Date night at Broadcasting House

I’ve always been a fan of spoken word radio. News casts, discussion shows, A Prairie Home Companion, you name it, I listened to it on NPR in the States. I could never get into the shouty AM talk radio stuff; I like the voices from my radio to be more urbane. More soothing. More likely to stoke my interest in a subject than to inflame my ire on an opinion. Call me elitist because many of those talk radio people would.

When I moved here to the UK, I absolutely fell in love with Radio 4. Not only did they have news, current affairs programs, and discussion panels, but they had plays and book readings. Maybe they didn’t have anything that really translated to This American Life or Car Talk, but I loved it. Plus, they said things in some of my favourite accents.

I tend to be a bit of a hard core radio listener. When I play video games, I always have the radio going. So when I cleared out the Super-Duper Mart the first time in Fallout 3, I was listening to A Good Read on Radio 4. It’s always fun to re-do a level a level a few months later and remember what you were listening to when you did it the last time (“The last time I smashed this drow’s head in, I was listening to that reading of Wide Sargasso Sea. I’ve been meaning to get that out of the library”).

So, about a month ago I happened to stumble upon the website where you can apply for tickets to BBC radio and television shows. Most of the ones for telly were booked up, as well as many of the radio shows. But there were tickets for Quote…Unquote available, and I applied and got them. Mr Moggs seemed a bit less than thrilled, but it was a cheap night out, so he agreed.

On the day of the broadcast, we went to Broadcasting House early, and they told us to come back in about 45 minutes to line up. After a couple of coffees, we returned and there were already three people in line, all reading and leaning against the white building. Oh, and they were all about 110 years old. In fact, for much of the wait in queue, we were the youngest people there by about 30 years. I do think a group of teenagers showed up just before they let us into the building, but yeah, it was mostly old people. And the old women seemed to be all wearing copious amounts of Chanel no 5, all purchased in 1959. I had a headache within 10 minutes of getting in the queue.

So, about an hour and a half before the show, they let us in and made us go through airport style security. Totally serious. The only difference was they didn’t ask for our shoes or make us go through the equipment that did the naked scans. Other than that, it was totally like the airport. We then went to a little green room like area that was soon stuffed full of old people and radio geeks. They offered us expensive drinks and snacks, which Mr Moggs and I declined, being cheap and not totally insane. Someone passed out, but then recovered. We were let into the auditorium.

Basically, we sat in this theatre-like auditorium with a lot of mics hanging from the ceiling. The panel eventually came in and sat at a table on a dais. The only “famous” person was that jerk Toby Young. It seemed I wasn’t alone in my dislike of Mr Young, as when he was being introduced, someone called him a tw** (censored for my American readers) pretty loudly. One can only hope a mic picked it up. They taped two shows in which one guy was very funny, one woman and another guy were reasonably funny, and Toby Young was a tit. It seems that some of the stories they use on this program are a bit pre-written. I am not sure if the questions are revealed, but Nigel Rees (the presenter) seemed to coach one of the guests on his answer in a way that made it appear that he knew what the guest was going to say.

The audience members also seemed to indicate that they were regulars at the recordings of this particular show. I suppose it’s good, honest, clean fun.

Once it was over, we had a cheap night out, which was over early enough on a work night. It also made me realise that we aren’t radio geeks. We came to know a bit about radio geekdom that evening, and we don’t even come close.


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June 2010
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