Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published September 23rd 2014
Be in the Audience of Your Favourite TV Show
ITV Studios, Upper Ground, Waterloo
If you are a Great British Bake Off fan like me, then you were probably over the moon when it was announced that there would be a spin-off chat show as part of a behind the scenes follow up.
After watching a few episodes of An Extra Slice, I thought to myself, 'wouldn't it be fun I was one of the audience members?' And then I thought, 'wait a minute, how do people actually get to be art of the audience anyway?'
This lead me to do some thorough research (also known as a Google Search), and I discovered SRO Audiences. Short for 'Standing Room Only', SRO is a company that organises all the audience participation for shows shot at ITV London Studios. I was amazed at all the different programmes one can apply to be on. There are dozens, including Loose Women, The Voice, 8 out of 10 Cats, The Graham Norton Show, and of course, An Extra Slice.
To be an audience member, you simply fill in a ballot form and choose three preferred dates. If your name gets chosen, then you will be sent tickets via email. I signed up without hesitation, but also without any expectation that I would ever hear anything back.
After forgetting all about it, I then got an email saying that I had won tickets to the event, and was ecstatic. Guests are encouraged to bring their own bakes, which would be judged by the studio organisers. They pick out the most interesting - best and worst - to be presented on the show.
I baked stollen for the show.
From watching An Extra Slice I knew the ones most likely to be picked were the ones with caricatures of Paul and Mary, but since I am absolutely useless at presentation, I decided to stick with what I knew, and made stollen. My mum said I had dedication, spending three hours in the kitchen baking something I wouldn't be able to taste, but I think it was my dad who was most disappointed that he wasn't allowed to eat it.
Tickets to these sorts of events are always over allocated in case of the inevitable no-shows, and Mum warned me that queues start forming early, so we should leave ourselves plenty of time.
When we arrived at ITV Studios, we joined what did not look like a very long queue, but we soon found out that this was because other people had already arrived, got their wristbands, and gone off again. Still, we didn't think we would have a problem getting in.
That was until a bunch of people started skipping the queue. What were they doing? Turns out they had priority tickets. I had no idea what priority tickets were at the time, but it it turns out that these were people who had not been allowed into the previous show they had tickets for, so were giving priority at the next event. There were a lot.
Melvyn Bragg's Hand Cast
Mum and I tried to stay positive, but with each new priority wristband handed out, my hope dwindled. I kept occupied by admiring the celebrity hand casts hanging on the wall, watching a silent television screen, and trying to keep warm as the temperature took a decided dip.
After waiting in line for an hour, security started letting people in. Priorities went first, and then they started calling in standard entry by number. First the started calling people in groups of fifty, and then in groups of twenty. We kept our fingers crossed. A man then came out and announced that they wouldn't be able to get anyone in with a number over a 160. Our wristbands read 167 and 168. We couldn't believe it.
We were told that we would be sent an email for priority tickets, next time, but since I am busy on the final filming day I will not be able to go. Although disappointed, I am going to try my luck again next year. I also thought I would share some tips that I have learnt from the experience if you would like to be a TV audience member.
1. Arrive EXTRA Early
Whatever time you think you should arrive, go half an hour earlier. We were seven/eight numbers away from getting in. If we had given ourselves an extra fifteen minutes, we would have made it. That still would have been cutting it fine though, so it is better to be safe than sorry.
2. Don't Hang Around
If you are worried about standing in a queue for hours, getting a bad back and achey feet, you need not do what we did, and stay there the entire time. Once you are give your wristband, you can go off and sit down for a while until it gets nearer the entrance time. You're called in by the number on your wristband, not where you are in the line.
3. Be Prepared for a Long Day
Most of these shows may only be half an hour on the telly, but they take a long time to shoot. If the doors open at 3.15pm, then recording is unlikely to finish until 8.15pm. You can buy refreshments from the bar, but you are also permitted to bring your own food and drink. Only screw top bottles are allowed though.
4. Dress for the Camera
Avoid wearing black and anything with a brand name. If you do get caught on camera then you want to look your best. If you want to make it easier for you to be spotted, wear something bright and colourful. You get sent a form asking if you are happy to appear on TV, so if your not, don't worry, you will probably be seated somewhere that doesn't get filmed.
5. No Photos
Photography is not allowed inside the studio.
6. Adults Only
You must be 18 or over to attend, and ID might be requested.
7. If at First You Don't Succeed...
If you don't make it in, you will be sent priority tickets for another event. This, however, might not necessarily be to the show you originally applied for.
We may not have got in, but we're trying to look on the bright side. Mum didn't miss Downtown Abbey, I got to make my stollen and eat it too, and I know better for next time.