It’s British Press Awards week and bow-tie time. Think ‘thank you’s”. Think product placement.
I am not up for an award, but don’t worry, I’m philosophical. Now I think about it, I’ve not won anything for writing since the school’s English prize in 1977 for an essay about my love for Tatum O’Neal. We starred in International Velvet together.
Anyway, moving on, this year I am guaranteed a win of some kind because I am a sponsor. My new website, AccessInterviews.com, is backing the interviewer of the year award. It is a bizarre turnaround – as an interviewer, I have essentially aided and abetted countless vain others in their pursuit of publicity. Now, it is me that needs exposure. Hmm.
In general, the days of my weeks are pretty similar. Sorry. Each morning, I go to my office in the shadow of giant, rusting gas holders in west London. This is my freelance desert island. I cultivate optimism here. First thing, I check every newspaper and update Access Interviews with links to interviews that writers or web editors have yet to load themselves. Not everyone has twigged it is not automated. Later, I have a long meeting with Mettic, the tech company behind Access Interviews. This too follows a similar pattern: I present a list of ideas, then the geeks talk excitedly in a series of incomprehensible three-letter acronyms, while I look out the window.
Good news – top bloggers Iain Dale and Madame Arcati have picked up on my filmed Jeffrey Archer interview. I meet up with Alan Edwards, PR hero to the A-list. His Outside Organisation has been on board with Access Interviews from day one. Back to the office to edit an interview with Will Self with my one-man TV crew, Yuri Krylov.
Next to the awards venue, Grosvenor House, where I am confronted by the name AccessInterviews.com on silk banners and rotating on two huge cinema screens. I am thrilled, but I also feel a bit odd adopting this corporate identity. I’m just a journalist taking a punt. Any worries are assuaged by Daniel Finkelstein, the jolly political guru of The Times. We’ve not met before. Unprompted (honestly), he enthuses about Access Interviews. To hear this from a journo of his stature makes the unending struggle seem a worthwhile. Various meet-and-greets follow in whirl of luvvie-ness.
The dinner and awards continue smoothly. Chrissy Iley is named interviewer of the year. I present her with a magnum of Taittinger, then I am able to relax a bit. I ease my way into the three-stroke sauvignon blanc. The atmosphere this year seems more convivial than ever. Are our newspaper folk mellowing with age? Jon Snow is a star, which, sadly, David Cameron is not. He could have really shone tonight, but he blows it. He rambles and clearly revels in his reputation as a ‘great’speaker. I search for a loudspeaker to call out: ‘Sub-editor to the stage.’
Stand-out moment is easily Paul Dacre’s lifetime achievement award. And the stand-up moment came when a besotted executive led the standing ovation at the Associated table. Linford Christie prided himself on going on the ‘b’of the bang. This loyal subject was upright on the ‘D’of Dacre.
The announcement seems to fill the room with great confusion. To cheer or jeer? But as Dacre takes the stage, slowly, almost statesman-like, the cocktail of well-oiled mixed feelings – envy, disgust, admiration and so on – seem to collide in the air and explode into a gentle, celebratory confetti over the ruler of Middle England: Respect is the word that pervades.
People are positively transfixed as Dacre moves towards the lectern. He is going to speak to US. It is like that freaky moment when the solar eclipse completes. You know, when day becomes night for a beat and even the birds are so confused they stop singing. I swear, as ‘the guv’nor’delivers his short, sharp speech, even the army of non-English speaking Hispanic waiters stop to listen.
I sweat out the three-stroke with a run along the Thames. James Montgomery, the affable editor of FT.com, makes my day by setting up RSS feeds to Access Interviews. Life continues with a flashback slideshow of the BPA on a loop.
Today, I am jetting to my idyllic farmhouse in France. The depressing words omitted from that sentence are ‘on Ryanair’and ‘rented for a week”. I am in dire need of a break. Juggling all aspects of Access Interviews has been knackering. I need to reboot my router and do some writing.
Rob McGibbon is a freelance journalist and founder of AccessInterviews.com