Wednesday, 24 October 2012

You Should Try Viewing

I can't quite believe that it's now ten years since my parents dropped me off at Eden's Court at the University of York for the first time.  The time has flown ridiculously quickly.  Of course the anniversary itself is fairly meaningless but it does give pause for thought that an entire decade has passed since I started university, and in particular since I joined something that's had a huge effect on my life - YSTV.  So I thought I would write a piece about my time as a student.  You'll notice few references to things outside of YSTV, and that's in part due to them being a bit unmemorable (daily grind of lectures/seminars etc) but mainly it's a reflection of my uni years as a whole.  I spent an incredible amount of time within those walls, and much of the socialising and nights out were also with the same people.  I apologise in advance for the length of this blog: it's long, it's self-indulgent, but if I don't write it down now then no doubt I'll forget it all as old age descends!
Edens Court House F - my first year home

In a weird way I don't think I was that nervous when I arrived in York on Sunday 6th October 2002.  I think I'd done the whole nerves-about-going-away thing over the previous few years, come through it and resigned myself to just getting onto it.  It certainly helped that I found I'd been placed in a room next door to someone who went to my secondary school, surely a huge coincidence (although we later found out we had absolutely nothing in common...ho hum).  Despite getting my accomodation application in super-quick I ended up being placed in a somewhat random collection of student houses just outside the main campus.  As we all found out, Eden's Court was an odd little place.  Apparently the uni's first experiment in building housing off the Heslington campus, it comprised of eight houses with ten rooms each.  It was nice enough and far from the oldest accommodation available but certainly hadn't aged well, and was a world away from the shiny new rooms featured in the prospectus.  Whilst Halifax College was even further away from the main campus, it did boast a much greater number of students, and also facilities such as a laundrette, a computer room, a bar and a small supermarket.  We had none of that so somewhat missed out on the first year "campus" experience.  Finally despite being part of Derwent, our facilities were handled by Halifax, and to top it off our nearest college was actually Goodricke.  I was lucky in that I was housed with some great people, one of whom I'd live with for all three years of uni.  Less lucky was that I was placed in a house of ten boys, after seven years in an all-boys' school.  I then completed my male decade my moving into a house of seven boys the following year.  After looking forward to a fresh start on that front, someone up above seemed to be making it very difficult to actually meet the opposite sex. 
In F21 during my first year.  Mini Discs!  Amazing

I'll put my violin away now though.  I was studying Politics and Sociology, which I'd chosen - amusingly - as the grades required for the joint degree were lower than straight politics.  In the event this proved to be a good move, as the way the two were split allowed me to avoid the weirder/more boring/harder elements of each subject, and the joint degree places less emphasis on the disseration.  In a way all this didn't matter as I'd chosen York with as much an eye on the extra-curricular activities as the academic.  I'd already known for a few years that I wanted to move into the media for my career, but having been advised to steer clear of media degrees I instead looked for student TV and radio stations to get involved in. York had both.  I'd visited York Student Television very briefly during my open day in October 2001, and on the same visit had fallen for the lovely campus set round the lake.  So upon arriving a year later I wasted no time in signing up for both YSTV and University Radio York (URY) at Freshers' Fair, and whilst other freshers would head straight out to the student events and club nights I ended up devoting most of my time to these societies.  I now wish I'd spent more time on the social side of things in those early days, but as a geeky chubby eighteen-year-old I suppose I was more comfortable sticking to what I knew!
My first appearance on YSTV, 14th October 2002.  I'm on the right.

My adventures at URY are documented elsewhere, but it had always been YSTV I'd been set on being a part of.  I hit the ground running after somewhat unexpectedly ending up co-presenting the first programme of the academic year after the scheduled host didn't turn up, but getting stuck in was harder then you might think.  There were just two regular shows for new members to get involved with - the twice-weekly news programme Bulletin and the fortnightly discussion show Bona Dicta.  The membership in the main was made up of final year electronics students, naturally resulting in a "techie" bias, whereas being a bit of a dunce in that area I was more interested in the productions themselves.  Although all very friendly and welcoming, most had known each other for three years already which made it harder as a newbie to "slot in", and it's fair to say in that first term I didn't really get too heavily involved beyond going along to what few programmes there were and the occasional meeting.   I remember one early station meeting I went to featured an hour-long discussion on how, where and when an SVHS tape machine could be repaired...   

Elections 2003: group shot after off-air, circa 2am

By the new year however I'd started to get to know people better and began to get involved a lot more.  Most of this came (in the way that YSTV members past and present will recognise) from the time honoured method of "hanging round the control room when you've nothing else to do".  Goodricke became a regular destination for me as a place I knew I could see a familiar face, and over the next three years I would spend more hours that I care to think sitting in that studio and control room killing time I should really have been spending studying.  The techie meetings would be balanced out by the time spent in the bar afterwards.  YSTV's closest was the legendary Goodricke Bar - later known as McQs, but correctly known as Goodricke Bar - and it was one of the best bars on campus. It was housed in an estate pub-style brick building overlooking the lake and featured a proper old-style pub (£1.50 a pint!) with great quiz machines and loads of cheesy Now albums on the jukebox.  Ace.  I got into a routine early in my first year of spending every Monday night there, with the following day's 9.15am lecture viewed through blurry eyes, followed by catching up with BBC2's comedy night on VHS in bed.  I lost many an evening in that place over my three years in York and was quite sad to see it was in the process of being demolished on a return visit last year.

Goodricke Bar: RIP

During my early days at YSTV I commentated on Games Disaster despite knowing virtually nothing about computer games, ending up announcing the wrong contestant as winner.  We filmed a world record head-shaving attempt at a local shopping centre, and I was quite chuffed at organising my own press pass to film Prince Philip opening a new building on campus - little did he know it was so we could poke fun at his gaffes in my upcoming ripoff of Have I Got News For You.  I also drew the station logo in heavy snow: the resulting sequence went onto win "Best Ident" at the National Student Television Awards (NaSTA) in Glasgow that April, which was a huge confidence boost.  YSTV was becoming a huge part of my uni life, and unfortunately for my degree it was about to get even bigger!
Nation Student TV Awards, Glasgow, April 2003

Towards the end of that first year it was all change.  In the spring term there had been an awkward moment when it was realised that taking into account graduations and years-out, there would be just four remaining active members of YSTV the following autumn.  Much of the summer term was therefore taken up with preparation for what was undoubtedly a daunting task for the fab four: trying to recruit an entire new generation of members all in one go to carry the station on whilst keeping the place ticking over in the meantime - oh, and maybe fitting in our degrees somewhere along the way.  The four of us took on a key role each - Chris was Treasurer, Ed became Technical Director, I would be Production Director and Dave took on the role of Station Director.  When I was stood for election in my new role I was perhaps a little too blunt in saying that we had to make it a priority to soften the techie bias somewhat and start making more programmes, although it was agreed that this was the direction that was needed.  The society received a relatively large grant from the students' union, and to outsiders it looked as if this was being spent on a few ancient TVs showing static captions and Sky 1 for most of the day.  The great legacy of the previous few years was that the station itself was in superb technical shape, with the icing on the cake being a new "video server" which we could replay our programmes from.  Previously the schedules had been filled with simulcasts of other channels, with the only YSTV contributions tending to be live and infrequent.  This meant that our prescence on our monitors around campus was actually quite slim, and it had become a campus joke - aided by the frequently vile student press - that "all YSTV shows is The Simpsons".  I wanted to fill our schedules with our own programmes and cut down the simulcasts to an absolute minimum, and the video server - helped by some scheduling software written by Dave - arrived at the perfect time to do that.

The studio, June 2003, with the new YSTV Week set in place

One of my first moves as Production Director was to revamp our news programme.  Bulletin had been running for six years - a long time in the university cycle - and no-one really seemed to have their heart in it anymore.  It didn't really feature much campus news (which obviously we could in theory do very well) instead focusing on local and national news which inevitably was re-hashed from other outlets.  It also ran twice a week for no obvious reason, taking up valuable studio time.  News was always the key part of the station that people wanted to get involved with - the number of budding journalists at uni always surprised me - so it was important to be ready for the autumn term and the new influx.  So in May 2003 we relaunched as YSTV Week.  As the name suggests the new show ran weekly, and aimed to be a "review" of the previous seven days on campus, cunningly enabling it to be repeated on the video server for the rest of the week until the next edition was made.  The show also had a bright and modern new set (inherited from that year's election night programme), title sequence and theme tune.  Indirectly the relaunch of the show would come to have huge personal significance for me, as in January 2004 a girl called Kate wandered into the station asking if she could get involved in the programme.  Not that I started it purely to meet girls, you understand. 
17 Carlton Avenue: home for my second and third years

Meanwhile, in the summer of 2003 we had bid farewell to our graduating members and really were down to what later was referred to as the "gang of four".  Outside of YSTV (yes, there was still an outside!) I'd moved into a very nice shared house with six other second-years, one of whom I'd lived with in the first year but the other five I had met through other people.  I enjoyed this side of uni a lot more than the previous year but I was not alone in my insane dedication to a university society.  My housemates included active members of URY, the campus Lib Dems and Tories, and one even started their own debating society.  This meant 17 Carlton Avenue was frequently quiet, the peace punctuated only by the occasional sound of gunfire - the one housemate not involved in much other than his degree being addicted to shoot-em-up computer games instead.  Meanwhile back in Goodricke, the period in the run-up to the start of term and the assocaited recruitment drive was hugely exciting but also very nerve-wracking.  There was no doubting we had a huge, huge job on our hands.  I think in some ways we were slightly naive as we didn't consider at all what might happen if we failed to attract much new membership.  In retrospect, it's likely we would have faced at least serious down-sizing and possibly even closure, as the students' union couldn't have justified giving such amazing facilities and budget to what one of the campus papers cuttingly had a habit of calling "minority geek soc". 
Signing up new members at Freshers' Fair, October 2003

Amazingly, we got away with it.  Despite our diminutative numbers and our male and geeky image, we managed to convince enough freshers that we were worth getting involved with.  After a period as just a foursome we suddenly had large numbers of people trying to get involved, and this is where it got really tough.  With just four of us, we all ended up having to attened every single programme we transmitted in order to help train and shadow the new crew members.  The first YSTV Week of the academic year was comical, going on air nearly forty minutes late and being riddled with cockups as a result of the inexperience of the crew.  We brought back Games Disaster as another way of getting involved - without appreciating the huge technical side of filming a computer games tournament, resulting in many freshers having to sit around for hours with nothing to do whilst waiting for elements to be set up.  At the same time we were trying to get various other new shows going for new members.  Fitting in our degrees as well was exhausting!

Off The Cuff.  Krazy with a K

Our biggest failure of this period was called Off The Cuff, a music and chat show which as the name suggests was entirely improvised, and was staged using an extra vision mixer that had been donated to the station earlier in the year.  The idea, suggested by one of the outgoing members, was to recreate the Children's BBC "broom cupboard" concept of a presenter sitting in a small set doing quick, unscripted links in between programmes - or in our case, music videos - whilst operating most of the technical side themselves.  We thought this would be a great way of getting budding presenters on air without needing half a dozen crew members next door running the show, with the nostalgic "broom cupboard" angle as a hook as to what we were trying to do, and helping fill some dead afternoon airtime in the process.  That was the idea.  In the event it was a nightmare.  What we forgot was that most wannabe presenters simply wanted to read a pre-written script to camera and could not improvise a link to save their life, so would dry on air frequently.  We also ended up having to use VHS machines for the music videos, which themselves were recorded from music channels, so were difficult to control and cue.  We made some of the worst television ever transmitted in that corner of the studio, but did have a lot of fun using it during Freshers' Week and for our revived Children In Need marathon broadcast.  After trying and failing to launch the regular weekday slot a couple of times we finally gave up in February 2004.  This was a shame but at the time it needed someone to devote a lot of time to get it going which was exactly what it was supposed to avoid!
NaSTA, April 2004, and one of the biggest hauls of awards YSTV has ever received!

On the plus side, I recruited a news editor for YSTV Week meaning I could turn my attention elsewhere, and in November 2003 launched something I'd wanted to do for some time - a television review programme, which ended up being called Small Screen.  It didn't have the greatest of starts.  The first edition was beset with technical cockups caused by trying to play out the numerous lengthy video clips, something YSTV's ageing playout Mac was unaccustomed to.  In additon, as with Off The Cuff no-one was particularly keen on filling the on-screen pundit roles, so I ended up doing it myself with my housemate Tom.  In one of those weird quirks of fate this ended up working quite well, and we re-formatted the show to be just us two, talking about the TV we'd watched that fortnight whilst wandering round the YSTV control room and whatever studio sets were in place that day using a roaming camera.  It gave the show a real "behind the scenes" feel that was totally different to anything else on the network.  To our amazement the programme won "Best Light Entertainment Programme" at NaSTA 2004, which once again was a huge boost to our confidence, and after that we really threw ourselves into the programme which until then had been a bit of a schedule-filling excercise.  NaSTA that year in particular was a great success - two awards and two highly commended certificates, which at the time was the best the station had ever got at the ceremony.  I think Dave and I in particular felt that it vindicated all the work we'd put in trying to relaunch so much of the output in the previous year.  Things were looking up!
"Survivors' Photo" at the end of Elections 2004...circa 4am!  March 2004

March 2004 brought the big one: the annual student union election night programme.  Acknowledged by all as the biggest challenge of the YSTV calendar, this live seven-hour OB from the election results event in Derwent College was always a huge task for techies and production-types alike, and as was customary as Production Director I volunteered to produce it with new news editor James.  The previous year had not been a total success, going on air ninety minutes late, struggling with numerous technical issues and a protracted de-rig resulting in the final bits of equipment not being returned to HQ until 7am the following morning.  Given the reduced headcount this year, and in particular the lack of previous experience, we all agreed there had to be a change in format.  The main presentation team, graphics presenter and control room would remain at the existing studio in Goodricke - meaning much less equipment had to be moved half a mile to the OB in Derwent, where we'd film interviews, a panel and of course the results themselves.  It was a huge (and not always entirely successful) challenge co-ordinating two different control rooms, with one often shouting down the phone at the other wanting to be put on air.  Overall however, to our great relief, it worked.  We produced a show that we could be proud of and indeed received much praise for, in particular from one of our guest political pundits who said that despite previously knowing only the negative press from the campus rags, he had seen a society working positively together and making something rather special in the process.  Elections 2004 was the biggest challenge in my whole time at YSTV but also the thing I'm most proud of, particularly as the split-site format ended up being retained until 2008, well after we'd all left.
NaSTA 2004 - spoof BBC One ident in our "Golden Bodge"

As a result of all this effort I was starting to feel a bit exhausted by the whole YSTV experience.  I was halfway through my degree, which was clearly suffering, and yet despite our success at relaunching the society it was very much only a victory within the York bubble.  The campus rags continued their petty criticisms of us and our output, and this really got to me.  I penned a letter in response to one particular untruth they printed.  It was published, but duly followed the next edition by another barbed criticism of us.  I've no idea what they were trying to achieve, but their real bile was aimed at the other student paper, Nouse.  Talk about two bald men fighting over a comb.  We tried to get our own back where we could.  We later filmed a sketch for Small Screen where Kate sat in the toilets saying there was no toilet paper, but then found a copy of York Vision on the floor and said that this would do.  As they were free and you could take them home with you the papers did carry huge influence, and it took a long time for the perceptions of student media to shift. This sporadically included URY, where I was presenting regularly and (utterly bizarrely) had to tread a careful line sometimes in what I said on air about my "other" campus media involvement.  All this didn't help my worries about spending so much time in the station.  There was also no guaruntee that all this effort would actually help our careers in the long run, so at the back of my mind I did have a slight niggle that this would all turn out to be a huge waste of time.  And, from a personal persective, I was still very single, which was starting to become more of a priority than making programmes no-one was watching. 
Second year house photo
In May 2004 the new generation essentially took the reins as the AGM was held and all the roles were recontested, meaning the "gang of four" could all step back and take a breather.  Unfortunately this signalled the start of the most unpleasant incident in all my time at YSTV.  Dave had done a great job as Station Director, and his replacement was a nice, quiet, pleasant guy who'd joined the previous autumn.  He seemed keen and was a safe pair of hands, so in that most YSTV of ways was elected unapposed because no-one wanted the confrontation of standing against him.  Once elected however we started noticing worrying traits such as talking condescendingly to the membership, treating the station as if it were a political society and getting into arguments over the powers he was given by the constitution, which had never really concerned people before.  This situation developed gradually over the term creating an unpleasant atmosphere in the station until it became clear there was a choice: soldier on or "no confidence" and get a replacement in time for the autumn's fresher recruitment drive.  After much thought and private discussion, we went for the latter.  After a fairly miserable EGM the motion was passed, and the position reverted to Dave.  I still wonder today whether we did the right thing.  It may all sound very petty now but it's difficult to describe how unhappy a lot of us became with the way a society that was basically a group of friends mucking about making TV programmes suddenly became polarised and argumentative.  But there are darker elements of the story we're still unwilling to put into print today, more than eight years on, and you'll have noticed I haven't named the guy in question.  To his eternal credit he remained on good terms with us all, although understandbly no longer involved with YSTV.  The whole period left a sour taste in the mouth and I think after it was all over it helped pull the team together as moved towards the new academic year.

Some of our members at the York University Media Awards, June 2004

Whilst all this was going on, I was having my own "no confidence" period.  In a nutshell, after the huge effort of the previous two terms, I was looking forward to stepping back a little bit and enjoying other parts of uni life that I'd perhaps missed out on so far.  I ended up exhausted and a bit of a mess - you could hear it in my not-so-subtle choice of songs on my URY shows of the period - and at times it's fair to say my general outlook was perhaps not 100%.  Unsurprisingly my degree suffered, but less expected was me losing quite a bit of weight.  Not all bad then.  I ended the term receiving disappointing exam results, which clearly signalled that things had to change.  The first turning point was a very happy moment during YSTV's Summer Expedition to Dublin.  Since she joined the station at the start of the year Kate and I had got along very well indeed, initially just having a laugh whilst the news was put together on a Thursday afternoon and then becoming closer as she got more involved.  It seems amazing now that it took us nearly six months to realise what must have seemed obvious to everyone else and get together, which we finally did in a random pub in Dublin on 3rd July 2004.

Me and Kate, December 2004.  And if I hadn't put the date you could have guessed by the Bo Selecta poster.

For my final year at uni I resolved to take a step back from YSTV and devote more time to uni work.  Well, that was the plan.  As any YSTV-addict will know, that control room is a time vortex.  You can rock up at 10.15am after your first lecture to "see who is there" and still find yourself there in the late afternoon, having lost the best part of a day.  The only option at busy times was complete abstinence, so I was almost completely uninvolved in the Freshers' 2004 push as I concentrated on essays and exams.  That term also had an extra module for us joint-degree-ers (with the final disseration therefore counting for less), meaning I more or less had no choice to pull back a bit.  In a somewhat prescient move I still found time to be the "scheduler" for the station, something I'd enjoyed doing whilst Production Director, and I continued with Small Screen every fortnight, which by now was co-hosted by Kate - in restrospect a rather early move into Richard and Judy territory. 
Stereotypes - Kate's discussion show set in a 90s teenage girl's bedroom - October 2004

Rowan had been elected as our new Station Dictator - I mean Director (oh, how we laughed - somewhat uncharitably as he did a good job with the role).  We also had a great new generation of freshers who were getting involved in YSTV's output.  A welcome development in YSTV that year was far more "socials", as they were politely known (piss-ups would be more accurate).  It was an area of uni life I felt I hadn't done enough of so far, so we all made a point of going to each club in town in turn, not such a difficult task as York only had four.  Once this was complete, for a bit of a joke, we went to the "gay night" at Toffs.  I say "gay night" as York's not exactly cosmopolitan make-up meant that it wasn't exactly Heaven in there, but with lots of cheesy tunes and cheap drinks it was a good laugh.  We had an amazing night and "Big Gay Sunday" was born.  It became a regular social throughout our final year and has somewhat legendary status now amongst that generation of members.  The highlight had to be the weekly B*Witched medley - C'est La Vie, Rollercoast AND Jessie Hold On!  Big Gay Sunday 2 even saw the start of two intra-YSTV relationships...straight ones, before you ask...
The YSTV crew at the first ever Big Gay Sunday, November 2004

Kate had become news editor in the AGM that year and was doing great things to YSTV Week, the programme I'd launched a year earlier.  She was really making it live up to the format I'd envisaged (and more), but due to my lack of journalistic talent - or perhaps talent in general - hadn't really been able to realise.  Originally the news programme had suffered a little from lack of content, especially filmed reports, giving rise to the tongue-in-cheek slogan "packed with fact".  By the end of 2004 the opposite problem was happening, with the weekly edition frequently clocking in at around forty minutes, an incredibly achievement for an amatuer operation and of huge credit to Kate, Kat, Lucy, Will and all the others who worked on the show in that period.  It was well-deserved when the show won Best Programme at the York University Media Awards the following summer, and since the programme came to an end in June 2006 it's fair to say no subsequent news programme on the station has been as consistent, regularly aired and substantial as the period when Kate and her successors were in charge.  Kate also took on producing Elections 2005, and was able to "benefit" from my experience of the year before.  The elections programme that year ironed out the issues from the year before and was a genuinely watchable, impressive broadcast, with amazing hit figures on the website. 

The "news biatches" celebrate success at the YUMAs, June 2005

This was another huge change that year: YSTV's output had finally gone online, thanks to huge efforts on the computing side by Dave, a student union president who was keen to uphold his pledges and the university finally saying "oh go on then".  Although the "live stream" could initially only be viewed on campus, the "on demand" programming that most people would go to first could be viewed worldwide.  Finally, the work we were doing could be viewed properly, and we started seeing the results almost immediately.  As well as impressive hit figures we had a jaw-dropping moment at that year's NaSTA awards where one of STOIC's (Imperial College, London) members approached YSTV to say he was a huge fan of Small Screen.  In the summer term that year we did something I was really proud of: a proper student TV exchange, directly as a result of going online.  A few of us visited London to take part in the final "Matt and Dave Show" on STOIC, and a couple of weeks later Matt and STOIC Station Manager John repaid the favour and appeared on the final Small Screen.  I'm still friends with some of the STOIC group today.

YSTV at the YUMAs, June 2005

By now time was ticking away for all of us in our final year and our degrees started to take priority (better late than never...).  I remember the sitcom-style situation of us writing of our disserations, as most of us were self-imprisoned in our student house, distracting each other more than if we'd been out in the library or a computer room.  I discovered a strange fondness for washing up in that period as it meant I didn't have to go back to my room and the tyranny of the word count.  Lunch break was a generous 12pm-2pm, and Tom, Simon and I developed a rather strange ritual - listening to a trio of songs in the kitchen to distract ourselves from work.  They were "Falling Stars" by Sunset Strippers, "Is This The Way To Amarillo" by Tony Christie and, most bizarrely of all, "Doctor In Distress" by the aptly named Who Cares?  As to why, your guess is as good as mine, but I think the cabin fever was starting to send us insane.  Somehow during this period I managed to keep Small Screen going every fortnight, probably as part of my slightly bonkers aim to not miss a single edition in my final year. 
Good Morning Campus - Kat and I go out with a bang by doing breakast TV, 27th June 2005

My final week as a student was, um, busy.  On the Monday we put out a special one-off programme called "Good Morning Campus" - we basically wanted to see if we could get up stupidly early and do a breakfast show.  We could, and it was ace.  Tuesday was my final York University Media Awards, which was as drunken as you'd expect.  Wednesday was the final Small Screen - and my last live show at YSTV.  As well as the previously mentioned STOIC crossover, we had the best bits from the two years of the show and even dug-out clips of our first appearances on the station.  We ended with our best bits, a Small Screen cake Tom had made, a bottle of bubbly and a few words from me about how chuffed I was about the position YSTV was in as we left.  I was genuinely delighted that not only did we have a well-staffed station full of great people, we were making programmes virtually every night of the week and we were putting them out online for the world to see.  We'd also won Highly Commended Best Broadcaster at that year's NaSTAs - a huge achievememt.  Although I was happy to leave on a high there was also a bit of jealously I wouldn't be around anymore to enjoy the "golden age" I still believe we were lucky to be part of at that point.  On Friday 1st July 2005 - my final day as a student - I got my degree result: 2:1, as much as I'd wished for and more than a bit jammy given the time I'd spent in the previous three years doing (ahem) "other things".  On Saturday I presented my final URY show, following which we all went home, watched Live 8, had a barbeque and maybe consumed a drink or ten.  And on Sunday Kate and I celebrated the small landmark of our first anniversary.  We hung around in York for another three weeks (with Kate moving her stuff into my room - a chilling portent of what I had to look forward to) during which we had that year's YSTV Summer Expedition (to, um, Yorkshire), Gradball, and Graduation itself, before finally leaving the city on Friday 22nd July 2005.  As much as I admit I look at much of my uni days with rose-tinted glasses, I was genuinely gutted as I cleared my room out and we drove away.  I think what stopped it being worse was that the best thing that had happened to me in York was still going to be around!

Kate and I both ended up working in London quite quickly after graduation - we were so lucky, and had YSTV to thank.  Kate's work on the news and in particular Elections 2005 helped her become a documentary researcher, and my enthusiasm for YSTV's scheduling enabled me to get a foot in the door working for ITV presentation, where I still am today.  What was unusual is that we were the first generation of ex-YSTV-ers to be able to properly keep up with the station after leaving York, intially through watching online on the website and later through the social media that was starting to emerge at that point.  This was more difficult that I'd expected, as you'd be constantly looking in on what your old friends were up to back in York, whilst having to go to work all day earning peanuts in a city where we barely knew anyone.  Unsurprisingly we re-visited York quite a few times over the first year or two, meeting a lot of the great new intake and helping out with the big programmes, often more than we had expected.  At Elections 2006, liberated from producing and directing, I stupidly volunteered as a presenter.  I ended up hosting the interview and panel set, so had less than 24 hours to swot up on the student politics I'd been away from for nearly a year (and had never been that knowledgeable about anyway).

One of our many trips back to York: Kev's 21st birthday (80s themed, in case you thought we always dressed like that), February 2006

We also attended another couple of NaSTAs.  The epic conference that was co-hosted by YSTV in Leeds in 2006 passed by in a drunken blur, and we again won the Highly Commended Best Broadcaster award.  I also had the honour of interviewing special guest Greg Dyke in front of hundreds of delegates, this time because no-one else wanted to do it!  However, we knew we'd have to stop visiting at some point and so we set ourselves the 40th anniversary of YSTV in 2007 as a point at which to throw the towel in, by which point all the people we'd been at uni with would have graduated.  In truth the signs came well before that, as we found ourselves perhaps not getting the thanks we deserved for spending a lot of money on train tickets and sacrificing weekends to push trolleys of equipment around campus.  The final show I was involved in was the YSTV40 broadcast in November 2007, where Tom and I were interviewed about our memories of presenting Small Screen and Children In Need - culminating, fittingly, in us both being custard-pied.  And that was that. 

Back and in the hot seat with Simon, Elections 2006

Although not visiting YSTV anymore we did carry on visiting York roughly annually, it being somewhere that all of us had fond memories of and knew where we could have a good night out. We often visited as a group with a number of our friends from that had also moved down to the capital - indeed at one point we had a bit of a running joke that we were part of a seperate society called "YSTV London".  What remaining ties we did have with the station came to an abrupt end in the summer of 2008 when our user accounts on the YSTV website were deleted without notice.  This was something I'd fully expected to happen at some point but not quite in the manner it did - with us, upon enquiring, being told by one of the current members that they "couldn't be expected to maintain accounts for people who hadn't been around for years".  After spending much time and money visiting and supporting the station in the years after graduation it came as a bit of a kick in the teeth, not at all in the spirit with which we'd worked with ex-members.
Revival of Big Gay Sunday coinciding with YSTV's 40th anniversary - 1st July 2007

What none of us expected was a small reconnection with the society a few years later.  YSTV has always gone in cycles - from the techie group I joined to the fairly production-biased group that I left, and similarly the group in 2008 that were largely uninterested in ex-members had by 2011 been replaced by a new team who had, like us, become interested in the archive that the station held (lovingly stored in piles in the corridor betwee the studio and the control room).  Through Twitter (some of that social media that had been making us feel ancient as none of it was around when we were students) we got talking to some of the current members, who had kindly said we should pop in if we were in York.  In November 2011 Tom, Kate and I returned to the station for the first time in many years, and even managed to get shown around URY, which we hadn't visited since graduation.  We met more of the current members at a York Alumni event at BAFTA a few weeks later, all of which gave me an idea.  How about we mark ten years since we started uni by all visiting York again as a group the following year?
With the founder of YSTV and some of the current members at a York Alumni event at BAFTA, November 2011

After a fair bit of juggling with the dates, we settled on our "anniversary" trip to York being in May 2012.  Eight of us - Kate, Tom, Rowan, Dave, Rick, Sarah, Kev and myself - descended on YSTV.  It was really lovely to be back and be quite touching to be given such a warm welcome by the current members.  The Saturday of our visit turned into a day trip - following the studio visit, lunch in the new student union bar in Langwith, followed by a trip to the new Heslington East campus - announced in my first week as a student but only recently opened.  Then came the Charles XII pub in Heslington and the new Lounge bar in what is now James College (following Goodricke's relocation to the new campus) before finally staggering home around midnight.  Much credit, thanks and cross-generational love is due to the wonderful crew who brought us back into the fold, listened to us blather on about the old days and gave us such a good day: Mike, Steve, Sarah, both Emmas, Sam, Viv, Vivan, Michael and Chris.  It was a lovely footnote to our time in YSTV to be given such a warm welcome back and to see such interest in what went before.  Fittingly it was this team who, at this year's NaSTA awards, won the Best Broadcaster award - a first for YSTV to be officially the best student station in the UK, and much deserved.
Back in the YSTV studio - May 2012

With wonderful timing the very week of my tenth anniversary of starting at uni saw a York Alumni event aimed at graduates working in the media.  Nominally it was supposed to facilitate networking, but we found ourselves talking to so many YSTV members from the past decade that the host had to discourage people standing in "YSTV cliques".  I wish I could go back in time to the days of the "gang of four" and say that in the future there will be so many YSTV graduates knocking about that they will need to be split up and told to mingle!  It was a real moment of realisation on the sheer influence of a little idea for a society someone had in 1967 that people still identify themselves by their membership of it years after leaving York.  We all have something pretty cool in common no matter what era we're from, so it was perhaps no surprise that a large group of us from various points across the last ten decade ended up in the pub afterwards and with rather sore heads the following morning.  So as I reach the tenth anniversay of starting uni I can definitely say that those who say the your school days are the best days of your life are talking bollocks.  I had so, so much fun at York, and am so lucky to have met the people I did and have such a great time.  I owe YSTV a lot.  I can say without doubt it's given me a career, friends for life, and of course the best bit of all: Kate and I are getting married next April.  Thanks York. 

In true Big Brother style, I'll end on the best bits.  Look out for mine and Kate's first appearances (both seperately and together), the dreaded Off The Cuff, James harrassing geese, Kat and I nailing breakfast TV, Richard fixing the newsdesk mid-broadcast, me "doing" The Crystal Maze and the infamous Children In Need "pie attack".  And yes, Kate is the person giving Tony Blair rhythm.  I hope you enjoy it.  Before we go, a last look at the clock...

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

# Every second is a highlight #

This week is the tenth anniversary of me becoming a student at the University of York, but as important as that it's also ten years since I joined YSTV.  I'll write something more substantial about my York experience in the near future but for the moment wanted to give a little extra plug to the compilation video I put online on 6th October - ten years to the day since Mum and Dad dropped me off at Eden's Court.  Yep, a bit sad that I did it on the exact date, but the video's been largely finished for about three months now so I was keen to get it out there as soon as I could!

I first had the idea of making a "best bits" video a couple of years ago, but ended getting a bit stuck with the technology.  The basic editing software I had couldn't cope with the various file formats that YSTV has used over the years for online videos, so as most of my recordings from the station are downloaded from the website it restricted me to anything I had transferred to tape which I could then capture myself.  At the time I thought this basically amounted to the final edition of my show Small Screen, which handily had contained clips of the previous two years of the show, so rather than a YSTV highlights compilation I instead ended up making an edit based around one programme (the theme of the sequence I must admit I nicked entirely from Children's BBC's 25th anniversary highlights VT).  Despite this I got a great reaction from it, so ever since I've wanted to try and do a similar thing for the rest of YSTV's output during my time as a member.  Finally, earlier this year - through a combination of some file-conversion software and, um, Windows Movie Maker - the technology came together.  It also coincided with me discovering a load more YSTV stuff I'd transferred to VHS in my first and second years that I'd completely forgotten about, some of which I've since sent onto the current membership as they're almost certainly not held in the archive anymore (the most notable of which, scarily, was Best Broadcaster 2004 - another "best of" edit assembled annually for the National Student TV Awards).
Windows Movie Maker.  Shit, but not as shit as I thought.

Putting the new sequence together was a pretty lengthy task.  I had a fair idea of most of the clips I wanted to include but did do a fair bit of scrolling through programmes trying to find interesting or notable bits I'd forgotten about.  I didn't want a representative sequence of everything we made during that period as we've got Best Broadcaster for that, and don't particularly have anything to prove in that respect. What I really wanted to concentrate on were the memories, and the clips that show us having the great time that we did. This is harder than it may sound as student TV is rarely as Krazy-with-a-K as its reputation might suggest, with people actually putting in a lot of time and effort to make programmes as professional as possible. This meant the edit I've ended up with features a lot on outtakes, clips of our "Summer Expedition" programmes and a scary amount of custard pies.  These were only an annual feature of our Children In Need broadcast, but when edited closely together do make us look a little like some kind of low-rent version of Tiswas...

A few disclaimers, if you will.  I'd initially not wanted to feature any Small Screen at all, having "done" that in the previous edit, but late on in the edit I decided to do a quick photo-montage of the years since graduation to ram home the point somewhat that we're all still mates (and indeed the last couple of photos are us at BAFTA last year with the then-current YSTV team and back in the studio again this May, which was a nice point to end).  It seemed natural at this point in the narrative to show the very end of the series prior to this sequence, which was also our final live show whilst at the university.  The vast majority of the clips are from my time as a student but you'll notice a handful from 2006 and 2007 when we made return trips to help out with big productions.  There's a bit of an absence of material from my first year, which is a shame, but this is largely a result of the station not being online at that point and the much smaller amount of output we had then.  Considering how much of a flop it was there are a surprisingly number of clips from Off The Cuff - however, given the programme's improvised (and frequently shambolic nature) this helped get quite a few oddball bits in.  There are even a handful of other bits found on my old tapes that are getting their first airing in this sequence (yeah, look impressed).  And amusingly You Tube presents you with the option to watch the video in "1080p HD". I hate to be the one to break it to you but it's not like those old Carry On films on ITV3 - we didn't film it in high-def at the time. 

Unlike the track used in the Small Screen compilation there's no real significance to the lyrics of Domino other than I really like the track and it's a good, punchy one to edit to.  There is one line though that sums up the period of time, and it's the title of this blog.  Hopefully I've managed to get across how much fun we used to have and what a great little team we were.  I hope you enjoy it!

If you care - and this is for YSTV archive geeks only really - here's the rundown of where all the clips came from:

1.    (Verse 1) The on-air YSTV clock that introduced the vast majority of the clips featured.  I can reveal this was recorded at twelve minutes past three.
2.    YSTV Summer Expedition 2004 (July).  Running over a hill in Dublin, I think this was for an opening sequence.
3.    Elections 2005 (March).  Some behind the scenes footage I shot for a piece showing how much work went into the election night programme. 
4.    Freshers’ Fair 2003 (October).  More camcorder stuff of our stall.
5.    Woodstock 2003 (June).  Our OB control room – found on a VHS this year, this footage was never used and I’d forgotten I even filmed this.
6.    Bulletin (October 2002).  My first appearance on YSTV.
7.    YSTV Week (January 2004).  Kate’s first appearance on YSTV.
8.    NaSTA 2004 Golden Bodge (April 2004).  Our spoof BBC One dancing ident.  This was lost for years but later turned up on XTV’s website – odd considering Nexus hosted the conference.
9.    This Is Your Manifesto (March 2004).  James chases the geese for a vox pop.
10.  Snow ident (January 2003).  I found this original footage on VHS this year which is why it runs at normal speed instead of Benny Hill-speed as on the finished version.  This “Y” didn’t make the final cut so is seen here for the first time (ooh…).
11.  Bona Dicta (June 2005).  Outtake of Sarah doing her pre-titles piece to camera.
12.  Good Morning Campus (June 2005).  Outtake of Ben coughing his guts up during his regional opt.
13.  YSTV Week Special (May 2005).  Greg Dyke grimaces when asked to read the programme’s slogan “Packed With Fact”.
14.  YSTV Summer Expedition 2005 (July). 
15.  Children In Need 2003 (November).  Pete and Sarah boogie in the broom cupboard.
16.  Good Morning Campus (June 2005).  Kat and I celebrate at the end of the show.
17.  The Great Big Massive YSTV Christmas Quiz Game Show Thingy 2003 (December). 
18.  Off The Cuff (January 2004).
19.  YSTV Summer Expedition 2005 (July).  Scarborough funfair.
20. (Chorus 1) YSTV Summer Expedition 2005 (July).  Sarah is actually miming to S Club 7’s entirely forgettable hit “You”, fact fans.
21.  YSTV Week (May 2005).  Tom tries on the CBeebies Weekly free gift.
22.  Elections 2005 (March). 
23.  Children In Need 2003 (November).  Off-cut from the filming of the trailer.  The very first of many custard pies to be thrown in that studio in November over the next few years.
24.  This Is Your Manifesto (March 2004). James ventures into URY and makes a nuisance of himself…
25.  Elections 2006 (March).  Despite being an alumnus I was back in the hot seat again…
26.  YSTV Week (January 2005).  Kate and Kat sing a song…I forget why…
27.  Elections 2006 (March).  Sarah livens up a boring result.
28.  Stereotypes (October 2004). Outtake – Kate whacks Pete after his cheesy outro.
29.  YSTV Week Special (May 2005).  Greg meets the membership.
30.  NaSTA 2003 Golden Bodge.  You’ll obviously have guessed already but I’m meant to be Richard O’Brien.  Michael and Dave are cowboys.  Don’t ask.
31.  (Verse 2) YSTV Summer Expedition 2005 (July).  Pretending to not be able to find the sea in Scarborough.
32.  YSTV Week (May 2005).  Tony registers his disapproval of the new BBC weather graphics by going back to basics.
33.  Roses 2005 (May).  Pat Sharp did a piece to camera for us but the microphone was left off in error – hence the subtitles.
34.  NaSTA 2004 Golden Bodge.  Jen is  playing Margaret Thatcher but I’ve really no idea why we’re dancing.
35.  The Best of YSTV Week (December 2004).  Always liked this shot.
36.  Elections 2004 Bona Dicta (March). 
37.  YSTV Summer Expedition 2004 (July).  The infamous pints of Smirnoff Ice in Dublin.  Seemed a good idea at the time.
38.  Children In Need 2004 (November).  Being quizzed on my embarassing knowledge of 90s pop music.
39.  YSTV Summer Expedition 2005 (July).  Scarborough dodgems.
40.  Snow ident (January 2003).
41.  YSTV Summer Expedition 2004 (July). At the Guinness factory.
42.  Off The Cuff (January 2004).
43.  YSTV Week (February 2005).  During the weather forecast, Richard decided to try and fix one of the broken slats in the news desk.  I was directing, and it looked so ridiculous that I asked the vision mixer to cut it to air!
44.  YSTV Week (December 2004).  Tony does the weather, for a treat this week in his own clothes.
45.  YSTV Summer Expedition 2004 (July).  Jen awaits Rowan at Dublin airport…
46.  YSTV Summer Expedition 2004 (July)…who gives us a lovely welcome.
47.  (Chorus 2) YSTV Summer Expedition 2005 (July).  Kate gives Tony Blair rhythm.
48.  YSTV Summer Expedition 2005 (July).  Not sure why Rowan was so pleased at going down a slide.
49.  Off The Cuff (January 2004).  Hands-in-the-air moment after Will Young’s Evergreen.
50.  YSTV Week (May 2004).  Me and Kate appear on screen together for the first time, a couple of months before we got together.
51.  Children In Need 2004 (November).  Pete gets more pie than he bargained for.
52.  YSTV Summer Expedition 2005 (July).  No idea what this was about but don't they look cool?
53.  The Best of YSTV Week (December 2004).  “One take Rushworth”.
54.  Off The Cuff (October 2003). Ed fails to get a message across to Dave.
55.  YSTV Summer Expedition 2005 (July).  Rowan’s moment of victory.
56.  (Middle 8) Elections 2005 (March).  Behind the scenes shots of our split-site operation.
57.  Off The Cuff (October 2003).  We go to Goodricke dining hall and find a huge crowd “watching” YSTV.
58.  Small Screen (June 2005).  Our final appearance on YSTV as students.
59.  Photo montage of 2005-2012 including graduation, YSTV40, parties, our engagement and return to the station
60.  Snow ident (January 2003).
61.  (Chorus 3) Small Screen (November 2004).  Outtake from a spoof news sequence for the pre-titles.
62.  Elections 2007 (March 2007). A brief on-screen appearance at my final election night, reporting from the balcony.
63.  Children In Need 2003 (November).  The notorious “pie attack” where Ed and I were attacked by the freshers.  A genuine "Krazy-with-a-K" moment
64.  YSTV 40/Children In Need 2007 (November).  Following a repeat of that very clip Tom and I get second helpings.  Fittingly, our final YSTV appearance to date.
65.  Elections 2004 (March).  James takes Michael down like he’s a domino.  Something I think we all wanted to do from time to time.
66.  Goodbyes montage: Elections 2006 (with the tripod slowly giving way), Children In Need 2004, YSTV Summer Expedition 2005, Elections 2004, Elections 2005, Children In Need 2003 (crammed into the broom cupboard, post-pie attack) and our final YSTV Week from June 2005.
67.  Snow ident (January 2003).  The resolution shot, filmed from Chris’s bedroom window in Halifax College.