My time working behind the scenes at the world most famous music season
The Proms, a staple of british culture has been celebrated for over a century offering the best orchestra performances that gathers crowds from all over the world, and this year there’s a difference, to make it even more special they got…me!
To my excitement I would be working at the Proms one of the most majestic musical seasons in the world with a placement at BBC Music Television. My media background was primarily radio so this seemed a great opportunity to explore a different branch of media I had a growing interest in. My Placement started at BBC Wogan House in the heart of London, it was exciting to walk down from Oxford circus station to the BBC. For someone just starting in the industry its the dream place to be.
I am greeted by the head runners of this years Proms who take me to the BBC Music television floor. The office is surrounded with festival posters, awards and most impressively the BBC Cows from Glastonbury. At long last I received my BBC Pass (Yes its temporary, but I like to think over that). I was given sufficient training on handling and setting up equipment and soon went around introducing myself to the BBC music tv staff, I hope I impressed them with a nice cuppa.
Working at the BBC, even being in the canteen (I had a pumpkin Pie), it was a thrilling experience being in the centre of the media hub. I soon got acquainted with everyone from BBC Music Television, People kept asking me if I had any relation to Kirsty Allsopp to which I replied yes but we’re not on speaking terms since she got a bit lippy at our interior design choices last christmas (no relation, im sure she’s nice).
The next day I arrived to work at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall, a landmark venue known across the world. Im no stranger to the hall I have seen many shows here but now im backstage. Its rehearsal day before the first night of the Proms, I arrive at the stage door with countless musicians passing by, hauling trombones, violins and a giant double bass. Upon receiving my Proms pass I entered backstage, the hall is surrounded by portraits of its rich history, i’ve never worked anywhere that’s just so grand. I’m met by the head runner James who shows me where the BBC Music Televison are stationed backstage, where we kept equipment and acts like a small office. The day starts with a team meeting where the day is outlined. Outside we have the production trucks where most staff were placed editing and transmitting the broadcast, its amazing seeing a studio compacted into a truck, there were screens all across the walls and a strict camera sheet detailing which camera they cut to at different segments of the performance. I was amazed at all the planning that had gone on, every camera shot rehearsed to the exact duration of the performance.
As the job title suggests im running around ensuring everyone is up to date with the days schedule, running times and event info. I was given a head set to easily communicate with all my colleauges around the hall. The Albert Hall is like a Tardis, running from one point to another can prepare you for a marathon. The canteen is in the basement floor next to the boiler room which is appropriate because the basement floor is boiling.
The rehearsal day was a great first experience, on my breaks I was allowed to watch the orchestra rehearse, it was a fantastic experience sitting in the empty hall watching a giant ensemble practice their performance, it was a privilege to watch. The following day was the first night which made the days duties more important especially when you see people queuing early in the morning. I was quick to take down yesterdays information sheets that I had stuck everywhere and replaced them with the day’s news schedule.
The start of the day I met the Presenter Katie Derham, who was very friendly and put me at ease. I wanted to tell her how great I thought she was on strictly but I decided to stay professional and offered to get her a drink (she had a latte). I was a stand in for an interview during a camera test, I was even hooked up with a mic (how important I felt) and despite it not being broadcast im glad to have shared screen time with Katie to an audience of below 10!
The first night was a blast. near to stage time the orchestra were all suited and waiting by the stage entrance, I was running equipment around the Hall and even when I was outside I could hear the thunderous applause. The crew were incredibly concentrated on the broadcast, I stood in the production truck, on stand by and saw the transmission process right in front me .
My next day is scheduled at the BBC with numerous jobs, preparing all the correct music sheets to the correct day, a job which I double checked and checked again, I knew if they played Scott walker tune at the Beethoven prom then the blame would surely be on me. I also prepared equipment at the Beeb ready to be delivered to the Hall, given me the opportunity to go inside broadcasting house past the most famous news room in the world.
Being in Wogan House was exciting especially knowing that my favourite stations are just a few floors above me, its overwhelming. I heard Radio 2 play “Once in a lifetime” by the Talking Heads as I walked by their studios and it felt relevent. Whenever I finished a task I would approach my colleagues and promptly asked what else I can do, I knew my time there was limited so I made an effort to do as much as possible, learn as much as possible and enjoy myself.
I spend a day at the Hall filming for Proms extra, this was an exciting venture around the Hall. I’m thankful I spent a number of summers as a labourer because their filming equipment is heavy. Our Proms extra episode was focused on documenting the behind the scenes of Jess Gillam, the first saxophonist to be a finalist of BBC young musician of the year and this was to be her first Proms performance. I was amazed how long it takes to film a 5 minute video package, we had to film her walking up the steps towards the hall defiantly over 10 times and in multiple shots, filming is long and tiring but it was all worth it when I saw the finished result. We followed her from her arrival, rehearsal to just before she headed on stage, it was one of the biggest days of her life, we did a great job documenting it, I wanted to join her for a bow but knew id probably get in trouble for it so I didn’t.
We also filmed Katie Derhams introduction to the John Williams Prom, I was a gaffer for this shot, my first time but I think I pulled it off (I didn’t drop it). The team were very helpful teaching me about equipment and shooting techniques, every time we’re not filming they showed me how the equipment operates and gave me the chance to use it on a shoot.
Near the end of my placement I realised how momentous the Proms is and how important it was to people. I had only before seen on tv the craziness of the last night of the Proms and assumed it was a sort of Middle Class Rave. After a few days I saw swarms of people outside of all ages queuing eagerly for tickets, from all over the world they all came for the Proms. I chatted to a man in the queue who along with 40 others hired a coach from Yorkshire just to try to get tickets for the weekend Proms, they had been doing it for years and they kept growing in numbers. It’s a chance for people of all backgrounds to connect because of the music. As I tip toed quietly at the top of the gallery to get to the lighting I saw people standing, sitting, some looking away, laying down on blankets they had brought, some were reading books, some were drawing but all immersed in the music, since then i’ve been playing BBC Radio 3 more enjoying a music genre I had once ignored.
The final day was Bittersweet, this was my first runner job and what a good one. I really enjoyed working behind the scenes helping bring the Proms to life. I would be lying if I said I wasnt nervous starting the placement, the BBC is a highly regarded corporation I have always desired to work for. Luckily the team were immensely helpful and wanted me to experience all I could throughout the placement. I was so thankful I bought them a bottle of prosecco to show my gratitude.
I am glad I was able to get an insight in the industry and thankful the BBC offer opportunities such as work experience and apprenticeships giving people like me a chance to gain experience in the industry we’re striving to work in.