This entry was posted on
Wednesday, June 5th, 2002 at
12:32 pm and is filed
Early on Friday 30th May, we instigated a campaign to unclog Alex, who had been feeling the effects of stress and a significant change in habit. As part of this, we suggested a number of scaled activities to ensure that Alex received treatment for his condition.
While sending a full range of Senokot products to the producers was entertaining and quite fulfilling, we pretty much came to the conclusion that a live protest at an eviction was a step forward that really couldn’t wait a week. By now it was midday. Could we get tickets? Could we get there in time? Would our protest be heard? Most importantly, would our message reach the television audience?
Getting The Tickets
The first step was to get tickets. These are normally available through a company called Powerhouse (020 7240 2828), who supply free tickets to a hundreds of audience-based shows. The difficulty being, of course, that we were after tickets for that very night. Not easy.
I won’t tell you how we managed it in the end, because we don’t want the poor dears to be overwhelmed by last-minute demands for Big Brother tickets. Let’s just take it as a given that mere mortals such as your good self are required to book at least a week in advance – probably much earlier as the show nears its end and excitement reaches a fever pitch.
The easiest method for most who live in and around London is by public transport, with the nearest station being Elstree & Borehamwood. Be warned, however, that it’s a fair walk from the station to the studios and they don’t let you out until around 11:00pm (so you really have to hightail it back to the station to get back to Kings Cross in time for the last trains).
If you drive like we did, don’t park in the Tesco car park (which is right next door). Do so and you will be clamped. There are bright pinks signs that will direct you instead to a council car park a few blocks away that’s free after 6:30pm. Here’s an online map showing the location and its proximity to the station.
Getting There Early
To ensure a full house, Powerhouse actually ‘oversell’ tickets to off-set the risk of no-shows. Unless you’re blessed with a ‘guaranteed entry’ ticket, you’ll probably have to arrive at least 2 hours ahead of the scheduled entry time (8:45pm). We arrived pretty much bang on 7:00pm and managed not only to get in, but also get a good position one row back from the front, close to the studio doors (this gets you more Davina-time – see below). Again, as the series progresses, you may have to get in even earlier.
Standing In Line
Standing around for two hours is kind of dull. If you’re going alone, take a book. If you want to make friends, take a portable television set. One chap armed with such a device found himself to be very popular, especially as Lynne’s eviction was announced. As you might guess, nearly all of the conversation centred on Big Brother, but we quickly found ourselves on the outskirts of most exchanges once our fascination with Alex’s bowels came to light.
Security and production crew will drop by in advance to make sure you’re not carrying anything offensive. This really is quite important information, especially if you’re arriving by public transport (if you can’t take it in and you have nowhere to put the contraband, you’ll have little choice but to throw it away or stay outside with it).
Placards and Signs
These will be inspected very closely – front and back – for offensive messages and brand names (both frowned upon). Signs with sharp edges or long handles will similarly be rejected for reasons of safety. Our placard had an extra-long handle, which we had to break in half to please security. The sharp edge that resulted seemed much more dangerous to us, so we spent the next 20 minutes blunting it against the tarmac.
Food and Drink
You won’t be able to take any food or drink in with you, but you should also avoid overdoing it while standing in the queue, as there are only a few portaloos inside (and trotting off to any one of these is sure to lose you your place). There is a McDonalds across the road if you feel you must fuel up with sugar and grease, but you should expect this outlet to be very busy from about 6pm onwards.
Smoking, surprisingly, is permitted.
Other items not allowed inside the studio grounds include:
– Recording devices
– Anything that could be remotely described as an offensive weapon
You will be searched, frisked and scanned with a metal detector on the way in. I made the mistake of taking my work bag, which was full of metal items and presented a big headache for the security team. Thankfully, I arrived just as there was a backlog at the main gate, so I wasn’t responsible for holding up the line – but having to juggle items from my back, front, rear and coat pockets as I opened various side pockets on my bag was not something that I’d want to repeat. The moment when they produced not one but two bottle openers was hard to top for its sheer embarrassment factor, but what I entirely forgot was the large box on Senokot tablets that I had in my jacket pocket from the photo shoot earlier that afternoon. I got through pretty quickly after that, but in the end, they felt they had to object to something, so the larger of the two bottle openers did end up in the bin.
Our advice is to check your bag and belongings before you go and shed anything you have any doubts about.
Once the ‘guaranteed entry’ ticket holders and those with colour-coded wrist bands (i.e. the beautiful people) have been escorted to the front, it’s time to let in the rabble. This is done in groups of about 100 people, who are herded past the Big Brother house and into place in the fenced reception area.
The first thing that strikes you when you see the Big Brother house is how small it is. The other is how big the security dogs are. Don’t even entertain the notion of yelling a message or throwing anything over the fence as you go past, unless you want to end up as a late supper.
Waiting and Watching
Once you’re let in, there’s yet more standing around to be done, but they do at least have ‘live’ footage from the house projected onto the plain white wall that faces the reception area.
From time to time the warm-up man will get you to yell and scream for a bit and hold your signs in the air. This lets the producers and cameramen line up what they consider to be the best shots.
Similarly, the lovely Davina will make an early appearance to fish for material from the front lines. This appearance will be brief and fleeting, and she won’t get anywhere near the core of the crowd (at the bottom of the stairs). We used this opportunity catch her eye with our extra-large banner and inform her of our Let’s Get Alex Moving campaign.
Blink And It’s Over
After over an hour of ‘very soon’ this and ‘a few minutes’ that, it’s time for the show. By now, the crowd is well-revved up you’ll find yourself with much less personal space as the harsh reality of the cameras sets in and people naturally surge to the front.
Davina did her preliminary walk-past and did, as it turned out, mention our banner and the campaign behind it – but we didn’t know about this until we got home and watched the recording. The crowd was that loud.
Lynne was evicted from the house and guided past the one-sided gauntlet. Davina and Lynne made their way past the crowd and into the studio within a matter of seconds. One idiot jumped over the fence and was quickly spirited away by security. I think they fed him to one of the dogs.
All that remained was to watch the post-eviction interview on the house projection but, truth be told, after 4 hours of waiting resulting in 40 seconds of activity, most of the audience outside was wondering when they would be allowed to go home.
That time didn’t come, of course, until half an hour later. Davina appeared just once more (again, getting nowhere near the core of the crowd) to get some vox-pops, and was quickly spirited back into the studio.
Announcements were made, gates were opened, and all that was left was the march past the Big Brother house and the ever-vicious guard dogs. We did, however, have one more task before our evening was over.
Damn it, we had a campaign to run, and pamphlets are central to this. We made our way to the head of the crowd as best we could and turned around to face the oncoming multitude. Cries of “Help us to help Alex” were largely ignored and for a moment it looked like we would go home with nearly all of our 200+ pamphlets. An ingenious change in promotional tactics followed, where we instead implored the crowd to “Help us to help Alex’s bowels”. We ran out of pamphlets in less than a minute. Go figure.
All in all, it was an educational experience, but not one we see ourselves repeating. Unless, of course, Alex looks to get the boot this Friday, in which case you should keep an eye out for us front row, centre.
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