Thursday 25 February 2016
Phoenix fm, Brentwood, Essex.
Eat my Brunch
11.10 am, interview with Amanda Thomas about her latest book, Cholera: The Victorian Plague
Sunday 31 January 2016
BHR 1287/Gateway 97.8, Essex.
On the sad day that we heard of the loss of the great broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan, I made my radio debut. Ironic, really. Huge thanks to BHR 1287 and to Gateway 97.8. I was amazed by the number of people listening throughout Essex and Kent and somewhat daunted when I heard the show was also being broadcast in St Louis, Missouri. The power of community radio! Huge thanks to Alan Newman who interviewed me and John Jenkins (pictured), and to the fabulous Jacqui James. The show was fantastic publicity for 'Cholera: The Victorian Plague' and my heritage work in Rochester and at The Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre.
My involvement with the BBC television series Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA?) began back in June 2012 when Sam Elvin, a production team researcher, contacted me to try and set up a meeting. He wanted to find out more about cholera and wondered if we might meet. This was to be the first of a few meetings but many, many emails to piece together the story for the next series of the popular television programme. By the time you read this, WDYTYA? will have already broadcast the stories of Una Stubbs (24 July), Nigel Havers (31 July), Minnie Driver (7 August), Lesley Sharp (14 August) and on 21 August, Gary Lineker. This was the programme I worked on.
When I first began looking at the life of Gary Lineker's ancestor, Thomas Billingham, the teams at Wall to Wall Media who do the research for the programme were working on many different stories. It was not until October that it was confirmed our episode was going to go ahead. Naturally I was delighted and research went up a gear. We began talking about possible filming locations and also narrowing down the story, ensuring that every detail was as accurate as possible; indeed the attention to detail was incredible.
Our team filmed in London on a chilly day at the end of January. Filming began in the morning and we worked right the way through till mid afternoon when we all stopped for a very welcome lunch. This was my second time in front of the camera, but it was very different to my work on BBC4's The Flying Archaeologist (see The Clock Tower, Issue 30, May 2013). First of all, on WDYTYA? we filmed inside and also the style of the programme is very particular in order that all of the episodes appear the same. I was also not allowed to ask Gary very much or look as if I were prompting him, which was hard, as he was clearly shocked by the news about his ancestor. I only worked on the latter part of the story of Gary's family and was not allowed to know what had taken place in the early stages of filming. The programme has a huge veil of secrecy surrounding it to ensure the impact is greater when it is finally broadcast. It is only in recent weeks that I discovered that the early part of the programme was as traumatic a story as the last and as a result, it was decided to cut out the entire section we had spent around eight months researching. Fortunately I had also worked on part of the story which will form the new ending and by the time you read this you will see what a fascinating tale it is. I was disappointed that none of our filming will have been aired, but I have been assured that when cholera raises its ugly head again, I will be the first person the researchers will contact. That's show business!
On a sunny morning in November, I headed off round the M25 from Hertfordshire on my way to the Cliffe marshes and to meet the film crew for BBC4's new series, The Flying Archaeologist.
I had been approached by the production team about the filming several weeks before. English Heritage's Helen Winton was advising on the series and many months previously I had been talking to EH about civilian life during World War One at the Cliffe munitions works. My grandmother, Minnie Rogers, had worked there during the war, although it wasn't until producer Paul Dunt sent me a big pile of documents about the works did I realise that her brother, my Great Uncle Charlie, was the foreman there.
We met at the car park of St Helen's Church in Cliffe and passers by could have easily mistaken us for the crew of Time Team, as we were all dressed in typical archaeology gear - walking trousers, layers of waterproofs and heavy boots. In fact the presenter of the programme, the Flying Archaeologist himself, was Ben Robinson, who has appeared in many Time Team episodes. Helen Winton was in charge of driving the Land Rover and we had to make two trips down to the marshes to get all the equipment set up and all of us in place.
We were fortunate that the weather remained sunny for most of the day. Filming lasted for several hours and each time we completed one part of the programme, we set off again either on foot or in the Landie to our next location. These were the moments when we all got to know each other, and the time flew by. Helen filmed her pieces with Ben first, and then it was my turn, though this was several hours after we had first arrived on the marshes. My greatest worry when we started filming was that I would forget everything, as there was a huge amount of detail to remember about the various incidents which had taken place at the works. The first take went well, and Ben was brilliant at asking the right questions at the right moment, prompting me for the next piece of the story. When we had finished we had to do it all over again, and then close ups of the photographs and shots of us strolling casually across the marshes. It was tremendous fun, but utterly exhausting.
Reproduced from: The Clock Tower, Issue Number 30: May 2013
Your Family History Magazine
The Clock Tower
Amanda has been Editor of the historical journal, The Clock Tower, for The Friends of Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre (FOMA), since 2006.
Amanda is Editorial Consultant to Harpendia magazine.