n June 2005, I joined some friends to see Countdown recorded in Leeds. They record several episodes per day at Yorkshire Studios, it was all quite surreal. The studio was smaller than we imagined and differently laid out. I figured everything would be a lot taller in height and more spaced out. But it was all very compact – dictionary corner isn’t actually a corner, and everyone sits right next to each other. Carol was fantastically quick in whipping out letters; the whole operation, in fact, was incredibly slick.
We asked specifically to sit behind the ‘tomorrow’s contestant’ guy, so we’d get on telly! We were trained to clap by the warm-up chap, who wrongly accused us of being from the Leeds Uni Scrabble Society, and also had us practice groaning during Richard Whiteley’s (rest in peace, god bless you sir) abysmal anecdotes. The celebrity guest was none other than Derek off Coronation Street.
Towards the end of the first game when Richard asked the next contestant if he got the conundrum, filming had to be stopped. There was an air of confusion until Richard told the audience that they “had to stop, as there’s a boy in the second row picking his nose”. The boy was, in fact, my friend Phil – and we were all still visibly cracking up during the re-take.