Many thanks to Debby Robinson for sending in this review of the recording of Gardener’s Question Time at the Ventnor Winter Gardens a couple of months ago. Ed
Back in the summer (the bit before you blinked and it was autumn) Gardener’s Question Time came to Ventnor’s Winter Gardens to record two shows for Radio 4.
Since 1947, GQT has been pulling the crowds, making it the longest running gardening programme in the world. A gratis plug in the local press guarantees a hoard of middle class, well-behaved, articulate folk – all eager to please and all absolutely for free and for nothing. These enthusiastic volunteer performers require no make up, no lights, no set and, amazingly, no run through. Four experts up on stage, a handful of sound crew and away you go.
Question cards handed in, audience seated, the lucky few are chosen and yes, dear reader, I was one of that happy band, ready to trot out my sound bite for a show which, in my youth, would initiate the hurling of shoes to kill the radio. Older and wiser, now only Money Box or Any Answers have that effect on me. Gardening comes to us all, just as surely as reading glasses and big knickers.
In the hall recording started and, extraordinarily, nobody fluffed. We knew what was required of us and by golly how we delivered – local fascinating facts and prompts for quips and even poetic reminiscences from the panel. Having done some telly in the past, I was utterly in awe of GQT’s winning but spectacularly simple formula. This pared down production setup is, however, totally dependent on a supremely professional tapping of the national gardening vein, still as ready for action as when asked to ‘dig for Britain’ during the war. No wonder it’s been going for sixty years.
Only one sour note struck me as I left. It was the largest crowd I’d ever seen in the Winter Gardens. It was much larger than the turn out when selling off Ventnor’s precious seafront (the family silver) for a pittance was discussed. It dwarfed the numbers in attendance when the IOW Council came to Ventnor to sit and answer local concerns. It made the handful that bother going to Ventnor Town Council’s annual Town Meeting laughable.
When you really want bums on seats in Ventnor give ’em gardening, octogenarian clarinetists or the Antiques Roadshow.
The second Gardener’s Question Time recorded in the Winter Gardens can be heard next Sunday @ 2pm on BBC Radio 4 and is repeated on Tuesday at the same time. It is a Taylor Made production.