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Construction Company meets Channel 5 News

Monday afternoon 14:56 – Ring, ring went the phone, it’s reception, I have Freya from Channel 5 News for you! My immediate reaction is ‘what’s happened, what have we done wrong?’ A quick scan of my emails and texts indicates there haven’t been any disasters out on site and I have no missed calls, Hmmm. I look out of the window and the world still looks the same; no fires and no asteroids falling from the sky, Hmmm. I wonder what this could be about!

‘Put her through’, I say. And there starts the beginning of a conversation that leads to me being on Channel 5 News. It turns out that Boris Johnson is in Dudley making a big announcement on infrastructure spending and how it will benefit construction companies. Channel 5 News wants to do a piece on how it might affect the construction industry and the economy as a whole. Freya wants to know if we’d be interested in being interviewed for the news piece. The answer is, of course, yes, after all, ‘any publicity is better than no publicity’ as the saying goes.
After numerous phone calls and a fair degree of to-ing and fro-ing, it was agreed that the interview would be recorded at The Lighthouse Centre. It’s a new build community centre that we’ve been constructing over the past year which sits adjacent to Dudley Community Church.
I was to be interviewed by Tessa Chapman, chief correspondent for the channel. The researcher assured me that she was a lovely lady who would put me at ease but also suggested it might be worth listening to Boris’ announcement so I was up to date with what he had to say; that seemed a sensible thing to do in light of the subject matter!

Tuesday: The big day arrived with a phone call from Channel 5 News at 7.35 am confirming that I was still okay to be interviewed, and would 1 pm be suitable. I confirmed that it was and set about preparing for my fifteen minutes of fame. Boris was due to give his speech at 11 am, which I figured would give me the time I needed to absorb and decipher the information in preparation for Tessa’s grilling.
Suited and booted, I headed over to the Lighthouse Centre in time to hear Boris’ announcement and take notes. I needn’t have bothered. Boris, well known for his charismatic, go get ’em attitude spoke for the best part of half an hour with his message being ‘Build Build Build’ but no detail. For the detail, I only needed to download the press release, which would have been a lot simpler and less time-consuming. The main key points of his announcement were:

  • £1.5bn this year for hospital maintenance, eradicating mental health dormitories, enabling hospital building, and improving A&E capacity. This will improve patient care, make sure NHS hospitals can deliver world-leading services and reduce the risk of coronavirus infections.
  • £100m this year for twenty-nine projects in our road network to get Britain moving, from bridge repairs in Sandwell to boosting the quality of the A15 in the Humber region. Plus £10m for development work to unblock the Manchester rail bottleneck, which will begin this year.
  • Over £1bn to fund the first fifty projects of a new, ten-year school rebuilding programme, starting from 2020-21. These projects will be confirmed in the autumn and construction on the first sites will begin from September 2021.
    £560m and £200m for repairs and upgrades to schools and FE colleges respectively this year.
  • £142m for digital upgrades and maintenance to around one hundred courts this year, £83m for maintenance of prisons and youth offender facilities, and £60m for temporary prison places, creating thousands of new jobs.
  • £900m for a range of ‘shovel ready’ local growth projects in England over the course of this year and next, as well as £96m to accelerate investment in town centres and high streets through the Towns Fund this year. This will provide all 101 towns selected for town deals with £500k-£1m to spend on projects such as improvements to parks, high streets, and transport.

With the key points of his speech chiselled firmly into my memory, I was ready for anything that Tessa could throw at me. The lads who are still working onsite were briefed and adorned in their cleanest PPE (are we sure this isn’t a royal visit?) and with radio’s turned down in preparation we awaited our special visitors.

Tessa arrived at just after 1 pm and introduced herself and Mike the cameraman. They were both great and put me at ease right away, dispelling any nerves that I had about the process. I showed them around the site and we agreed on the best place to do the interview. With an extendable boom mic in place to maintain social distancing and Tessa poised to start, Mike gave us the thumbs up, and the camera rolled.
It quickly became clear to me that this wasn’t going to be an in-depth interview about Boris’ announcement at all. Tessa simply fired a few conversational questions at me about his statement, keeping things very low-key and relaxed. Before I knew it, we were finished. Mike got a few shots of the lads working, to pad out the news feature, and as quickly as they arrived, they were gone.

You can’t help but be a little nervous about being interviewed for a news programme; you’d be crazy not to be. At the back of your mind, you know that the press can be pretty ruthless when they want to be. You can’t help but wonder what their agenda is, what they are trying to get out of the interview and how they might cut and edit what you say to manufacture a news slot that looks and sounds utterly different to how you remember it. That being said, I can honestly remark that Tessa and Mike were both lovely people. Professional and relaxed, they put the whole site team at ease and made my role as the interviewee as easy as it could be. As a construction company, we gained very little out of the process, twenty-four seconds of fame towards our allocated fifteen minutes (according to Andy Warhol); they even got the name of the company wrong. Nevertheless, our segment on the news was worth every second of the time we invested in the preparation, and is another experience I can tick off my bucket list.
Looking for a local construction company to help with your project, feel free to get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

Nick Goodwin – Head of New Business.


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