Tuesday 11th December. The last of the 3 Tenbury Mistletoe Auctions for 2007. And this time I’m there for 05.30 hours and it’s very very cold (-2.5C) and very dark. The mistletoe looks good though, all sparkly and frosty!
Why so early? Well, BBC Breakfast TV are here to broadcast live links during the show (6.00 to 9.00am) and this year I’m acting as a sort of press officer for all things Tenbury Mistletoe. Though I’ve always fielded the press at mistletoe time, my role as Publicity Officer for the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival this year has rather formalised the role, even if most of the coverage is about the auctions (for which I hold no brief at all!) not for the Festival.
So it’s a little awkward – as the messages I want to get across (from the Festival point of view) – about Tenbury’s tradition with mistletoe and about Tenbury’s recovery from the summer floods, are rather lost as (at the auctions) I have no say on the angle the press are coming from or what the interviewees talk about. My personal mistletoe ‘agenda’ items for this season – better management of mistletoe (ie sustainable harvesting etc) and the new work on the national mistletoe survey data are far too complicated to even try to fit in today’s circumstances – so I don’t try..
Today’s BBC story/theme is about the shortage of holly berries (frankly not a particularly significant event – and merely a variant of what is reported EVERY year) interspersed with footage I suggested to them of Stan Yapp harvesting mistletoe in his orchard yesterday. Interviewee for the morning is due to be Nick Champion, auctioneer. Neither Stan nor Nick are likely to spin their answers around to the key messages of the Festival and the town, without being fully briefed and willing – and even then it would be very difficult if the press just want to talk about holly… So I’m probably not succeeding in my mission…
Nevertheless, having been indoctinated over many years by the British Waterways Press Office that you must look after and monitor the media when on-site I get up very early and make sure I’m there soon after the OB van arrives. I check all’s well and happy, advise on piling up the holly and mistletoe lots to look better (there’s no-one else here, apart form the site-owner), introduce myself to the crew and presenter and then stand back, shivering a little, to keep watch on proceedings. It’s dark, so my pic is a bit wobbly…
Just as well really, as the live 6.20 link comes and Nick isn’t here so I stand-in – only to say a few words about the holly berry shortage (they don’t want anything else and its’s all very rushed). One theme they want info on is did the floods cause the berry shortage?? Er, no, what would be the trigger there chaps? Turns out later in the day they’ve all (newspapers and all) picked this angle – which is clearly utter nonsense. They seem to believe all the holly trees of the area somehow got flooded (extremely unlikely!!) or that the floods near the river somehow affected the holly everywhere (er, how??). Talk about clutching at straws – maybe people think holly grows as short crop on the ground???.
This clearly indicates that next season Tenbury needs a more co-ordinated media approach, covering Festival, Auctions and mistletoe/holly state-of-the-nation information. It would be so much better for Tenbury and the media.
Anyway Nick has arrived for the 7.20 link but even he only gets a chance to say ‘yes holly is expensive this year’ and then that’s it – for the 8.20 link they don’t ask for any input. But I continue in my unofficial minder role until the end, persuading arriving buyers to switch off their engines when pausing next to the camera. And it’s still very cold – but at least we have a spectacular dawn.
It’s soon apparent that we have a large posse of press photographers here today – from all over the place, and so maybe we’ll get that national newsaper coverage after all (the auctions haven’t been covered at all so far by the national papers (I think)). But there’s definitely this weird pre-occupation with holly berry shortages ’caused’ by the floods. Doesn’t bode well for sensible coverage!
A little light relief when I get a call from a chap at the Star wanting to know about the ‘mistletoe shortage’. 0/10 for him so far!
Later the film crew for BBC TV’s The One Show turn up, though minus their reporter (who’s lost in showbiz somewhere down south) so they just film GVs of the auction until she shows up, just in time to see the auctions end…
But they’ll be ok, lots of good footage and they’re off to see Stan Yapp in the afternoon. They thank me profusely as they leave – but all I’ve done is help them (over several weeks)with contact details – but then I s’pose that’s what they expect in a press officer role. I had assumed, up ’til almost the last minute, that they’d want to talk to me about mistletoe but apparently not… Must try harder!
Could add a lot more here – including Stan’s mistletoe portrait, unveiled today, in the back of a hired van, by Paul Saville, the artist. But I’ll say more on that another time…
Prices by the way – just as before – high for holly, low for mistletoe. And a lot less mistletoe this week – growers are obviously deciding the prices aren’t worth it. So maybe there could be a shortage of mistletoe after all??!!