Ann Allan : Spotlight Special.

Rewind that, I shouted to the hubby. I had, as usual, got my head in my iPad commenting on Twitter on something that was brought up in the Sunday politics show. I had just caught the end of the announcement. A special edition of Spotlight was going to be recorded on Tuesday 5th and viewers were invited to go apply for tickets. Hmm I though I fancy going to that. One of my usual companions for such an event was in Brighton running the gauntlet at the Conservative conference so I told the hubby,  sorry,  invited the hubby  to come along with me. A quick email was dispatched,  as requested,  and on Monday a reply was received asking me to ring the Beeb and give some personal details.  Well you would have thought I was trying to get into the White House! But having recruited audiences for similar shows in the past  I realised that a good cross-section is needed to balance the audience and the lady on the phone was extremely nice.  Hubby then got the same grilling and we were told we could collect our tickets at the door.

That was when I started worrying. What will I wear? Should I get my hair done?  Will we be seen in the audience?  Will the hubby look as if he’s enjoying himself?  Should I tell anyone to look out for us? Oh God, maybe we will be asked to ask a question!  Decided that the hair needed done and maybe a new top was called for.  However, on reflection, I went for the hair-do but opted for a black tee-shirt hoping I would blend in with the background.

Hubby was excited, ( grumpy about having to get up when he’d rather doze in his chair). Headed into town. Car parking was convenient but we didn’t have enough money for the machine. Tried phoning the number to pay with my credit card. The facility only had details for my old car. Tried three times to give my new registration number and every time the voice repeated an incorrect number.  Could tell the hubby was getting annoyed as he headed off to the cinema on the Dublin Road looking for change.image
Arrived at Blackstaff studios. Sorry  luv,  doors not open yet, come back at 6.30. With 15 mins to pass we headed down Gt.Victoria St.  Reminisced about how it looked in our day.  Where did all those restaurants come from?  As the rain started to fall I began to think this wasn’t such a good idea.
At 6.30 we we headed back to the studio and joined the queue. We showed our ID and were ushered into the waiting area. Unfortunately we were there for over an hour and were subjected to re-runs of old Spotlights so we were reminded of Asher-gate and some homophobic nonsense from Jeffrey Donaldson.

We were asked to write a question to put to the panel. I wanted to know that if Simon Hamilton maintains that the Health Service is working in his absence,  maybe we should be considering part-time Ministers. Save a fortune.  We also got a peep at who was on the panel. Gregory Campbell, Claire Hanna, Mike Nesbitt, Michelle O’Neill and I was delighted to see my friend Mairia Cahill was also on the panel. If it hadn’t been for Mairia I would never have started writing.  Look what you’d have missed.

The staff were lovely.  The floor managers went around talking to everyone ( about 100 in the audience ) thanking us for coming and making us feel comfortable.  A guy sitting next to us had his leg in a cast. He had been waiting for 18 months for an operation. Noel Thompson referred to him during the programme.
At about 7.30 we entered the recording studio and took our seats.  A well-known face from the past, Paddy O’Flaherty, came out to warm up the audience. After a light-hearted bit of banter we were instructed to raise our hands if we had something to say, clap if we liked a point and generally get involved.  As I’m still getting used to my new teeth I decided not to saying anything as I had visions of getting nervous, and my teeth flying across the studio in full view of the tv cameras.
Mr. Suave himself, Noel Thompson, appeared and took his seat together with the other panelists. In the glare of powerful overhead lights the show was about to start. But wait, we heard Noel speak to the producer. He hadn’t got a script. A floor runner was hastily dispatched to get the script which imageapparently  was still being typed. A few minutes later and we were off. No hitches and straight through the recording. All ready for transmission later on Tuesday evening.  All very professional. It was also noticeable that having three female members on the panel resulted in a more reasoned and tempered debate.
Came out to a wet but warm evening and headed for home to watch the recording. Ok watch the recording to see if we could spot ourselves ( we did ). What is the fascination with seeing yourself on the tv?
All in all it was an enjoyable experience and one which I ( and him) would like to repeat.

You can watch a recording of the programme at

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