Before they arrived there was a lot of back and forth communication via email and over the phone planning what we were to do on the day. I decided we should do the filming at my Mum and Dads house, it is far nicer than the rented home myself and Adam were staying in at the time, and full to the brim with Mum’s creations.
They wanted to film me at home and at work, I must admit I felt uncomfortable at the thought, and although I was intrigued to see how the day would play out I was also dreading it a little.
I disliked the fact that they wanted to film me at the “coffee shop”, as the coffee shop was not where I wanted to be, I found it both irritating that I was providing them with free publicity but also frustrating that this would be used as a demonstration of who I am and what I do.
The sky team kept asking me what it was I did in my spare time! For some reason, when put on the spot, I found that a hard question to answer. They wanted to catch me, doing as I normally do, baking with Adam and making with Mum, but it was all so hilariously forced ! I will never watch TV again in the same way, without thinking, I wonder how many times they had to say or do that? Or in our case, I wonder if those cakes are really “hot out of the oven” ?
It was all good fun though.
The team were lovely, there was the director, the camera, sound and lighting men. I had seen and met the majority of them in the filming of the Heats. Me and my Mum were so excited at the prospect of telling the viewing nation about what our Business Random Makes is all about, as we were in the process of developing handmade products to sell on my online Shop, as well as growing a community of local makers to show and sell their work.
The filming at home went really well, there was a lot of laughing involved and we all got on. We sat around our kitchen dining table to eat the lunch my Mum had prepared. I think they were expecting to go out on the hunt for food in Preston, but they obviously don’t know my Mum.
Lets get on with it
The day was drawing near now, myself and Adam were to travel down to London that evening after work, we would be picked up by a car and taken to a fancy 5* hotel near to The Royal Academy of Art where the Semi Finals were to be filmed. It was nice to have Adam with me this time for support.
In the morning all the Semi-Finalists met in the reception room of the hotel, I felt a little socially awkward as we waited for the taxi to arrive. We all dumped our backpacks and art materials in the back of the car and piled in two separate Taxi’s. The silence was broken by the Taxi driver telling us a somewhat inappropriate story about his experience working with Ralph Harris. It definitely broke the ice and drew emphasis away from the strange scenario we found ourselves in.
After a little filming outside, we were lead into a small drawing room in the Royal Academy. The weather was sweltering, they were calling it a heat wave and the 7 of us as well as the film crew were to be crammed into this small un-ventilated, un-airconditioned room for the next two days.
I found it terribly distracting and it intensified every anxiety I held.
The seating arrangement was strange and curved, I was concerned I wouldn’t have a good view. As I looked out onto the empty staging I saw 2 chairs and immediately came to the conclusion that we would be painting not one but two sitters. This was confirmed by a friendly photographer who I had spoken to on the day of the heats, he excitedly approached me letting it slip and going red with embarrassment.
I knew once this news was revealed to the rest of the contestants that we would have to rejig our positions, after a good hour of us setting up. It seemed a little silly to me but as long as I had a good view at the end of it, I wasn’t fussed.
Richard Dawkins and Sally Hitchiner were introduced to us, she seemed very warm and him, well not so. They both had a lot to say and to offer to the conversation about their contrasting views, lead by Joan and Frank. Richard seemed very aware of what he was saying and actually on one occasion was insisting that something they had recorded be deleted from the final cut.
It was time to start, I hadn’t practiced for a double portrait and felt distinctly out of my comfort zone. The set up this time was a little different, you didn’t have the support of family and public behind you, just your fellow semi-finalists. I hadn’t gotten to know everybody yet but I was sat next to a funny fellow named Bill. We had quite a good laugh, whether or not that was the right or wrong thing to do I don’t know. In hindsight maybe I should have been a little more focused, but it felt as though this time around it took me longer to settle in.
The drawing went really well, but the paint went on slowly.
They were keen for us to capture the contrasting views and personalities of the sitters we were studying, however all I saw were similarities. I respected them both for their strong views and opinions. I am, after all, a very opinionated person myself. I painted them as equals however I know that wasn’t the way Bill was coming at it.
There was another day to go yet and a whole lot of painting to get done. I get a bit blurry at this part to be honest but will try my best to describe it as I remember.
My Mum and Dad had arrived in London now and were with Adam enjoying the hot weather. I went in feeling I needed to block everything out around me and get down to it. I missed lunch and just kept painting.
Time was up, I had managed to get the painting to a stage I felt was acceptable, when they told us to stop painting. I placed my paint brush down and took a deep breath, I had no idea what the outcome would be.
Everybody had produced interesting and skilled work, as we stood outside for interviews Christian re assured a slightly worried me, that this competition was not just a competition of skill but also a competition of who could paint the fastest.
It was time for the sitters to choose their favourite portrait to take home. As suspected both Richard and Sally chose Christians portrait, it was undeniably fantastic from start to finish. They had to flip a coin and the loser was forced to chose a runner up, Richard lost to Sally and chose my painting. I felt like somewhat of a consolation prize, being second choice took the shine off it a little.
Friends and family were lead into the room to watch the announcement of what three out of seven of us would be going through to the finals. We were stood by our paintings in a line, and three deserving names were called, but not mine. I clapped and smiled as I would expect anyone else to do in that situation, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. The judges all said how well I had done, that I should apply next year and how close I was, but I don’t know if that made me feel better or worse.
Back to the drawing board
I returned to the hotel with my parents and boyfriend, we were in an Ibis now, as we were staying one night longer as a family and extending our trip. I jumped in the cold shower and had a little cry. I didn’t know what the outcome of doing the programme would be for me now, but I did know I was going back to Preston, metaphorically empty handed and back to work serving coffee.
I wasn’t going to settle for that, my hard work would continue, and at some point I was sure it would all pay off.