I’ve been giving cryptic hints of me doing something quizzy in London for a while – well it finally happened this week! I went down to London on a warm Wednesday evening to take part in BBC Radio 4’s long-running quiz show Brain of Britain. What an experience!
I had auditioned last year and didn’t get through, but this year I managed to get into the 48 contestants. Auspiciously, my zoom audition was on my birthday back in May, and I was shocked to recognise some of the faces on the screen from various quiz shows like Mastermind, but also I was auditioning alongside Gail Trimble! (Trinity’s captain from University Challenge a few years ago). Eek!
It was something to walk up the piazza into the BBC and have my own WIA moment. They record two shows per session, so we contestants gathered in Reception and chatted. I think everyone else had been on other shows recently: Only Connect, Mastermind etc. I was chatting to a chap Ned (who had been on countless shows including …Millionaire and turned out to be a professional gambler!) and mentioned I auditioned the same night as Gail – he said ‘Not the Trimble, we don’t stand a chance!’ or words to that effect. At this stage, there were 7 out of 8 contestants there, and in walked Gail! I had to stifle a guffaw. It was good to see that we were 50:50 women and men contestants. I was also chatting to Tom, who had done ‘Motorways of England’ as his Mastermind special subject winning his heat. I was the only one, I think, who hadn’t been on other shows in recent years.
They took us through into the old part of Broadcasting House to the Radio Theatre – view from the stage above – and we met the team and had a rehearsal doing our little introductions and a couple of practice rounds. I was in the first heat, sitting next to Tom. From the rehearsals, it was clear that he would probably win. Then the audience filed in and it all started to feel very real, or should that be surreal? Anyway, I shall say no more about the actual quiz, except I didn’t disgrace myself, and I did have a whale of a time.
The production team were absolutely lovely. Questionmaster Russell Davies is getting rather aged but still has a lovely voice. We all had drinks and nibbles afterwards and I made some new friends. I was urged to have a go for Counterpoint – the R4 music quiz hosted by Paul Gambaccini. I’d need to brush up on opera, choral and 21stC pop in particular, but that would be fun too.
As for Mastermind, as you’ll hear in BoB when I get my easy last question wrong, as my brain froze and I couldn’t produce the right name, sitting in that black chair on my own under the spotlight, may be a quiz too far, but I can’t help but think of potential specialist subjects… the life and works of Paul Auster, Beryl Bainbridge, Iain Banks or Tom Waits spring to mind immediately…
My heat will be broadcast on Radio 4, Mon Sept 5th at 3 pm (available on BBC Sounds afterwards)!