Penny Gore's diary

Cupboard love

If you've ever sat in the back row of the stalls at the Barbican concert-hall, you may have noticed that the minuscule glassed-in cubicle behind you is occupied by a wild-eyed individual gesticulating oddly and muttering sotto voce in a deranged manner. This person is a Radio 3 presenter, and it's kindest not to alarm them by staring, tapping at the glass, or remarking loudly that they look much older than they sound on the radio.

I was presenting a live broadcast from that little cubicle the other week, smiling politely at the curious spectators, and it got me thinking about the places we Radio 3 folk find ourselves working in. Most of the time we're based in a dedicated continuity suite, which isn't as grand as it sounds. It's quite a new studio, but the place is already accumulating enough biscuit crumbs, coffee-rings and piles of books and papers to make it feel just like home. Well, just like my home, anyway. But when sent out into the big wide world to present live concerts, we're forced to confront the sad fact that this is as good as it gets.

Where to put the presenter is a continual challenge when it comes to outside broadcasts, so we're often to be found in draughty passage-ways and glorified broom cupboards. At a recital at the Bath Assembly Rooms, unwisely stationed in a corridor leading to the bar, my flimsy script-table was almost trampled to matchwood in the audience stampede at interval time. The Ulster Hall in Belfast once cleared a corner for me in the wings, next to a control-panel bristling with switches, and a charming stagehand asked if, since I was there anyway, I'd mind dimming the house lights at the start of the concert. I'm still surprised I wasn't handed a sheaf of programmes and urged to flog a few between pieces.

Most of the time we're so well hidden away that concert-goers don't even know the evening's being broadcast, but occasionally presenters have to sit in the hall itself, which brings its own hazards. Embarking on my script one evening, I realised that the lively pre-concert buzz of a full house was fading rapidly as the entire audience strained to hear what I was saying into the microphone. When I instinctively dropped my voice, the silence merely deepened. We played this game until I made it to the end in a morgue-like hush, aware that not only was everyone listening, 150 pairs of eyes were looking, too.

At times like that, you feel a keen sense of envy when you hand back to your colleague in the studio at the end of the concert. Like the old song says, be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.

· Penny Gore presents Morning On 3 on BBC Radio 3

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