HOW DO you get Jeremy Paxman, Michael Howard MP, Jon Snow, the BBC’s Director of News – Helen Boaden, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Rory Bremner (virtually) in the same room and persuade 200 people (including six former Editors of Newsnight) to pay one hundred pounds a head to eat average food but hear good speeches? John Mair has just produced the Annual Award Dinner for the Media Society which went to Jeremy Paxman in London on April 23rd. In true Mrs Beaton style, he will guide you in how to make a good meal the Paxo way…
First get your bird. No roast without a chicken. Persuade ‘Paxo’ to accept the Award using the Old Pals Act-long term friendship. Not as easy as it sounds – he hates this sort of thing and normally runs a mile from them. This time he is amenable. For now.
Then fight for your man. It has to go through a committee. Like all committees, as Elvis might say: “Plenty of Conversation, little action”. Duff up a couple of people and it flies. Do some research – who is the person, whom does he know, whom might he want to speak? But don’t tell them or give them vetos!
Book your headliners to get the bums on seats. Michael Howard MP, Paxman’s most famous victim, readily agrees to be lamb for the slaughter (surprisingly). So too does ‘rival’ Jon Snow of Channel Four News. The BBC play pass the parcel down the executive food chain. It lands on level one and a half with Helen Boaden, Paxo’s ultimate boss in BBC News.
Look for the coups. Ask the PM. He does not reply. Ask again. Still no reply. Third time of asking you get a grudging note saying he cannot be there but will do a video tribute. He does. Not on You Tube, but on DVD. Get a funny act – Rory Bremner fits that bill perfectly and agrees. Nobody is paid to appear. With ‘Paxo’ you could probably get the Queen to do a video tribute. Well, Prince Charles anyway.
Work out a ‘JP – This is your Life’ film. Persuade the BBC and the current Editor of ‘Newsnight’ to pay for the facilities as they have the archive. Search out more. Give the job to a good producer in and out of house. Leave it to them. Get your venue, book the meal and take to market. If you have done those preparations properly then this bird is ripe for cooking.
Making a meal of it
On the night, make sure the main guest comes and that he stays to the bitter end (not as easy as it seems). Keep him sweet. Make sure everybody knows what they are doing and in what order. Running orders and run thrus matter here as in radio and television.
Give people plenty of alcohol to lighten the mood. Make sure they can all see the platform and the plasma screens and all can hear everything. Serve up the starter, main course and dessert condignly. Serve up the speakers and films. Cross your fingers.
A nicely browned chicken. Paxo content. No stuffing, just star worship on the night. Job done!
Pictures courtesy of Chris O’Donovan