Like millions of other people over the decades since it was first broadcast in 1979, I’ve watched Question Time and shouted questions and answers at the TV in spite of the fact that the panel and audience couldn’t hear what I was saying.
Always good viewing, Sir Robin Day was in the chair first – followed by Peter Sissons. Even when politics and politicians have failed to move us – to anger or approval – Question Time has managed to be engaging and interesting. The audience is never less than surprising – not always it has to be said in a life enhancing or inspiring way. One of the things that keeps the formula fresh is its diversity.
Some panelists may give predictable sound bites or seem at times too eager to stay on message for their particular cause or Party; but the audience members really do say it how it is for them.
At times this can be cringeworthy and bring to mind the old maxim: “I don’t agree with a word you’re saying, but I defend to the last your right to say it”. If the comment is bigoted, divisive or racist, free speech – to me – doesn’t feel quite so free, as we all then pay the price of a society made smaller and cheaper by it.
Current host David Dimbleby has been anchoring the programme since 1994. When he announced a couple of weeks ago that the following week they would be in Doncaster I went straight online and filled in the application form to take part.
Having had a little bit of a crush on Mr Dimbleby since, well, forever, I was delighted to get a call the day before filming to let me know I had a ticket. So 6.30pm at The Dome last Thursday, post security check – including my passport for ID, body scan, bag search and plastic ‘hospital’ bracelet attached – I’m sat with around 200 other guests trying to think of a smart question to put in for consideration.
In spite of the fact some media seem to keep saying we’re bored with it already, the EU Referendum was a hot topic and by my reckoning was discussed from one angle or another for at least half of the programme.
I knew little or nothing about the panellists – I’d only heard of one of them before and I pride myself on being an avid researcher and general news junkie.
This didn’t make any difference to the liveliness of the hour we recorded, finishing about 50 minutes before the programme was broadcast.
I was home in time to watch the show, hear myself described as ‘the woman in spectacles on the gangway’ by Mr D and share my thoughts on why we shouldn’t leave the EU.
A special mention for the Floor Manager who was both professional and likeable and of course the eternally impish, witty and consummate broadcaster Mr Dimbleby.