Eddie Mair: how I blagged my way to the hottest tickets in town

"You can talk to four million people on PM… but boy, if you should be able to attend a performance of Strictly Come Dancing, suddenly you're interesting"

You can talk to four million people on PM… you can interview presidents and prime ministers… you can stride about the Newsnight set discussing world affairs… yet friends and family will take only a polite interest. They don’t really care much about my terribly important and high-powered job, and why should they?


But boy, if you should be able to attend a performance of Strictly Come Dancing suddenly you’re interesting.

There I was with fantastic seats for the sell-out Strictly Wembley spectacular and I happened to tweet a photo. Immediately I was inundated with excited texts from friends, family, distant relatives, convicted felons and people on life-support machines wanting to know every detail. A common question was – how did you manage to wangle seats for that, you jammy sod?

The world is divided between people who know people and people who don’t. I’m in the people who don’t category. I never know someone who can get me an upgrade/into an over-booked restaurant/the director-generalship. Everyone else seems to have a mate who can effortlessly get them in somewhere, but I spend much of my free time on the phone listening to that woman with the sing-songy voice telling me that I have moved up the queue to 13th, my call is important to them, but have I tried the internet?

Months ago, when my friend Richard Arnold informed me over a gossipy lunch that he was to take part in this year’s Strictly, I congratulated him and, half a second later, realising at last I had a friend on the inside of something, asked if he could get me tickets. There was some blather about restrictions even for contestants… how he had a long list of family, friends, distant relatives etc. In essence, it was no. I threw a martini over him (don’t be alarmed, it was his) and left.

With the Wembley show looming I wrote begging emails to showrunners and people who knew showrunners. I contacted security and cleaning staff at the Arena, but still it was no.

Then I remembered that Richard and I share an agent. Could this be a way in? I have written about my agent on this page before. We’re never really in touch. There has been only one rather terrifying face-to-face meeting in our entire relationship and it took place at a dimly lit wharf after 1am. Until this Strictly business I had assumed him to be a dark-coated diminutive gentleman with a fat cigar.

Turns out my agent could get me two tickets – in the “friends and family” section, too! What’s more, it turns out my agent’s a woman and she hardly smells of cigars at all. She called me Eamonn throughout the evening, but I didn’t mind. The view was great. Louis Smith’s mum was a few seats along. Denise Van Outen’s hubby was in front of us. And I got to hear by text from a lot of friends I’d assumed had died.

Behind-the-scenes gossip? Brucie tap-danced sitting down. Kylie looked 23. Tess Daly’s earpiece fell out. Bruno shielded his eyes, stood up and peered at the contestants during their dances. Girls Aloud were literally all legs, and Claudia used a word that’s even ruder than Winkleman.


Eddie Mair co-presents iPM on Saturdays at 5:45am and hosts PM from Monday to Friday at 5pm – both on Radio 4