It’s the weekend of the BAFTA Television Awards in London, and this year I was having an overnight stay on Sunday, to take advantage of the late finish of the event.
I’d booked a twin room at a hostel about a half hour bus ride away. Only £29, shared between myself and a friend. But it was going to be a long Sunday before we got anywhere near our digs, so here’s what happened.
Saturday May 7th – 10.35pm I caught a bus from my house to Leeds, had a late McSupper, and awaited the 1am Megabus to London. This got me into Victoria Station soon after 6am, but thankfully I had slept most of the way.
The first stop was the Royal Festival Hall, where the event would be taking place later in the day. The routine is that you queue for a numbered wristband in the morning, and then return in the afternoon and get into position alongside the red carpet. And that’s what I did. At around 8am we got our wristbands, and then left for a look at local TV & Radio stations, for any famous faces.
I only met a couple that I wanted anything from. I got a photo with Piers Morgan at the Sunday Brunch studio, and Michael Ball signed his single from Eurovision 1992, “One Step Out of Time”. It came second to an Ireland win that year.
Back at the Royal Festival Hall for the main event. It’s a very long day, and the Sun’s heat was absolutely sweltering. It seemed like an age before we got to our red carpet positions, and then another long wait until anything happened. You get a relatively free hand at picking a place to stand, but if it’s not at the barrier itself, then you’ll be hard-pressed to get anything. We saw a spot, took it, and hoped for the best.
Before the red carpet arrivals we had to suffer a few camera crews and TV outfits getting crowd shots, and then the official intro by Graham Norton and Elle King, where we were encouraged to holler and whoop, as she sang a song with no relevance to the proceedings whatsoever.
The first person I saw arrive was comedy writer Laurence Marks, who co-wrote Birds of a Feather and one of my favourite sitcoms “Goodnight Sweetheart”. I was chuffed to get his autograph. Stupidly though, I didn’t get a photo, AND I’d completely forgotten that I had a Goodnight Sweetheart book in my bag. What am I like?
The following hour or so was a non-stop parade of famous faces. I managed to have little chats with some of them, and a couple I got autographs from but no photo; Amanda Holden & Alesha Dixon.
As soon as the arrivals were over, I went for a short sit-down with another friend, and discussed the day. Then I headed straight for the hostel, to check-in and dump my bags, before returning to the Festival Hall for the ‘outs’.
We didn’t rush, indeed we overshot our bus-stop, but still made it back in plenty of time. On previous occasions I’ve had to miss most of the guests leaving, in order to catch a coach home, but this year was much better. I managed to get several people that I’d seen arriving, but was unable to get at that time.
Then it was back to the hostel, and straight off to sleep.
Monday morning was pretty much a no-plan day. We left the hostel at 10am, caught a bus to Waterloo, then to Cambridge Circus, where we had an early McLunch, then we walked to BBC Broadcasting House / Western House to see what we could see.
We saw comedian Jack Dee arriving at about 1.30pm, but I thought I recognised the woman he was with. Sure enough, when they left half an hour later, I could confirm that it was comedy actress and producer Brenda Gilhooly. Better known for her ditzy page 3 girl character Gayle Tuesday.
At about 3.30pm guests for the Patrick Kielty show started to arrive. His show was already broadcasting, so we’d almost assumed that his scheduled guests for today had been pre-recorded, which is a common situation. Alas, no they hadn’t. American film and TV actor Jeffrey Tambor was greeted by several ‘collectors’ wanting autographs and photos. As his PA was rushing him in, I just got an autograph, with the intention of getting a photo when he left. Not long after this, Natalie, Melanie and Nicole from the All Saints turned up. Nicole was on her phone and went straight in, but Mel and Nat signed autographs and posed for us.
Several minutes after this, Shaznay arrived and joined the other girls in the Radio 2 lobby. Here we could see them meet with Jeffrey Tambor as he was preparing to leave. His PA came out to organise their car, and told us that Jeffrey wouldn’t be able to stop for us. The trouble was, that Jeffrey had other ideas. He spent ages chatting and posing with the All Saints, and then when he came out, I congratulated him on his BAFTA win, and asked for a photo. The PA was already trying to rush him along, but Jeffrey just shook his head, said he was a mean man, and happily posed for photos with me and my friend, as well as sign some DVD covers for another mate who’d turned up. I felt sorry for the PA, but soon got over that feeling.
A short while later, just after the wonderful sunshine had made way for heavy rain, the All Saints came to the door. A couple of collectors rudely pushed ahead of us, but it was okay. Due to the weather, the girls asked us to come inside, where we completed our autograph sets, and got a full group photo.
After this we sought shelter and a cuppa, before heading to the West End to start our stage door assault. We only had one plan for catching somebody arriving at a theatre. A couple of weeks ago the BBC announced that actress Pearl Mackie would be the new Doctor Who companion, and as she is currently in theatre, at the Gielgud, I wanted to get her before it became hard work.
We waited outside the stage door, hoping to catch her arrive, when surprisingly, at about 6.30pm she came OUT of the stage door to see US. It was a lovely thing for her to do, and she was so nice about it.
After tea, we went to the Donmar Warehouse, as it currently houses a rather short play “Elegy”, and so finishes long before the other theatres. Here I got a photo with Nina Sosanya. I’d seen her in The Vote, here at the Donmar, but hadn’t managed to get a photo at that time.
Next, we went to Trafalgar Studios to meet David Benson. I’d met him several times before, but I wanted him to sign my “Goodnight Sweetheart” book, as he played Noel Coward in later episodes of the sitcom. He was as charming as ever, even when two other people waiting at the stage door presented him with “The Maids” flyers to sign. Trafalgar Studios houses TWO theatres. The all-female cast of “The Maids” are in one, and David is in the other. They seemed puzzled when he declared that he wasn’t in “The Maids”.
Next we went to Jermyn Street Theatre, where a decent cast are currently in a ply. I only needed a couple of them, so I was happy to get Vicky Binns and Keith Parry.
That was pretty much it for me. We made our way over to the Wyndham’s / Noel Coward stage door area (they back on to one another) as my friend wanted some cast from there, and it was the only place we had time to reach. A big bonus for my friend was that Benedict Cumberbatch had been at the Wyndham’s and he was able to get a photo with him as he left the stage door.
All that was left to do was have a nice sit down, before heading to the Coach Station, and catching the coach home.
A very tiring two days, but worth every minute. I had great fun.