Eric Harrison on filming the party conferences

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The first conferences we went to, we weren’t allowed in to televise the conference, and so we built a studio over the top of the pub on the Blackpool prom, and various people came along and did interviews and so on. We were basically working for ITN. It was just a straightforward interview studio really as such. Robin Day was the interviewer who had just joined ITN at the time, and all kinds of people turned up to be interviewed. One of the funny things about it was you did your opening shot of the Blackpool illuminations and so on, but it was just a front with twinkling lights. And I jokingly said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have the trans come along?” Well, of course the trams don’t come along at your bidding and so on. Anyway, I was talking to the cameraman at the camera, which was looking over the thing, and I said, “If you do see a tram, stay with it.” Anyway, just before transmission, the cameraman, Dougie Ryan, said, “I don’t think my red lights were working.” So I punched the mixer to flash the red lights on the top of his camera outside. About two minutes later we go on air, and Dougie’s shot… and lo and behold, three beautifully illuminated trams went by, all on cue. Oh, great. We did the rest of the programme. We’re closing down and then we came out of the scanner and a very irate BBC director was stood there. So he said, “Thank you for ruining my feature.” We said, “What had we done?” So he said, “I set up three trams at the previous tram stop and they were waiting for our signal.” Because they went on air five minutes after us. So I said, “Yes?” and he said, “And you started them off!” So I said, “I didn’t do a thing!” I said, “How were you going to signal them to start?” He said, “Well, my floor manager was going to wave a red light to instruct the driver.” He said, “The driver said he saw the red lights flashing and went.” So we got the BBC’s pictures for nothing! Anyway, that was one of the many things. But you know, conferences, 22 years, and the BBC were there with two outside broadcast units and so on. We had one outside broadcast unit and we worked for everybody – ITN, Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

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