Over the years, I’ve worked on dozens of TV programmes – news, documentaries and live events. Inevitably some are more memorable than others and I thought I’d share some of my favourites with you.
1. Glass Houses
This is special because it was the first documentary I worked on. It was presented by the architect Maxwell Hutchinson and was an investigation into the safety of glass buildings, following some unexplained breakages in glass roofs and walls of such high profile buildings as the Stratford Tube Station and the Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo Station. I’m extremely proud of the investigations and research that I did for the programme. I discovered the cause was an incurable fault in the type of glass used in these buildings, which could occur at any time. I’m hoping that glass technology has now moved on.
2. The Ashes Cricket Parade
Well, there might be another one of these coming up in the New Year, but who can forget the last one, with Freddie Flintoff and co. emerging from the Mansion House, still rather the worse for wear, and being borne through the streets to Trafalgar Square? I was ‘in a truck’ at Trafalgar Square, working on interviews with members of the crowds who had turned up to see their cricketing heroes. And it was just a fantastic happy atmosphere. The fun went on long after our programme went off air, so we all stayed on to enjoy ourselves, and managed to get on the bus where the players and their wives were. I vividly remember texting my brother – a big cricket fan – to gloat and his unprintable response.
3. Remembrance Sunday
Always always special, this is one programme that really means something important. For me working on the Remembrance Sunday programme from the Cenotaph has been a true privilege. The programme is a chance to pay tribute to people who had gone through experiences most of us can only imagine and it is always extremely humbling. I’ve interviewed dozens of those who have taken part in the marchpast, putting questions to them which even their closest relatives probably would never have dared ask. Their modesty, their kindness their care for their fallen comrades has been a true inspiration.
4. Britain at War
I am a very big history buff, and, having missed out on working on the 60th anniversary of D Day programmes in France – because I was in the office working on Trooping the Colour, which happened the following Saturday – I was determined to be involved in this. The BBC broadcast a weeklong lunchtime series, broadcast from a ‘living museum’ in St James’ Park, plus a whole day on Sunday 10 July (the date chosen as midway between VE and VJ Day). It was a memorable week. On the Saturday before came Live8, which I also worked on, then London won the Olympic Games and then there was the terrible reality check of the 7/7 bombings. Of course our programme was quickly ditched so we spent the day compressing two programmes into one, unable to leave the site because of security concerns. Then came Sunday. Somehow everyone was determined to prove that the Blitz spirit was alive and well, and I’ll never forget the site of thousands upon thousands of people surging down the Mall behind the Household Division to Buckingham Palace where the Royal Family were on the balcony for the flypast, which dropped thousands of poppies.
5. Slave Trade Abolition Service
This 2007 programme commemorated the law passed in Britain which abolished the trade in slaves in 1807, leading to the eventual abolition of slavery entirely in 1833. Among the numerous events and programmes commemorating this, was a service at Westminster Abbey attended by the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the entire cabinet and the great and good, not just of the UK but also the wider world. The event was a controversial one because there were a lot of demands at the time for the government to issue an official apology for slavery, and many felt this type of service was not the right way to commemorate the abolition of the slave trade. The reason this is special is probably because it was a true challenge to produce a programme which satisfied the demands of a state event while balancing the controversies that surrounded it. Every single thing we did was scrutinised and we agonised over every single word we wrote in our script. I had a great team: my assistant producer, Anja Schafenorth, my presenter, the fantastic George Alagiah, and our reporter, the playwright Kwame Kwei Armah, with whom I went on a memorable filming trip to Ghana where slaves had left for their journey into servitude across the Atlantic. Together, I think we pulled it off.