As Storm Doris blasted through the UK on Thursday, Chris Buckler and the BBC News team needed a safe, dry place where they could film their live broadcasts about the NI elections. A place where every interviewee they had lined up, every politician of every party, would feel welcome. A place where the new Northern Ireland is being built day by day. A place where the coffee is good and the craic is mighty. Can you guess where they chose…?
And so throughout Thursday BBC News kept cutting live to the morning bustle, the lunchtime madness and the afternoon chill of Dock Cafe. By the end of the day every political party had been featured and had a chance to chip in – although it was a close-run thing as Emma Pengelly, stuck in traffic, still hadn’t arrived when the last live link of the day had started – but in the nick of time, she burst through the door to breathlessly share the last interview with Máirtín Ó Muilleoir – nail-biting TV for those behind the camera at least!
One of the amazing aspects of the day was the way that Chris Buckler used the background and ethos of Dock Cafe to introduce many of the links. From the ‘Pin Where You Come From’ map to the beautiful artwork on the walls of the cafe, the hope and positivity of The Dock was a great visual lead-in to the questions and challenges facing the candidates and interviewees. “This election is all about Honesty – and so here we are, in the Honesty Box Cafe” was my favourite!
All great fun and fascinating to watch. I’m hopeful that the informal surroundings of a cafe rather than the confrontational setup of a TV debate studio created some warmth and humour between the candidates. And across party boundaries there was lots of love for the Dock!
And although I popped up in one of the interviews, I think I’m very VERY happy doing what I’m doing rather than running for office – despite Mark Simpson’s best efforts… Thankfully #votevicar is not trending!