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Chasing Vince – Behind the Scenes at Cheltenham – Day 4/6

By Thomas A Roberts, on 16 June 2012

Vince Cable speaking

MP Vince Cable giving a speech

Behind the Scenes at Cheltenham is a daily blog from the UCL CABI team at Cheltenham Science Festival. Every day, a member of the team will be talking about their experiences of running a stand.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 |

“Tom. Tom! Wake up Tom!”
“Vince Cable’s arriving at 8:30!”

And with that, I’m scrambling for my trousers, trainers, and t-shirt, and I’m out of the door.

For the past four days I’ve been taking pictures at the Cheltenham Science Festival on behalf of the organisers. I’ve been snapping children having fun with the various bonkers interactive stands, the CABI stall and yesterday I was snapping the Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts.

Another day, another politician, but today was different: the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, had arrived for a whirlwind tour of the Festival, and he was 30 minutes early. This was not a photo-opportunity to be missed.

Bleary-eyed and fragrantly musty after my deodorant shower, I stumbled through the green room doors to find Mr Cable and the Festival chiefs gathered sipping tea. At this point, I was under the impression he was purely here for a morning chat. Little did I know what was to come.

After furiously snapping as many shots as possible, Mr Cable was whisked off to a nearby marquee for a quick speech and to breakfast with the finalists of the Famelab competition.

Next, it was off to pilot a flight simulator, pose in front of some European flags, look at a Formula 1 car, bounce up-and-down on a trampoline, peer in on a lecture about bacteria and cheesy feet, talk MRI at the CABI stand (!) and get mobbed by some excitable children.

Vince Cable walking

The tour lasted for some two hours in total, all the while I was hunting Mr Cable, targeting him for the perfect shot. I’ve photographed many different events in the past, but until now I have never come so close to feeling like a paparazzi.

At one point, I was crouched, back-peddling, pointing my camera metres away from his face. All the scene lacked was Mr Cable’s extended arm and hand blocking my lens and I’d have felt like a true pap.

It was one of the most surreal and intense experiences of my life so far, and I loved every minute of it. The stress of capturing the moment is completely erased when you take the perfect picture, only to return moments later when you need to capture it all over again in a different setting.

Once the whirlwind was over and Mr Cable was gone, it was back to the CABI stand to teach more people about MRI. We fed the scanner even more goodies today, but the winning entry was not as edible as many of our other samples: can you guess what it is?

MRI Rose

Answer: a rose!

Come back tomorrow for another round-up of the day’s action.

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