Last word in the Dragons Den
ONE NOW HAZY DAY, BACK IN JUNE, ME AND MY MERRY BAND OF DRUMMERS HEADED OFF IN A VAN DOWN TO MANCHESTER’S SECRET STUDIO TO TAKE PART IN THE PANTO THAT IS DRAGON’S DEN.
It was a high risk strategy – but a calculated risk. When the offer came from the BBC to appear, I didn’t rush in blindly. I took advice from a wide range of people I respect – proper grown ups. The response was completely 50:50. ‘Go for it! Don’t! High risk. High profile. Could make an arse of yourself. What’s to lose?’
So I did the audition with a 3 piece samba band and a prop coffin. Great TV. Good way to make the point that this is what I want when I go. Simplicity, low cost, a celebration of my real life and the things that matter to me. We got through.
Come recording time, we were excited to be there. Travelled back down to Manchester. Props to the studio on the Sunday night. Production meeting early on Monday morning. Walk on shots, continuity shots, make-up, the green room, the hanging around, the backroom camaraderie. All good fun.
By lunchtime, the Dragons left their dented leather chairs and we were called to soundcheck. Yep, we were down for the Graveyard slot…
So in we went to the Den. My prop Final Fling branded coffin and the samba drums for the 3 piece band were all in place. We practised unveiling them. The band sound checked their 30 second blast. I stood on her sticky cross mark where I’d pitch. Cameras, lighting, sound – check. Thumbs up. Good to go.
We were sent to hang around in the corridor, waiting for the Dragons to return from lunch.
It was a completely surreal experience to stand high on a makeshift staircase, out of sight, hearing these oh so familiar voices, chatting, waiting for recording to begin and then get the ‘3, 2, 1 action’ signal.
The reveal: props uncovered. Dragon’s snarling.
We walked on, revealed our props and the panto began. Immediately – on seeing the coffin – Duncan was in growling mode. I was taken aback by how that hit me, standing there unarmed. That 30 seconds while the band played was the longest 30 seconds of my life, as I tried to smile through my mounting alarm… ‘they hate this’!
It was like walking into an interview and you know it’s never going to happen and knowing you’re going to have to go through the pretence, the sham of talking to each other when you don’t share the same values, don’t like each other’s vibe.
So I did my pitch. They threw their questions at me. Used their disarm strategies.
Duncan started on the offensive. I was immediately defensive. Theo offered an olive branch with his kind “Who is Barbara?” question. Then one by one they reverted to strategies to take me down.
I had to call for a glass of water midway – parched with anxiety! And so it continued. No banter. No connection. And finally, dismissed.
I knew my figures. I didn’t give in to them. But I was disappointed they didn’t get to know me; no banter.
“It’s not going to work” says Deborah Meaden
“We’ll see about that”, Barbara has the last word
However… when it aired, I was delighted to see that I did get the last word. “It won’t work”, was the gist of their response to my pitch.
“We’ll see about that”, I replied. Quiet. Strong. Confident. (Well, superficially anyway.) And we will.
(Dragons Den aired 30 September 2012: see BBC iplayer)
Thanks to our lovely sponsors, Colourful Coffins, for our beautiful Final Fling branded coffin.