warm up too, they discussed their modes of transport to arrive at the studios. Professor McWilliams quipped that her son had “nicked her car” and that made everyone laugh.
Look over to the left of the photograph and you can see one set of camera crew, all dressed in black. On the right there was the same. The sound guys were out of shot in this photograph but they walked up and down the steps among the audience. In that photograph I am over on the left hand side, forth row up, second in, next to the guy in the blue shirt.
The programme was very straightforward, we were counted down to applause and the music started, literally as you see it on TV. Then the questions and answers started, the audience one by one were putting their hands up and plenty got opportunity to ask the panel things based on their answers. There was a variety topics covered which included the poisoning of the Russians, president Trump possibly visiting, The fact that we have no Government in Northern Ireland also was discussed the abuse news stories which are current and if the Pope should react when he comes to visit Ireland. Things got a bit heated at one stage, I thought for sure that it would be cut out but surprisingly it wasn’t. The show aired about an hour after we had finished filming, that was pretty fast, the public were able to text in comments about the show and some things popped up on the screen.
When the show was wound up we were all thanked and had to wait for a few minutes while the exits were cleared and everyone left group by group.
That was pretty much my evening, the whole process took three hours, we were finished by 9:30pm and the show aired at 10:40pm. I would happily do it again, and it was a cheap night out.