Muriel Gray’s TV diary

Muriel Gray’s TV diary

By Muriel Gray,
Friday, 3rd July 2015
TV diary
TV diary
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Muriel Gray goes on the trail of some prized restoration architecture – and ends up scooping a jackpot at the RTS Programme Awards

I've been travelling the country with the heavenly task of looking at restoration architecture, in connection with our daunting project at Glasgow School of Art (GSA) to rebuild the iconic Charles Rennie Mackintosh building, damaged by fire last May.

Miraculously, most of the building was saved by the incredible quick thinking, bravery and professionalism of the Scottish Fire and Rescue ­Service.

Tragically, though, we lost one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, the Mackintosh Library. We are, of course, going to rebuild it.

Examining parallel, albeit smaller, heritage projects has been a delight. For instance, 78 Derngate, a ridiculously tiny, Mackintosh-designed, terraced house in Northampton, has been exquisitely recreated, with a contemporary wing added to enhance the visiting experience. A joy to walk around.

Our taxi driver, who'd brought us from the station, had ejected us half a mile away, assuring us we were "nearly there".

So as not to be fooled on the return journey, we call one to the door.

The driver turns out be a Mackintosh expert, except that everything he tells us with the grave authority of a local is spectacularly wrong.

We smile and nod, and make noises of feigned interest in the back of our throats, mindful of the possibility of another half-mile walk with non-wheeled cases.

One of my travelling companions, Professor Tom Inns, Director of GSA, demonstrates the greatest restraint by not only allowing our scholarly conductor to talk nonsense, but also tipping this man who insists that nobody in Northampton cares about Mackintosh anyway. We have a ­natural-born leader here at GSA.

The trek takes us north to Liverpool and a tour around the spectacular, refurbished St George's Hall. The janitor, Mike, unlocking things as we go, is passionate about the building. We end up listening to him as much as to our guide.

However, even Mike cannot explain why civic buildings, regardless of their breathtaking grandeur, all end up smelling of boiled cabbage.

Having chaired a fascinating and inspiring RTS Programme Awards Arts Jury, I am rewarded, together with my fellow judges, by attending the ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel, with its carpeted staircase eternally spangled by dropped sequins.

Our table is the best of fun. I start a sweepstake, with everyone marking on the programme who they think will win each category and the person with most wins taking the pot.

On discovering that my hero Tom Hollander is sitting at the next table, I abuse my evening's companion, fellow juror and provider of my London overnight accommodation, Alexei Sayle, by pretending to take his photo while secretly snapping my real target, Mr Hollander. Shameful fan-girl behaviour. Alexei rolls his eyes.

Of course, I tweet this picture, feeling safe. How will he ever know that someone at the next table has behaved so childishly? Fifteen minutes later, I bump into this acting god outside the toilets. He does know.

Turns out Twitter isn't a private thing. I ask a passing Floella Benjamin to take a photo with me actually beside Mr Hollander this time. She does. Because she is smashing.

Later, it occurs to me that I was probably quite rude to Baroness Benjamin, who would have been nicer in the picture anyway, as she was looking gorgeous in a stunning red dress and I was wearing stupid shiny pants. I think I may have to give up this tweeting thing. I'm rubbish at it.

Melvyn Bragg rounds off a terrific evening with a properly stirring speech in defence of the arts and the BBC, as he collects his Lifetime Achievement Award. We should clone him while we can.

I win the sweepstake, through sheer luck and guesswork rather than any broadcasting insight, and probably by being last to fill in the programme – thereby putting my initials against programmes nobody else had picked. I'm a little embarrassed. It smacks of corruption.

We all go home proud of our jury's decision, Grayson Perry: Who Are You? The arts are back in broadcasting with a vengeance. Happy days.

Muriel Gray is an author, broadcaster, producer and journalist.

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