I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I’d never given much thought to what goes on behind the scenes at the filming of a Comic Relief report on telly or radio. I guess I just assumed that they wheel on the presenter who does their piece and then that’s that. Luckily for me I had the chance to experience what it’s like when we were in Ghana with Comic Relief a few days ago, being behind the scenes, witnessing the hard work of presenters, crew and the team that co-ordinates them all, we spent time with Jonathon, Davina and Jane Garvey, presenter and Angela Robson, a producer on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
Many people have been asking me what Jonathon and Davina are like and I have to answer – bloody lovely. On arrival at Accra, Jonathon helped me with my heavy bag, I’d like to think it was because he was instantly smitten with me but the reality was that I appeared to be the only one without a wheeled case and looked rather pale and pathetic. I found the whole experience really enlightening and took some photo’s of them working so thought that I’d share in case others are interested too…
The first day in Accra we spent with Davina at projects and travelling in the minibus. En route to the first project to visit of the day, the Virtuous Women’s Bakery, Davina told us of how much she was looking forward to meeting this group of women who had come together to help and support each other, her passion for women uniting in this way was undeniably strong. She also shared experiences from previous trips elsewhere with Comic Relief which was fascinating. Totally open and friendly we discussed all sorts from her idea for a TV series (which by the way is genius) to motherhood, homeopathy and how we all met our husbands and partners – she even shared one of her birth photos from her mobile, honestly such a lovely and fun lady to be around. I’m not she realised just how much she put us at ease before visiting the project as it was a totally new experience so far from our everyday lives as we could get!
Once at the bakery she got stuck in straight away talking to people, bouncing up and down at the children singing and getting involved. One of the first things we’d checkd with her was whether she was happy for us to include her in photographs and if she’d like to approve them for use. Her response? go for it, take photos of whatever you like, use what you like. And so we did…
That afternoon we visited a school on the edge of a slum. We witnessed the effects of e-waste, old computers, fridges and so on that get legally and illegally dumped there. Plumes of toxic black smoke billowing from across the polluted lagoon as men burn computer cables in order to get to the precious metal to sell. Small children walking barefoot in a place where we had been told to wear sturdy shoes and no open-toed footwear and just so much waste. The school is a testament to the women, Pauline who started it up in a wooden hut with 12 children – with the help of Comic Relief it’s now a block building for 250 pupils, not only teaching but also feeding them.
A small boy instantly ran to Davina and holding her hand she led us into the school to be greeted by singing and a crowd of very excited children. Upstairs in the school Davina filmed a piece from a classroom whilst we spoke to Pauline.
The morning of Day Two was spent at a vaccine clinic with Jonathon and Davina who were recording live for both television and radio. We arrived on site about 9am, it was 93 degrees and very humid and the high walls of the library where the clinic was being held seemed to make it feel even hotter. A small room with a fan in for us all to use gave momentary relief from the heat, sitting briefly for a drink of water in this room with Jonathon we asked him what time he had arrived that morning, he said 6.30am. The recording schedule was arduous but both Jonathon and Davina remained passionately ethusastic and chatty.
BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour was also at the vaccine clinic recording live. We spent time with Jane Garvey at the airport talking, sadly I fear she was witness to our over-tired cola fuelled caffiene-ridden banter. Angela Robson was also there and I believe she was travelling north to continue work afterwards. Both very warm, professional and friendly ladies.
It feels very surreal to have been sat chatting to people I have ever only seen on TV in such an unfamiliar environment and it’s not something I’ll forget in a hurry!