01 Aug Interview with Andy Pawsey, lead commentator at the Festival of Flight
Andy Pawsey Commentator
We asked Andy what he loves about the job…
I started commentating because I was tired of going to airshows and having my enjoyment lessened by having to listen to some poorly-timed, egotistical, wannabe broadcaster/comedian droning on, and on, and on. When that little voice in your head keeps repeating “I could do better than that”, you either need to do something about it or stop complaining. I have a performing background – holiday camp Blue Coat, etc – so went for it. My first commentary was at RAF Leeming in 1992, that was 300+ shows ago.
It’s like being a football referee
I think you have a big responsibility as a commentator as it is far easier to detract from someone’s enjoyment than it is to enhance. A bit like the referee at a football match, people generally only talk about you when things are not going very well. Poor weather, star items going unserviceable, lengthy delays – sometimes you can spend all day apologising. But when it goes right . . .
I will never forget commentating on the Merlins Over Malta event. The sound and emotion as the Spitfire and Hurricane roared through the twilight over Valetta Harbour was very special. I think the whole island was watching. A full-season commentating at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo was hard work but immensely satisfying. Since my first show at Biggin Hill, in 2004, I have been lucky enough to cover some amazing shows and events – the Red Arrows and Virgin 747 formation and the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain to name but two.
Commentating for royalty
I also commentated, with a handheld loud-hailer, to a group of about fifty parents and children as they watched a handful of air displays as part of a closed special event in the mid-1990s. The audience included Diana Princess of Wales and Prince William and Harry. Indeed, Prince William kept tugging on my arm and asking questions whilst I was commentating!
I have also been stung by a wasp live on-air, hit on the head by a large piece of wood, commentated on crutches and also lying-down suffering from food poisoning and gone through the entire weather range we have in the UK which includes commentating in snow (RAF Valley, 1997 I think!).
It’s all about putting yourself in the spectator’s shoes
It’s really fun and satisfying. Most people probably think it is easy and I would agree. Easy to get wrong. It’s all about putting yourself in the spectator’s shoes. They have paid and queued. They may be wet and cold. They may be regulars or first-timers. They may have travelled long distances to see a particular item or may be locals looking for a fun day out. This may be the last family day out of the summer before “Back to School”. They may be RAF veterans or Air Cadets. Whoever they are and whatever their reason for attending, as commentator you have a duty to give them a service that enhances their day.
As Stan Laurel, of Laurel and Hardy fame, said, “It’s the audience that counts; not you”.
Come along and meet Andy at the Festival of Flight.