Who would think that a small 15-minute student radio documentary on the Gurkha’s would have led to my exclusive access into No. 10 Downing Street having tea and biscuits with Joanna Lumley, Jacqui Smith and meeting Gordon Brown? Certainly not me and when I ran down to Westminster on the morning of Thursday 21st May, I thought I was down on my luck when I missed an interview with Joanna Lumley by 5-10 minutes.
Rather annoyed at myself and out-of-breathe from jumping out of bed, throwing on my clothes and running down to Downing Street, I sat on the grey stone wall opposite No. 10 contemplating what my next plan on action was going to be. After five minutes, my question was answered as I witnessed a man being interviewed on the Gurkha campaign by a TV news channel and I decided to grab the opportunity whilst I could and go and get an interview for myself. It turned out that Peter Carroll was the founder of the Gurkha Justice Campaign and after explaining my intentions to gain material for my radio documentary, he kindly invited me to spend the morning with him.
Lively celebrations followed for the next few hours outside Westminster as Jacqui Smith stated the historic news that all Gurkha’s could settle in Britain whether they had retired pre or post 1997. News arrived that Joanna Lumley, the Gurkha’s, campaigners and the lawyers had been invited for tea and biscuits on the lawn of No. 10 Downing Street with Gordon Brown. I decided to continue spending time with the friendly Gurkha’s and campaigner’s that I had met throughout the day and as I queued up amongst them to gain access I wondered if I would get past the policeman at the gate. On arrival, he took a long-hard look at me, looked at the group and as they nodded in approval I was waved through with the brave veterans and the hard-working campaigners.
Together in the group, I walked behind the front-line of Joanna Lumley and the Ghurkha’s and we were warmly welcomed into the Prime Minister’s home. The resident’s employees were lined up on our right and left-hand side as we were shown through the spotless, grand hallway and continued to the back of the building and into the colourful garden with its perfectly mowed lawn. It was much bigger than I had imagined and maroon-coloured chairs with gold frames and legs were carefully laid in a semi-circle waiting for the beaming Gurkha’s to arrive with their equally happy wives.
Although in awe and shock, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and took photos and conducted interviews with Joanna Lumley, Phil Woolas, Jacqui Smith and a recording of the Prime Minister’s speech to the Ghurkha’s. The scene that surrounded me was surreal, in front of me I had humble Nepalese soldiers cheering for Gordon Brown and to my right-hand side, Joanna Lumley was overwhelmed and pinching herself with the victory that they had eventually achieved after so many years of campaigning.
The atmosphere was one of disbelief, joy and gratitude as we all watched Gordon Brown approach and shake hands with every single Ghurka present. I was amazed and happy with the audio that I had gained, the experience of the whole day but mainly with the incredibly friendly and caring people I had met. Peter Carroll, Lynne Beaumont, Joanna Lumley and the lawyers were all so kind and I will never forget how much they helped me. I had come from sitting on a wall outside Downing Street at 10am with no contacts at all to having tea in the Prime Minister’s garden by 4.30pm. A small radio documentary on the Gurkha’s turned into one of the biggest day’s of my life so far. I now hope to make a follow-up documentary looking at the reality that the change in the law will make and what it really means to the Gurkha’s and their families.