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5 live's Royal Wedding planner

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Tom Green | 13:55 UK time, Wednesday, 27 April 2011

If it goes wrong, they'll blame me.

That's the thought that keeps spinning around my head a couple of days from the Royal Wedding. Not Kate and William, you understand, or the millions of people who will be watching and listening to their impending nuptials, but the dozens involved in 5 live's coverage of the event, all of whom I've been trying to wrestle into some semblance of order over the past three months so that 15 and a half hours of live radio passes off without a hitch.

It all began back in the mists of what now seems a distant February. I took over the wedding planning baton from a colleague who had departed for pastures new, and it now seems, far less likely to be strewn with royal confetti.

Some work had been done on finding guests and expert commentators, and some thoughts had been shared between programme editors and producers about how our coverage should sound. In truth, the task that lay ahead was herculean.

Working an average of one day a week on wedding planning while holding down my not exactly stress-free day job as a senior producer on the Victoria Derbyshire and Gabby Logan programmes, I embarked on a seemingly never-ending journey of meetings, emails and phone calls.

After a week or two, it quickly became apparent that I wasn't alone. Each of the BBC's other main outlets had assigned some poor sap to sweat out the details of their coverage of the big day.

We met, shared plans, teamed up to bid for guests from Elton John to the Bucklebury village shopkeeper, and generally formed something of a self-help group.

By Friday evening, when the day is finally over, I feel we may need to meet one last time for some kind of group therapy.

5 live's plans are massive.

Come six o'clock on Friday morning, what I hope will be a meticulously planned, carefully-choreographed operation will swing into action. Nicky Campbell will be ready and waiting by Buckingham Palace.

Just a few hundred yards away, Shelagh Fogarty will be among the scores of presenters and reporters from around the world crammed onto what looks like a temporary football stand opposite Westminster Abbey. It will be more than four hours before the world gets its first glimpse of the bride and groom, but we'll be ready.

Most of our presenters and reporters will be out doing slots throughout the day, and into the evening.

That's before the wedding guests start arriving at the Abbey. A cast list of nearly two thousand names that ranges from the uber-celebrities of David and Victoria Beckham to holiday island bar owners and university flatmates.

Over the past three months I've spoken to many of them, and emailed many more. Almost without exception they are polite and friendly, and equally frequently they've got far better things to do on April 29th than worry about radio interviews.

So what of all these contributors? They've agreed to come, and they need to be in the right place at exactly the right time, often during a day that will, for them, involve a hectic schedule of interviews with broadcasters from across the globe.

On top of that, they'll need to be able to move around central London on a day when around a million people will have popped along for a bit of a party, prompting police to close roads from the Embankment right the way to Piccadilly.

The same is true for our producers and presenters. They need to move freely about the route of the procession and talk to as many people in the crowd as possible, all while broadcasting in the highest possible quality, and maintaining communications with base on a day when it will be almost impossible to get a mobile phone signal.

To say the logistics have been difficult is the understatement of the year. In truth, with just days to go, there are many areas that still need work.

It's entirely possible that at least one glamorous, high-profile female 5 live presenter might have to work for up to eight hours without a trip to the toilet, as she'll be cut off from the only portaloos by about twenty thousand spectators. I still haven't told her yet.

Honestly, there's only so much that we can do. The Cabinet Office, Clarence House, Buckingham Palace and Scotland Yard, who have spent months and thousands of man-hours on the security arrangements for the wedding, have two priorities. They want to keep everyone safe, and make sure the public get the best view they can. Often that means we can't get where we need to, or speak to who we want to, but when the safety and enjoyment of so many people is at stake, who can argue?

There's a degree to which planning, even as extensive as it has been in this case, falls apart on the day anyway. People don't turn up on time, access routes that have been promised aren't open, spectators stand where they're not expected.

It often helps to work in radio. Where TV needs cameramen, satellite trucks, make up and lighting, we can broadcast an entire show from a bit of kit that fits in a backpack.

Things will go wrong on the day, and 5 live's team of producers and presenters will go with the flow and adapt to bring you what we hope is the very best coverage of the Royal Wedding. I just hope none of them blame me when they get back.

Related links
Former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond on Kate Middleton
The BBC Royal Wedding podcast
Diana's dress designer on Kate's outfit


  • Comment number 1.

    Why do Radio 4 and 5Live both need to provide live coverage of the wedding?

    Can't the job be done properly once instead of wasting our money and having two teams of producers, two teams of presenters, two sets of OB equipment and countless hours of duplicated meetings?

  • Comment number 2.

    I suppose Bacon interviewing Angela Eagle about what Cameron said to her constitutes news input for his programme.

    ryanw is right, you don't need both channels. I prefer the more serious and less trivial version which I hope Radio 4 will offer. If not, off to the tele.

  • Comment number 3.

    We don't need the same two people posting suspiciously similar criticisms of everything 5live does either, but we get them. Are they TalkSport stooges, I wonder?

  • Comment number 4.

    Or maybe you are Dave? I am listening to 'it' tonight 'cos I support Fulham. Stan Collymore makes Savidge sound good. Never thought I'd write that.

  • Comment number 5.

    Dave thinks only one masquerading as two possibly, have the same point of view out of all the listener contributors who write on here. Well if he read the Guardian comment columns and also tried a bit harder to read old subjects on here he would see ryanw and I are not alone. Talksport stooges indeed!! As has been made plain over many years, 5Live is very important to us and we love so much of it, that it is sad to me at least that the station has so much celebrity-led rubbish on it.

    I am looking forward to hearing some of the 5 Live output tomorrow, mainly because Shelagh, Nicky and Tony will be in their element and for once their skills and styles will be appropriate for the day.

  • Comment number 6.

    Dave, you must have missed me praising the 1981 coverage and Peter Allan and the brilliant Rhod Sharp yesterday.

    I am quick to offer praise where praise is due but I'm no apologist for the BBC.

    I think questions like mine in post 1 here were totally reasonable in the current economic climate. I do wish we had just one world-class state radio broadcast of the Royal Wedding and invested the money saved in more quality programming.

    I suggest you read Digital Spy and the Guardian threads to see I'm not the lone ranger, there are plenty unimpressed by the slide of the station.

  • Comment number 7.

    Ryan with respect you and Carrie vent your spleens whenever a blog post is published, yes the Guardian and Digital Spy have both got negative views as a majority, but that does not give an accurate picture, because people are more inclined to post negative stuff, people who are postive hardly post their views because they dont see the need do.

    Its a getting a bit tiresome.

    Anyway back on topic, i am dreading tommorow, in terms of tuning into the Radio, or switching on the TV, the amount of media coverage for this event, is utterly amazing considering the vast majority of people couldn't care less.

    However i can understand different media outlets, having their own coverage for the event, after all Radio4 and 5 serve different audiences, and each has a different way of broadcasting programmes.

  • Comment number 8.

    The 5Live way of broadcasting it has been terrible this afternoon. I appreciate that Radio 4 and 5 serve different audiences. My question would be, of the people who actually could care less and do want to listen to it, who on earth would want to listen to Bacon's version of it. This is the BBC, what on earth are you playing at?

  • Comment number 9.

    I do not vent my spleen every time a blog post is published.

    What is tiresome is people saying negative things about this wedding. Following your advice why don't you just not post? I bet there are as many more people positive about it than the few ne'ersayers moaning. I doubt the vast majority are those who couldn't care less, as the tv audience figures will show when they are published. I have no real opinion one way or the other, just looking forward to seeing and hearing lost of different things rather than the usual Friday programmes.

  • Comment number 10.

    Whether i decide to post or not is up to me not you, also i can pretty much guarantee, the TV ratings will be extremly low, even though it will be live on a handful of channels.

    Most people will be either down the Pub, or out and about enjoying the weather, even in America where the Media have gone into overdrive,the Public appetite for the Wedding has been negligible.

  • Comment number 11.

    Fedster you seem to prefer a world were everyone agrees with you.

    I think it's fantastic that we can have different opinions shared here.

    Sadly, the of the effects of not have a message board AND closing threads after ten days is that threads get 'colonised' by those trying to have a sensible, topical coversation, often about "the best bits, events, changes and announcements" which is suppose to be what this blog is about. If we had a message board, one thread would satisfy any particular debate, and there would be a number going concurrently.

    "Guardian and Digital Spy have both got negative views as a majority, but that does not give an accurate picture, because people are more inclined to post negative stuff, people who are postive hardly post their views because they dont see the need do." ... does that make it bad?

    You'd hope, or I would hope, that you could have a discussion about an issue, a debate and put differing points of view. One the great things about your contributions Fedster is they are often contray to many others, that is a good thing, and encourages debate.

    It's good. Isn't it?

    Much of the cajoling that goes on has seen an increase in participation on the blogs, and encouraged more disclosure and more information being shared with the public through the blog.

  • Comment number 12.

    Fed ... I've resisted since Christmas sooo .. no I won't. Enjoy the wedding!

  • Comment number 13.

    @10. Fedster you are so wrong about the potential ratings and the US interest. I know what the US interest is because I have work and family connections there, I am in constant touch with them all and read online newspapers everyday. Let's just see. I am willing to say I was wrong if I am, but I don't think so! The people who will be watching everywhere are curious, there are many reasons why, they don't all have to be monarchists you know.

  • Comment number 14.

    Royal wedding fever hits US media but public interest remains low

    In a recent survey by the New York Times and CBS News, only 6% of respondents said they were following the wedding "very closely", while 38% were not interested at all


    Carrie i think that gives an accurate picture of how little intrest there is in the USA.

    Also just out of intrerest,what would you deem successful in terms of ratings?

    I think it will get round 3-4 million viewers, with it peaking to around 10 million for the actual wedding.

  • Comment number 15.

    "Guardian and Digital Spy have both got negative views as a majority, but that does not give an accurate picture, because people are more inclined to post negative stuff, people who are postive hardly post their views because they dont see the need do." ... does that make it bad?"

    Not bad, what i am trying to say is editorial decisons should not be made in response to comments on Internet Forums, because by there nature they attract mostly negative viewpoints, like flies buzzing round a lump of excrement

    Again it goes back to the point i made that the vocal minority are not always right, so to read posters messages on Digital spy and the Guardian, does not give an accurate picture.

  • Comment number 16.

    I have a couple of points to make. First, the US is in mourning for the people lost in the tornadoes and the devastation they have caused, which slightly outdoes the feelings of foreign news dominating. Second, do you really think the Guardian would actually look for positive stuff on the royals to write about? No. Lastly, my folks in the North East in various states are reporting interest and parties, as always with royal weddings and funerals for that matter. The Washington Post, which I read earlier, does not echo Fedster's point of view quoted from the Guardian, and I notice that Adam Gabbutt has contributed an article to the Royal Wedding Section that does not point to the same point of view as the ever-dissatisfied Hadley Freeman, who is embarrassed to say she loves a Tory as it doesn't fit in with her Guardian image.

    I was talking world viewing figures Fedster, but we will see what happens.

  • Comment number 17.

    (North East US is where I was talking about.)

  • Comment number 18.

    I was in New York a couple of weeks ago and have been there regularly this year... I think they are almost MORE excited about the wedding than here in the UK. Certainly three weeks ago the networks CNN, MSNBC and FOX where crazy for it... MSNBC even realised an iPad app about royal jewellery warn at weddings.

  • Comment number 19.

    Have just returned from walking the procession route and the place is packed, the atmosphere happy and electric. Car horns going, people from all over the world taking photos and lots of cheering. Tony Livesey is right, there are literally thousands there already.

  • Comment number 20.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 21.

    I am going to be churlish: Fedster, where are you?? "The vast majority of people couldn't care less." (Fedster 28 April) "I can pretty much guarantee, the TV ratings will be extremly low" (Fedster 28 April). Whatever your views there was a great atmosphere in London and every news channel was reporting the fun everywhere else, a great excuse for a party whatever you feel about the royals,and a good feeling rather than the usual worries, gloom and doom.

  • Comment number 22.

    BBC website: "More than 24 million viewers in the UK watched Friday's royal wedding on the BBC and ITV, with the BBC coverage of the ceremony seen by 18.7m, according to early estimates." So whether you are a republican or a monarchist, or a person who was simply interested, the broadcast was irresistible.

  • Comment number 23.

    Post 21,Carrie you hit the nail on the head,when you said the Wedding was a "great excuse for a party" most people who are "celebrating" this event, are not actually bothered about the actual Wedding, what they are celebrating is they have got a day of work,to my mind that is a bit fickle.

    As for the figures, but to describe the Wedding as "irresistible" is a bit OTT,24 million viewers watched the coverage but that still leaves the majority who did not.

  • Comment number 24.

    Oh for goodness sake!

  • Comment number 25.

    Sorry, Fedster, but I have to disagree. According to the BBC website, it ranks in the Top 10 most-watched TV programmes of all time. I'm a republican and I watched it, so I think carrie's "irresistible" is pretty much spot-on.

  • Comment number 26.

    I guess you have to add on those watching live on internet and Youtube plus Sky. Anyway, back to normal today. Doom and gloom and tragedy.

  • Comment number 27.

    Enough about the wedding and the happy couple now. Thanks.

  • Comment number 28.

    Dave. So your're a 'Republican'?

    Is being a Republican necessarily the opposite of being a Monarchist? A republic can bare all the same hallmarks of a monarchy, inequality, class division etc etc George W Bush was a Republican but he liked our Queen

    Anyone can say they're a Republicam just because they don't want an unelected Royal head of state clad in crowns, jewelly and robes. Its an easy way of indicating their contempt for pomp and priviledge without addressing or advocating political ideals that attack the economic and social system that creates it and all the futile international military conflicts it creates...hence the strong presence of the military at this even, RAF flypasts etc!

    Hence the opposite of being a Monarchist/Royalist I suggest is a socialist (but not the type of Socialism that the likes of Blair, Brown and Miliband have extricated the Labour Party from.

    So what's your politcs Dave?

  • Comment number 29.

    When I heard 5 Live footie commentator John Murray joining the commentary team I was almost expecting Alan Green to join up as well along perhaps with a quickie 606 footie phone in between the hymns, kisses and adoration!

    A very subtle peice of media engineering I must say 5 Live. John's obviously a good journalist and broadcaster whose intelligence isn't limited to football commentaries. Yet in reality his inclusion was to make the event appear on par with a sports event where many of that natural audience wouldn't normally be endeared to this orgy of 'pomp and circumstance'!

  • Comment number 30.

    Come off it Zel. Enough? I agree but they haven't even started.

    The whole thing has been timed to precede the referendum on AV and local elections next week so were'e all feeling good and patriotic before supposedly changing our electoral system for the better. That's a nonsense for a start but notice how they don't include in the referendum issues like the relevence of the Monarchy, and House of Lords. Instead we have to rely on arbitrary polls to gauge the popularity of both.

  • Comment number 31.

    No, no,no. Shelagh is continuing the flirtatious rubbish with Riley. "You're as good looking as Kate's brother....." NO, no, no.

  • Comment number 32.

    Well Carrie there was a bit less Riley but it would be better with him doing nothing more than reading the sport news. I really thought they would have realised the damaging effect he had on Gabby Logan’s programme and took the chance to shunt him out especially in the light of the Talk Sport complaint.

  • Comment number 33.

    Spot on Dom. The bloke is embarrassing. He's not even up to scratch on sport as was evident when Logan held her forums. AVK - you don't learn do you?

    PS - the interview opportunity still stands ..........

  • Comment number 34.

    Perhaps this is an example of the "light and shade" Mr Wall is so fond of.

    I don't like newsreaders doubling as comedians... it undermines the credibility of the broadcast... the nadir though was when the business reporter on the night show had the 'sing the FTSE' ... what drivel.

    I'd like to see the schedule stiffened up and the cutting of a daypart to save money... 10a-1p, 1p-4p dayparts... with Julian Worricker or John Inverdale and Shelagh.

    Less Colin Murray, more Eleanor Oldroyd. Find a place for Clare Balding too.

    Move Frances Finn and Adil Ray on to the reserves bench too. They've acquitted themselves well when standing in.

  • Comment number 35.

    Rachel's vocal chords have faded to so husky by 6.45 that there is no point in listening on a digital radio as it is so garbled you can't make out half of what she is saying. I am sorry, she has a lovely personality, but I can't listen to it.

  • Comment number 36.

    Interesting Carrie... I caught her on breakfast today... I think she is really struggling... there is no chemistry with Nicky.. she's mucking up cues and certainly needs to improve. It's early days so let's hope things improve, but it's not a great start.

  • Comment number 37.

    I have gone back to Radio four for breakfast listening after more than seven years listening to five live breakfast. I cannot listen to Rachel Burden's voice - I am practically allergic to it. She doesn't have the personality either to make up for this lack of voice. I do like to have presenters that can teach us something or who are well informed. I cannot believe that they could not find someone else to take over. There are some brilliant female presenters on five live what about Elly oldroyd - and as for chemistry with Nicky which Imogen Crump said she couldn't wait to see - well I never believed there was any. I bet he doesn't stay on that program for long.

  • Comment number 38.

    Thanks for all your comments on the Royal Wedding coverage. However, posts 31-37 have nothing to do with the original piece, so I'm now closing it.

    There will be an election-related blog post up on Friday, and next week, a series of pieces about our sports coverage, looking ahead to the FA Cup Final.


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