“We are in a piazza outside the BBC’s prestigious Salford facilities and this afternoon my programme is being powered entirely by bikes!” To be honest, Richard Bacon didn’t sound like he was giving his whole mind to the BBC Energy Day (5 September), even if out of his mouth rolled eager phrases: “It’s happening and it’s REAL,” and “There will be points in the show when we’ll fall off air!”
Over the next couple of hours, Bacon rather longingly played the dead-air onetone bleep that might suddenly come upon us if the bike-power should fail, so that we were fully prepared and knew not to panic. But both test runs were the only time we heard it; the Salford cyclists doggedly succeeded in powering the show.
“OK, so it’s not the most exciting concept in the world,” Richard conceded, going to look more closely at the volunteers. “See how knackered they look. Hard to get a sense across on the radio . . . today might actually be a brilliant time to watch.”
It was the first of many pleas for us to watch the show that day online instead of merely listening: Bacon is TV-savvy and manifestly aware that, despite the cyclists’ dedication, all this wasn’t coming over exactly like a chariot race and that there were limits to how many times a person could hear “it’s chafing a lot” and (more curiously) “Alex from CBeebies isn’t even trying” before things became rather too detached and drowsy, and you started feeling towards the radio a little puzzled distrust, as though it were an old friend who’d refused you a simple favour.
So you logged on and sneaked a peek, just for a moment, taking in a quick green-andgrey webcam flicker, before returning to listening, soothed and vague once more, if a bit bloody irritated that you got talked into letting the side down.