Right Royal Mess
I had another visit from my old chum Mike Ireland last week, who brought along a former BBC Production Designer, Bob Smart. We had all worked together on the BBC Scotland flagship show “Tutti Frutti”: Mike had been the Production Buyer and, being very new in the business, I was his assistant - in an “apprentice” kind of way. These two know the business inside out, and it goes without saying that I learnt a considerable amount about the workings of the Art Department from these two masters!
I am so pleased they turned up, because I was about to enter a fallow period on the blogging front – but, as I knew they would, they brought with them loads of amusing anecdotes.
Mike reminded me of a story that went down in the annals of BBC folk history with a tale from the 70s, as follows:
In 1974, the BBC was the host broadcaster for the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. The BBC Scotland team had been tasked with developing a performance venue which entailed a fantastically large and complicated set. It was proving to be quite a handful, even for the highly-skilled crew that was working on it.
The team had been working night and day for weeks to ensure the set was ready on time: but, to pile on extra pressure, a memo flew in from the “High Heid Yins” at Television Centre in London informing them that an important Royal Personage intended to visit the location to see how things were going, in an interested – but not official – capacity.
The writer of the note indicated that the crew was to be dressed appropriately for being in the presence of Royalty. The crew was not prepared for this and, with very little time left, clothing vouchers were issued tout de suite, and the crew high-tailed it down to Princes Street to hit the top shops thereon.
Oh, how I wish I had been a fly on the wall in their minibus as it returned to location, transporting a team of hard-working, hard-living, rough diamonds, now exquisitely turned out in full dinner dress, bib and tucker!
Once back at the set, they donned their nail bags, grasped their hammers and continued with the set build - all bright and shiny in their new “work” clothes.
The Royal party arrived in the late afternoon, and the crew was lined up ready for the obligatory walk-past and hand-shake routine.
As HRH reached one particularly red-faced and sweaty individual, she shook him by the hand and said, “I can see you have been working very hard on this.” To which he replied, “Aye, too right yer Majesty… ’is joab's been a fooking nightmare – we’re aw shagged oot!” There was a sharp intake of breath.
“I’m terribly sorry to hear that,” she replied and, keeping her cool (but barely hiding her amusement), continued to walk along the line, exchanging further pleasantries with the crew.
Within days, wee Jimmy (as we'll call him to protect his uncouthness) was sent for by the Director General. Fearing the worst, Jimmy made his way to the boss’s office, fully expecting to get his “jotters”. But much to his surprise, instead of his P45, he was handed an envelope containing a cheque for £100, as a token of gratitude from the corporation.
Apparently, a memo had arrived with the DG from The Palace, congratulating all the crew for their skill and dedication, and mentioned “Jimmy” with particular high regard.