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The making of Radio 4's election night highlights

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Hugh Levinson Hugh Levinson 20:09, Friday, 7 May 2010

election count

Editor's note: listen to the 15-minute montage of Radio 4's election night coverage below - it's a real rollercoaster - and it was delivered minutes after the programme went off-air. I asked Hugh Levinson, who made the montage with colleague Tom Brignell, to tell us how they did it - SB.

Our mission: To boil down the election night's programming on Radio 4 into a single snappy podcast with all the highlights, ready for download the next morning. Simples!

Except for the fact that the studio we were using in the Radio Current Affairs department isn't really equipped for this task. A massive engineering feat by colleagues Jonathan Glover and Masood Ilyas got it into working order. I had perhaps foolishly agreed to stay up all night to make the podcast, as had studio manager Tom Brignell.

We had a foolproof plan to get through the wee small hours. We'd take it easy during the day on Thursday, roll up just before the start of the programme at 10 p.m., relaxed and ready to go. Somehow it didn't work out that way. Both of us worked a full day before we even got into the studio. However, as seasoned radio professionals, we'd ensured we were supplied with the appropriate resources. Namely a large bag of chocolate caramel shortcake and enough coffee to give Rip Van Winkle palpitations.

Then the fun began. I sat in one room, listening to the coverage from Jim Naughtie and Carolyn Quinn. I frantically scribbled notes - 50 pages by the time 6 a.m. rolled round - and marked up sections for Tom to cut. The only problem with this brilliant plan was my handwriting, which is apparently illegible to mere mortals like Tom. Somehow, he managed.

I was listening out for the magic moments: the breathless atmosphere of the counts at key marginals: the tearstained interviews with failed candidates: and of course the bit where Jim Naughtie talked about a horse getting into a polling booth. Around 3 a.m. I started to flag and was close to hallucinating, but perhaps that was just the bright lights of the set on the TV election special.

Some dramatic results and a spellbindingly unusual interview with Nick Griffin helped pull me through towards dawn. As 6 a.m. rolled round, Tom and I compressed the 8 hours down to a super-snappy 15 minutes. Doesn't time fly when you're having fun.

Click here to play the election night highlights.

Hugh Levinson is an editor in BBC Radio Current Affairs


  • Comment number 1.

    well done BBC. We now have a hung parliament as your efforts (Radio 4 especially) to imply that M Thatcher and the Conservatives were responsible for this economic crisis worked. General opinion - the BBC is left wing. Your relentless attack on the Conservatives prior to the election has left this country in a very serious position as you sucessfully managed to convince a proportion of the electorate that the Comservatives were the nasty party. Well! I ask you. My hope - Nick Clegg does a deal with Gordon Brown then when the deep cuts are announced in the coming budget the Conservatives will be out of the picture. You know as well as I do that the IMF will probably step in with its financial advice if the budget does not propose immediate cuts far beyond what labour proposes. Still Gordon Brown will dodge this by more "quantative easing", that is more borrowing. Let me remind you Maggie Thatcher won two elections, one a landslide the other with a hundred seat majority. It must have been people from Mars who voted for her for according to you lot "she" was the worst primeminister we have ever had. Oh! and by the way, what ever happened to Tony (change - change -change)Blair. You remember hime don't you! You know, him with PR in his DNA. Maggievoted best primeminister excluding Churchill. Start telling the truth BBC!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Tremendous effort! But chocolate caramel shortcake and coffee? I don't think David Dimbleby would approve. I heard recently that the secret to his having the energy of a man 30 years younger is a spoonful of honey a day. I must admit, I did wonder how on earth he did it: he was presenting the election coverage before I went to bed, and was still presenting it when I got up the following morning. You wouldn't get that on ITV. Lightweights...


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