Friday, 4 May 2012

Local Elections Reaches Fever Pitch...

Yesterday and through all of last night i was covering the local elections in Reading, Berkshire for the BBC. Yes, local election fever swept through our newsroom with excited political reporters bashing out the information via web, twitter and TV, so that Mr and Mrs Middle England at No 42 Acacia Avenue were kept informed and up to date the moment a council seat was won or lost. The fever grew to such an extent, that lunchbox wars broke out amongst the news gathering elite as to who had the best picknickery to last throughout the day and night.

Overcome with excitement, i had to rest... just for a few seconds.

 Personally, i find it hard to get excited about who wins the right to dig up our roads, fill them in, then dig them up again. Or how often our bins are emptied, who gets the title of leader of the council or cabinet member for paperclips. But as the ballot boxes rolled in, i rolled tape... no, hang on... i no longer roll tape, i sort of squish digital streams of 1's and 0's onto a memory card the size of a postage stamp... well that's spoiled the flow of a blogging cameraman hasn't it..?

Anyway, i... er... squished digits onto card as the usual stream of political hopefuls / dreamers / deadbeats, ( Delete as applicable ) passed by my lens, hoping to get seats on the local council for long enough to collect a big fat pension at the end of it, courtesy of the very people who put a cross in the box next to their name.

The black boxes of local democracy...

I filmed the tipping out of ballot papers, the dextrous fingering of the ballot counters ( Oo'er Missus! ) and the furrowed brows of the rosetted politicos of Reading. The tension was palpable. Much coffee was consumed, and debates over the poorly located dog poop bins of this fair parish were in full swing. Digging into my sandwiches, which failed miserably in the newsroom lunchbox war, i chewed lazily on a cheese bap, lovingly crafted by my wife, only to find that my reporter had had it away with half of my cheese and onion crisps and a chocolate bar... the utter bastard.

That's him Officer... Theft of Crisps and 1 chocolate bar.

 You know what? Trying to turn a few hundred badly dressed people of the political variety, rattling around in a local, oversized sports hall into good, watchable TeeVee is a challenge. Shoot up close... that's my tip. The crushed look of total disappointment on a face is priceless. Capturing the utter disbelief of a candidate as the slow realisation dawns on them that the local populace doesn't agree with their manifesto is a sight to behold for this sleepy eyed cameraman.

Hey... it's the only thing that keeps me awake, OK..? Around 2 or 3 AM and i'm starting to wilt under the intense political infighting of local candidates, trying to fight off the dirt that has been flung at them via the big boys and girls at Westminster, who cock things up just the same, only on a much grander scale. That and the top light on my camera is blisteringly hot.

So, as empty coffee cups spill the dregs onto the basketball court, and the chill early morning wind whipped up the rubbish in the car park outside, about which i will have a word with a local councillor, seats inside were won and lost. Councils changed hands from one self serving political party to another, and life goes on pretty much as normal. Except with less funding. I filmed it for posterity and the local news, whose political editor had by now overdosed on caffeine and was last seen spinning out into the night, screaming something about not being able to take it anymore...

Me...? I'm off to bed. Goodnight... sorry... Good Morning.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.