26 October 2009

Come what Mayo

We had Octoberfest here in Hull for three days last week, with BBC Radio 5 Live presenting most of their programmes from locations within the city.

An enormous inflatable igloo represented the off-air face of the network in Queen Victoria Square, in the shadow of the BBC-sponsored big screen. With my friend Andy, I attended the two Simon Mayo broadcasts that took place - Thursday was at the Ferens Art Gallery (a building I last entered in 1981) and Friday was at the Vue Cinema (a building I'd only attended in its previous life as the catering section of the Princes Quay Shopping Centre).

Hell, I even got on air. John Prescott was the first guest on the Thursday and I put a question to him about the lazy, inaccurate image Hull owns nationally as a cesspit of doom and dirt (I put it in a more flowery manner than this). I was informed afterwards that my mug was on the big screen outside as a consequence of putting this question. Sorry about that.

I blogged recently about how much I dislike John Prescott. Well, I still do but my attitude to him did soften a touch. He spoke his mind and also talked with great passion about the city's excellent history. You could tell that a) he was retiring from politics next summer; and b) he cared about the city that he has represented a chunk of since 1970.

In the audience, we settled into our seats and then one of the many production assistants asked in advance if anyone would like to put a question to the Hull East MP. I offered my question among about ten others and then had a large yellow BBC News boom mic put in front of me when Simon chose my question, putting me on 5 Live for only the second time (the first was an episode of 6-0-6 after Hull City had won 3-0 at Stoke in 2006, though Alan Green evidently wasn't interested and quickly got rid of me).

After 2pm, the fantastic John Godber took a seat and brought the house down with a smart, witty, intelligent interview where he never once took himself too seriously despite being the most culturally important Hull person of modern times. His alleged love of German expressionism took the programme off on a tangent which Simon dealt with in good humour, not least because the emails flooded in from academics on the subject.

The last hour dragged a bit as it was the book review slot and there wasn't a lot a watching audience could take from the experience that a listening audience in homes and cars around the country couldn't, though when the face of Kate Moss (not that one) dropped upon one local reviewer declaring she didn't like her book (albeit merely "not as much as the other one we've just reviewed") was a moment of theatre. She'd travelled all the way from the south of France for this. I took an irrational dislike to her the moment she spoke, as he first words were that she'd never needed to come to Hull before...

The next day's programme was the big event for me, and indeed we had a full house in Screen Ten at the Vue, as Mark Kermode and his movie reviews were due. This hour of radio has been the best bit of speech broadcasting anywhere on the dial for many years now, and we weren't to be disappointed. The watching experience was made worth it initially for the sports panel but then especially for Nitan Sawhney's exquisite guitar playing and the impromptu singalong of Another Brick In The Wall as a quick request slot was introduced to get to the news. Simon's head was seen disappearing into his hands as the singing from Screen Ten, conducted by the quiffed one, rang out to the nation.

It was notable in the hallowed final hour that every person who put a point or question to Simon and Mark about a film under discussion was not local. A couple had come from the London Film Festival, and from memory there were people from Bristol, Nuneaton and Pontefract also offering their opinions. The discovery that one audience member used to be a drinks lackey on Simon's Radio 1 breakfast show led to an industrial-sized order for cappuccinos, lattes and espressos, while the buckets of popcorn on the broadcast tables were handed out to the audience.

It was a great viewing experience which, according to people I saw afterwards, also came across via the medium wave as a great listening experience too. It's on the iPlayer for a few more days and the podcasts of Godber and Sawhney are there too, plus the film reviews - go find them.

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