In Part Two of my Blog post, animals, children, weather and our utterly rubbish sandbags
Clare Interviewing Alex from Chatham Historic Dockyard
Herules - image courtesy of Hirst Green Shirehorses
Last month I presented live on stage, all day for BBC Kent's World War One at Home Event where I conducted an entire day's worth of interviews, invitations to reflect, panel discussions and introductions to films. It was kind of like presenting a radio programme all day, with the added complication of being on a stage, in front of people, in a tent..
In my last post I explored these areas: 1. Hold the day together so that there was always something happening on stage 2. Conduct interesting and relevant interviews with each of the guests, to time 3. Create just the right atmosphere and mood which was a combination of reflection, learning and yes, an element of enjoyment as well.
Today, we look at 4. Work with animals and children 5. Work around the weather
4. Work with animals and children Firstly, I knew in advance there would be animals.. I was able to check the size that Airedale Terriers are in general (fairly big) and I knew they were curious - simply because I was interviewing their handler about the role they played in WW1. The story was of Jim the Airedale, he lived on the Kent Coast and was found to be acting strangely one evening, barking and looking out to sea. Not long after this was noticed, a Zeppelin was sighted. Jim became known as the early warning system for Zeppelins. His superb hearing became a key asset in letting people know a Zeppelin attack could happen. My job here was to bring that story to life 100 years on.
The dog's handler was very knowledgeable about the characteristics of the breed, the story of Jim and great at keeping the dogs calm (and their paws off my v practical white dress!). The dogs made about 3 appearances on the stage that day and each time they were fine, if not excitable.
The shire horse was not quite so keen to play along. It had been the plan that we would move off the stage to go and speak to Hercules' owners whilst admiring him and describing him, with the horse just next to us. However, one ton of horse and the crowds on the day were not a great combination so we decided to change our plans and speak to the owners whilst he was in his pen across the other side of the event! Above all, it is safety that matters at a live event. Both of the public, events team and the staff. We were able to describe Hercules, his special ancestry and the role of the War Horses in his family perfectly well with him about 150m away. As a presenter of a live event you know to expect the unexpected and the art is to remain flexible, adapting and shifting as the circumstances change around you. You are the top of the swan on the water!
Presenting a live event such as this requires a very special kind of focus, across many things, including - The interview / discussion you are in right now, make it great - What is next and when do you need to get to it, how you will get to it and how you will transition from what you are doing now - The surroundings, audience and elements of the unexpected - you need to decide with a fraction of your focus if other stuff going on around you needs to be ignored or if it is important to you and the event and therefore needs to be acted on accordingly.
As for working with children, there were no children to be interviewed or scheduled to be part of the event as such - there were plenty of children in the audience however and we wanted to inspire them too. My producer was keen to involve a couple of children in selecting objects from a box that belonged to one soldier in WW1. These were very precious items that needed careful handling. Wanting to involve children I invited a couple of children to select items from the box. My invitation was carefully directed at both them and their mother in order to request her supervision and gain her consent. The children enjoyed handling the objects and seeing them up close - in order to get the items back (I didn't want to grab them!!), I asked if we could have a closer look and get the story of that item from our expert. This worked and everyone was relaxed and happy.
IMPORTANT: A quick note on working with children; rightly, there are a great many rules and laws around working with children in different circumstances in events and broadcasting. The BBC has superb resources on guidelines and advice which you can find here - it is ESSENTIAL that you and your team make sure you know what you are doing in this respect at ALL times.
5. Working around the weather
When we arrived at Folkestone Harbour on 4th August at 0830, it was a clear and very hot day. Our event safety briefing took place in the Briefing Room tent which was to be my stage for the day and it was heating up rather nicely. All the events team applied sunscreen and were ready for a hot day and drinking plenty of water. As our event started, people were coming in to listen and get a bit of shade. As the day progressed, so did the weather however, and a deluge of biblical rain soon had our previous shade seekers flocking back for shelter! I was conducting an interview at the time, ironically with a shipping expert who had brought along WW1 commemorative oars, I was conscious of the rain pounding the canvas so hard that it was difficult to even hear each other and of a dripping sound behind us. I blocked out the sound and we kept going.
The rain had started to flood the tent, a good few millimetres were encroaching on my stage / island and I was aware of a bit of a flurry of engineers around the side. The producer told me we had to stop and do a safety check and to tell the audience. Which I did, for their safety and our own.
Here's the thing.. No one minds when you have to call a bit of a halt. It's fine, it's real life and above all it's important for the safety of everyone (have you guessed I am a bit of a Health and Safety fanatic yet??). We took 5 minutes to do checks, move cables and important items and then we kept calm and carried on.
One helpful member of the audience suggested that we use the sandbags that were all around the stage to block the rain.. the producer thanked him for his thought but said that they were actually just props and not full of sand, but plastic bags! Ahh, showbusiness!
Clare Reeves is an experienced Live Event Host and Facilitator and can bring your event to life - with the perfect tone and style for each unique occasion.