Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Have pen, will travel (adventures of an RSPCA press officer)

I won’t lie – I’m no Alan Whicker. Sure, I’ve had a few adventures - from going up the Statue of Liberty to flying over the Swiss Alps in a hot air balloon - but I’m hardly what you’d call a hardened traveller.

When it comes to work though, I do have a fancy for getting out from behind my desk, jumping into a car and driving off into the sunset (or up the M40) to find out what our staff are up to on the frontline.

If nothing else, it has given me a far greater understanding of the challenges faced by all different wings of the RSPCA on a daily basis. What it also offers is the chance to find myself in some unlikely situations, meeting people I never thought I’d meet and gaining unique access to situations I can’t imagine ever having experienced if it wasn’t for my role in the RSPCA.

This was brought home to me during a recent visit by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural affairs, Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, to the RSPCA’s Harmsworth Animal Hospital in north London.

It was there I found myself sat in a meeting that could influence the biggest change in dog control legislation for more than 20 years. It was the second time I’d found myself chatting with Government Cabinet ministers at Harmsworth in two years, having previously met former Home Secretary Alan Johnson MP and former Defra Secretary of State Hilary Benn during the launch of a government consultation in 2010.

As someone born and raised in the fairly quiet confines of rural Shropshire, it got me pondering upon some of the ‘how did I get here?’ moments  I’ve experienced since joining the RSPCA press office nearly four years ago.

As a former newspaper reporter, getting out and about as part of my job is nothing new, but here are some of the random experiences I’ve enjoyed since working for the country’s biggest animal welfare charity:

• Joining covert RSPCA inspectors and police on dawn raids at the homes of suspected dog fighters in Birmingham.

• Throwing buckets of water over horses to cool them down as they crossed the Grand National finish line.

• Sitting in a Soho recording studio with British actor Bill Nighy while he recorded a voice-over for an RSPCA fireworks campaign radio advert.

Male models in pants = normal day at work
• Commentating on a sack race between a group of male models dressed only in their pants and fake pig snouts, while volunteering on an RSPCA stand at a music festival in Clapham Common.
• Standing in a windswept West Yorkshire allotment at 6.30am on a wet February morning, looking for a man wanted on suspicion of illegal hunting with dogs.
• Dangling a microphone over a cliff edge in Pembrokeshire to record the sound of crashing waves for a podcast about rope rescues.

• Watching police intervene as two dog fighters brawled with each other in the waiting area of the magistrates court where they were being tried during an RSPCA prosecution.

Which ones are the Eggheads? You decide.
• Filming an episode of teatime quiz show Eggheads at the BBC Scotland studios in Glasgow with my press office colleagues (we didn’t win!).

• Meeting former Liverpool Football Club manager Rafael Benitez in the showring at Aintree Racecourse during a live broadcast of BBC One’s Football Focus.

It does beg the question, whatever next? The simple answer is, who knows, and just goes to show that life at the RSPCA press office isn’t dull.

Andy Robbins, Senior RSPCA Press Officer

No comments:

Post a Comment