The London Diaries 2016
October has definitely been a career changing month for me, specifically 4 days in October.
So I’m doing my dissertation this year on comedy commissioning in the British TV Industry, and as part of that you have to gain interviews with people in the appropriate field. I thought I’d take the plunge and approach the big dogs for interviews, so I start contacting people in May this year. Get halfway through summer, and the replies starting rolling in. The BBC, ITV and Big Talk Productions all agreed to interviews with me and I managed to arrange them within 48 hours of each other in London.
At the same time, one of the closest friends Shelly managed to bag herself interviews with successful editors in London too (literally the guys who did Peep Show etc). So why not make the whole deal a hell more fun and go down to London together eh?
We got a hotel in Cricklewood, which was only a 20 minute tube journey away from Oxford Circus and most of our interviews were located within that area, or a tube stop away. We drove down to London on the Sunday, with our first interviews being the Monday morning. The journey down was pleasant, although I had a stand off with a guy in a BMW while holding a car space for Shelly while she turned the car around.
We got up pretty early on Monday, got ready and headed down for our complimentary breakfast. The selection was rather restricted, I mean you’d be pretty screwed if you we’re vegan that’s for sure. We headed over to Golders Green station and caught the tube together, luckily we we’re only 2 stops away from each other for the morning. My first interview was with Saskia Schuster from ITV, and I surprisingly wasn’t nervous whatsoever. I headed up to one of the free meeting rooms and got straight into the interview with Saskia, which went brilliantly. Afterwards we chatted about what I’m doing at university, this website and my aspirations for once I’ve graduated. I clearly made a positive impact on her, because she offered myself VIP passes to a screen of Celebrity Juice on the Wednesday evening. Now we we’re originally only staying in London till Tuesday afternoon, so long story short we splashed out £160 to reserve our room for another night. And just to add to the madness, Saskia dropped a text to Channel 4’s Head of Comedy about arranging an interview with me while I was in the area. Bare in mind, I hadn’t heard back from Channel 4 whatsoever and they we’re my main priority to interview.
I said my goodbyes and headed back to the tube station to meet Shelly for lunch, before my next interview at the BBC. It’s one thing to meet up with the news that I’ve got us VIP passes to a screening, but Shelly had some equally as exciting news. She’d been offered a job after her interview!!!
We we’re honestly so starstruck after only a couple of hours being in London.
Before splitting up again for round two, we figured out where we we’re going next and chatted about the possibilities that will come from the rest of our trip. I headed over to the BBC with Shelly (her interviews ended up being pushed back a couple hours) to meet with Gregor Sharp. We went up to the meeting room and my name was across an iPad attached to the door, it was a weird thing to see for sure. Again, things went swimmingly when it came down to the interview. There was no crazy surprise like earlier at ITV, but I did get a couple tips from Gregor on how to break into the industry which is brilliant!
Monday ended with us eating out at Bella Italia, then heading back to the hotel for a well earned sleep before we embarked on more interviews.
Another early start on Tuesday, not as early as Monday but it was before lunch. We actually ended up missing breakfast typically, so we decided to head to Oxford Circus for brunch before I headed over to Big Talk Productions. We went to this nice little cafe and had bacon & egg muffins (although Shelly argued that they aren’t called muffins in Yorkshire), which I got an email confirming our VIP passes for Wednesday evening. Further into brunch, and I get another email but this time from Channel 4 confirming an interview on that afternoon. What a brilliant way to start off our second day in London, I ultimately was leaving with 4 interviews, so I already nailed the minimum requirements in 48 hours.
I headed over to Big Talk Productions to meet with their CEO, Kenton Allen who has produced films such as Hot Fuzz. Again, couldn’t fault the interview it was really interesting to hear about commissioning from a production perspective compared to the broadcasters. Afterwards Kenton asked if I would send him over a copy of the finished piece, which was really lovely to hear he's interested in reading the outcome.
Again, met up with Shelly where we did a quick spot of window shopping and figured out where we we’re going next. I was heading over to St. James Park for my interview at Channel 4 and Shelly was off to Goodge Street for her final interview. I must admit, I did get a little lost on my way to St. James Park but I didn’t miss my tube, so that was the important part.
At Channel 4, I was interviewing Laura Riseam who works alongside their Head of Comedy Phil Clarke. I’ve previously been to Channel 4 earlier this year, but it was to their news studio which is more central London, so it was nice to visit another base. I’m honestly repeating myself but once again, the interview went brilliantly. Afterwards I got talking to Laura and word vommed how much I’d love to work for Channel 4 in the comedy department, and she actually gave me the names of some production companies to help me get my foot in the door. So big props to you Laura!
Would you be surprised if I said that Shelly got 2 more job offers while we we’re in London? No I wasn’t either, every time we met up we had some crazy new development. We ended Tuesday with a celebratory bottle of wine and Pizza Express in Westminster, with our graduate friend Carys who recently moved down to London for work - congrats!
Our final day, we had a lovely sleep in that morning as all our interviews we’re completed. Getting into Oxford Circus around lunch, we headed straight to Five Guys before hitting the shops to buy new clothes for the screening later.
Stomachs full, outfits bought we headed back to our hotel to check out and make our way to the VIP screening.
I’d like to put out there, that we we’re completely oblivious as to what these VIP wristbands entitled us to. We assumed we we’re literally just gonna sit in on the screening then go home, but oh no that wasn’t it. On arrival, we got directed towards a bar in the back, where we we’re greeted with a free bar of wine - I of course had 2 glasses.
After meeting some people also at the bar and chatting we got ushered into the studio. The screening itself lasted a good couple of hours, but it was hilarious to see the whole show uncut, and how its all filmed. Around 9pm everything was filmed and we thought it was time to go home, until audience members with pink wristbands (us) we’re instructed to remain seated. Once everyone else left, we got taken through a passage behind the studio, through numerous doors until we came to a glass room covered in white fabric. Inside was a cheese board with other snacks, and another free bar.
We we’re at the fucking after party for Celebrity Juice!!!
After everything that had already happened in London, this was honestly the icing on the cake. As time went on, the guests from that episode started appearing and having really chilled out conversations with everyone - although we looked calm we we’re both shitting ourselves mentally. We briefly spoke to Danny Miller and Will Mellor and had a photo with them, before I inevitably headed back to the open bar for some more dutch courage.
Next I spotted Johnny Vegas outside smoking with a group of people, slightly tipsy now we decided to head outside to speak with Johnny. We’re actually from the same neck of the woods, so that was my opening into a conversation with him. I think we must’ve spoke to Johnny for about half an hour about the media industry and where we we’re raised, it was hilarious! Finally the big show stopper, Leigh Francis himself. Earlier on in the evening we snapped a quick selfie with him, but he was so swarmed by everyone else, we left him to it. After hovering around, Shelly put her foot into the conversation to say goodbye as it was pushing on midnight and we still had to drive back to Yorkshire. What was supposed to be a quick thank you and goodbye, turned into a full blown conversation when we told Leigh that we we’re driving straight back to Huddersfield. A lot of famous faces aren’t as nice as they appear on TV, but Leigh was an exception to that rule. As well as Johnny Vegas, he was exactly how he is on the big screen, if only toned down ever so slightly. We chatted along with his old manager too and handed her our business cards, because why not.
After all that, we said our goodbyes to everyone and headed for the car to begin our 3.5 hours journey home, absolutely in awe of the last few days.
Those couple of days not only fuelled our ambitions for when we graduate, but exposed us to the possibilities that London has to offer. I couldn’t reimagine that week to be any better, it was so surreal I’m still coming down from it all.