I’d almost forgotten about this one. Canary Wharf’s best known address is 1 Canada Square, 50 stories, 770ft tall, huge.
Somewhere near the top, I think about floor 47, there used to be (and may still be) one of the independent TV company’s studios. Having a fair bit of kit, several towering lift journeys were required, along with a similar number of trips from the car park to the front entrance. The bit I don’t like usually is leaving the first instalment of gear unattended somewhere whilst going to fetch what has been left unattended elsewhere – inevitably at some point I have to leave my guitars, which are expensive and portable, but fair to say less of a risk in this case as the studio was manned.
The canteen was great – tables and chairs right up against the glass, you could see for miles to the East, way down and all along the estuary.
The show, ‘The Spanish Archer’, was less impressive.
‘El Bow’ was the alternative title, giving a clue as to the format. The idea, we were told was that as each competing act performed, if the studio audience didn’t like it they would begin a slow hand-clap at which point the act would be fired, given the ‘elbow’… ‘el bow’. Only the winning act would go through to the next show.
Hmm, not really the full picture, not even close. Being a bit naïve I had a tendency to take these things at face value but I’m still not sure what the real point of this show was, certainly it can’t have been very entertaining to watch and relative degrees of ‘talent’ as it turned out, had nothing to do with it.
We (the bulk of the competitors) waited around all day for our respective turns so spent most of our time just talking or going to the canteen. One incidental aspect I remember was the incredibly bad smell of one competitor’s feet. He was a great guy and everything and probably a really good juggler (I didn’t see his act, I think he may have failed to get through to the later heats) but his feet were absolutely overpowering. He had on these visibly decaying old trainers, torn along the edges, maybe he had some medical issue with his feet but, whoa the odour was impossible to miss, it seemed like I could still smell it when I got home.
Anyway, each act was awarded points – the not-very-original catchphrase, ‘points win prizes’ kept cropping up – I think the host was Welsh, confident enough but I sensed a bit out of his depth. The ‘prize’ for winning was a souvenir-type toy Spanish donkey, small grey furry thing with a little straw hat – but as usual what drew us competitors there was the lure of TV exposure.
Come each turn the host would do a short interview and then off you went.
What most of the competitors didn’t know before performance time was that the audience had no genuine power of influence, they clapped (or didn’t) in accordance with instructions from a member of the floor staff, or signalled by the host if he was off camera.
Another unknown element, certainly to me anyway, (I found out afterwards that some did know having been following the show) was that the same act won without exception every show (so therefore the only act to go through to the next round).
This event was sufficiently long ago for me to be sure that the ‘winning’ act, a band, as far as I know have subsequently achieved nothing and would not be together now. A five or six piece, they described themselves as a ‘ho-down’ band, I can’t remember the band’s name and don’t view myself as being qualified to criticise.
I have no idea either regarding the connection between them and the show’s producers but at the end of the day I think it safe to say that barring the ‘winning’ band, we all felt that the whole exercise had been something of an almost pointless and unashamedly ‘fixed’ fiasco.
Here endeth my pursuit of Talent Shows, even the bigger better known ones, with a few exceptions lead only to a brief flutter into the light somehow inevitably followed by a return to the gloom of obscurity..…