I have been meaning to write this post since our trip to Birmingham on March 12th but with one thing or another it has kept being delayed. To ensure it gets written this week, I have got up at 1.30am, purely because I can’t sleep and because with it being Easter week (well Easter week just gone) I have had a jammed packed diary full of spending time with both Mr Myasthenia Kid and my parents.
We knew about the trip to the TV Channel Sewing Quarter HQ for around 4 weeks before we travelled and we had been asked to keep it quiet. Neil the boss, had asked us via our email correspondence to keep it a secret to surprise the viewers. It was one of the hardest secrets Jay and I have ever had to keep. Especially when Jay would post another video of him doing an impression of the presenter John Scott and many of the Sewing Quarter fans would be asking when the two of them would meet or saying how funny it would be for them to present a show together. All the time I wanted to say “It’s happening!” but couldn’t. The only time I did very nearly spill the beans was when there had been a couple of snide comments on my social media regarding Jay’s “attempt to be famous”. We had never set out for him to be famous, both of us quite enjoy our quiet lives, all it ever was and would be was a bit of a giggle.
We were offered hotel accommodation for the night before Jay would be on air but we declined due to the dogs never having been left alone with a dog sitter overnight, plus it would have messed up their morning walk. Since Willow’s death we have tried to keep as much to a routine as possible to reduce their stress. Leaving them like that would have only upset them. It did mean however that we had to get up at 2.30am so that we could leave the house by 4am. We had to be at the studio for 7am. We knew at that time of night / early morning the traffic would be very light and the trip to Birmingham could be made without having to travel at breakneck speed. It was just as well because the weather was truly awful for the majority of the journey with incredibly heavy downpours.
I had estimated that we would arrive at Sewing Quarter HQ between 6-7am, we managed to do exactly that arriving at 06.40am. Luckily we managed to park right outside the building also. The building itself was nothing special. Unless you were a fan of the show you’d have no clue what went on behind the doors of this tiny building. There was nothing on the outside that gave the game away. I was so concerned that we had arrived at the wrong place I looked it up on Google Street View. I text the lady we had been corresponding with to let her know that we had arrived and would be at the front door shortly. Jay needed to change into a more flamboyant shirt and change his shoes whilst also topping up his nicotine levels due to nerves.
As I pressed the buzzer on the intercom I was rehearsing what I was going to say in my head. Even though the building was small I was still expecting there to be some sort of receptionist. That’s when I got the shock of my life as who opened the door but John Scott one of the shows presenters and the man we had come all this way to meet. I won’t lie I went all fan girl and all I could say for about 30 seconds was “OMG,OMG, OMG” John laughed and said something along the lines of “come here you” and gave me a huge bear hug. He was so down to earth and welcoming. I have met a few famous people in my time and some of them, in private / on their own territory when the cameras aren’t rolling are the biggest dickheads going. I can honestly say John is as mischievously charming off-screen as he is on.
He led us down a corridor to meet Hayley – my point of contact and a few of the staff members who were already in working. Two of them being little Paul and Vegan. We know their nicknames as John will refer to them as he does the show. I was expecting it to be a small studio setup but this was even smaller than I had envisaged. Once you left the main corridor you came into the main work area / office space. This is where guests prepare the projects (or put the finishing touches to) that they will be working on during their hour (if you’ve never watched it the show is broadcast from 8am until 12pm and each hour is dedicated to a different subject area to do with sewing, be it tools to help you, dressmaking, bag making, toy making etc, it is essentially there to sell products but it also teaches you so much by following the experts advice). It is also where they keep completed projects such as cushion covers, quits, toys etc
Hayley took us on a quick tour of the building and it was quick! In the main room there was access to the studio via a double door, when on air the red light would show above it. To the left hand side of that was a small kitchenette and staff toilets. We were led into the studio and couldn’t believe that all the cameras were operated by one person. I did media studies as part of my degree over 22 years ago now, as part of my degree I did editing, camera work, sound recording etc etc All I can say is like everything in life, things have moved on a great deal.
As you can see there is a bank of cameras, what you can’t see is the small camera above in the lighting track which takes the overhead pictures of the desk. So when John, Natasha or any of the other presenters or guests need a close up of something they are doing this is done by the overhead camera. It reminded me of a store security camera. Quite often they will do shots of the sewing machine in action, a small camera is hidden in the shelving to the presenters right hand side. Most of the time there is a graphic being displayed down the left hand side of the screen so viewers would never see that camera. I found all of this incredibly interesting as when I did filming at university the cameras were still absolutely enormous and needed a great deal of physical fitness to lug around.
Hayley was called away for a few minutes which gave Jay and I the chance to explore the studio alone and take lots of photos
When we came back from the tour we were called into a little huddle, where it was explained what Jay would be doing. Jay was told he would be on air around 08.30am and that he would take the viewers through some fabric. If anyone has wondered what preparation Jamie got for going live on air that was it. He had no clue what the fabric was until he was live on air, he was given no notes on it, what colours it would be nothing. All we could do was go and have a cup of tea in the kitchenette and then sit in the green room watching the show before Jay went on air. At around 08.15am Jay got miked up, that was quite funny as never having done anything like this before he had no clue that the cables had to go under his clothing and into a little battery pack in his back pocket. After that was done he went very quiet so I knew he was really nervous and to be honest I was nervous for him. It’s one thing messing about doing an impression of John Scott in our front room with only me and the dogs as his audience but to then go live on air, with virtually no preparation…..he is my hero.
I watched him in the green room which was really odd as the show is broadcast on around a 10 second delay (maybe more maybe less) so I could hear John and Jamie talking in the studio before I could actually watch him on the screen in the green room. I don’t know who was more relieved when it was over me or him! We headed straight to the kitchen and had some breakfast as neither of us had been able to eat before the broadcast. For the rest of the morning (even though at 9.15am it felt like it should be 4pm) we amused ourselves by talking to staff members, looking through all the shows previous makes and I got chatting to that mornings guest Deborah Simms who has to be one of the nicest people I have ever met. I chewed her ear off all morning about sewing etc and she answered every question. She even gave me a quick demo on the sewing machine that I had been lusting after for a while that they use on the show the Elna 680. ( last week I decided to hell with it and bought myself the Janome Atelier 5, which is the Elna 680 just with the Janome badge as they are the same company).
We watched quite a bit of the show in the green room, at around 10.30am Hayley came in and asked Jay if he would like to go on air again towards the end of the show. They would like him to read the menu for the following days broadcast. Of course he jumped at the chance. This time he was much more relaxed as he could read through the menu before going on air and we bounced ideas off each other for things he could say. I am pleased to report he did use one of my lines!
Around 10 minutes before he went back on air he was miked up again and this time you could see how much more relaxed he was. As I sat in the green room watching him on the screen my heart swelled with pride. He did so well the first time on air but this time it was even better. He looked a lot more relaxed and this time I could see he was really enjoying himself. That was all I ever wanted, as it was a kind of thank you for everything he has done for me over the years.
After the show we were called into the studio to do some publicity shots by the social media team. We also got to take out own photos
To wrap up our day we went out to lunch with Deborah, Hayley and John and it was hilarious. I can’t go into detail as it wouldn’t be fair on any of them as other than Hayley none of them knew I was a blogger and I never told them directly that anything said to me would be repeated on my blog. All I can say is John needs to write a book and tell all his wonderful stories from his wildly varied work he has done over the years. I could sit and listen to him for hours. Alas the day was over far too soon and we were back home by around 16.30 that afternoon. It was a day we will both remember forever.
The Sewing Quarter can be viewed daily on channel 678 Sky, 78 Freeview and online at www.sewingquarter,com or on YouTube.