I’ll tell you what, it’s been a fair while since I saw 7am. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of early mornings (back when I worked full time 7am would have been considered a lie-in) but as I say, it’s been a fair while. So, up-and-at-‘em bright and early, off to The Sage Gateshead to see the recording of my mini radio drama Worn Around The Edges.
The morning did not get off to the best start, due to me misjudging how long a walk it was from my house. I’ve lived there a few months now so you’d think the fairly regular occurrence of going in to the city centre wouldn’t be a problem any more. It is. So it was a brisk walk, culminating in me hauling myself, puffing and panting, up the fifteen million (approx.) stairs up to the Sage. I was only a tiny-bit off 9am sharp, not the last to arrive, so there was time for a rejuvenating glass of tap water (pushing the boat out there, finance wise).
Introductions done, myself, director Faith Collingwood; the actors Barbara Johnson and Chloe Cornish sat down for a script read-through. It read well, I thought, and I was able to answer the couple of questions they had for me (phew). With only an hour to rehearse and record, we pushed on quick smart and headed outside to the location – the stairs leading up to the Sage.
I carried Faith’s bag (she needed her hands free to operate the recording equipment) and held a clipboard. I always enjoy a bit of clipboard holding, it makes me feel official. The actors got a potted lesson in microphone management/etiquette and off we went in to a rehearsal.
Unfortunately the elements were against us. It wasn’t the loud drone of drilling work across the river that finished us off, nor was it the tilting of the Millennium Bridge which is heralded by much alarm sounding and tannoy announcing. No. It was the wind. The bloody whistling, wailing and altogether too noisy, perishingly cold wind. These stairs were out. Too exposed.
A voice piped up that there was a car park round the corner – its stairwell would be more sheltered from the elements. Off we went. Once on the top couple of flights, it seemed we’d hit the jackpot. Much quieter. Quieter, that is, until Mr Sweep McSweeper came along with his broom and proceeded to very methodically, and loudly, sweep every stair from the top to the bottom. I’m glad he was a conscientious worker, I am, but there was a crafty glint in his eye. He knew. Forget your tidy steps, mate, this is my BBC Radio 3 debut. Priorities!
Anyway, car park stairwell glistening, Sweepy swept himself off and we started again. A rehearsal then a take. With it being recorded outside, the general public were always going to be a factor. We were quite lucky that only a couple of people came down the stairs while they were recording, and Faith assures me this will sound good – after all, the characters are meant to be sitting on a public stairwell. So thank you man-with-jangly-keys, for your cameo appearance!
So. That was that. Done and dusted (kippers and custard). The word is the nine plays recorded today will be available to listen online by early next week.
I don’t have much experience with radio writing, and have certainly never seen anything be recorded. It was fascinating to watch and to get some idea of how they create atmosphere, change of mood, all with a move of the mic. I’ve always been a bit scared of writing for radio, I find the lack of visual very hard to get my head round, but hopefully this is a step in the right direction.
Thank you to the organiser, Abigail; director, Faith; and to Barbara and Chloe for their work and for braving the cold.
I hope it turns out ok …