Night Tube: The First Weekend

29/08/2016 19:51
Sharon Vos-Arnold via Getty Images

After months of delays and disputes, London's Night Tube finally arrived last weekend. Our team at BBC Three had negotiated access to the network to make a short documentary. No other broadcaster was underground filming across both nights, and as well as following those travelling on the lines we were set to shadow staff working throughout the night for the first time. It was a unique insight, and if things went wrong an insight that Transport for London (TFL) might have sorely regretted. But there was a confidence in the air, and most staff seemed relaxed about the night ahead.

We wanted the film to be a celebration of London and its residents, and the night tube is the perfect place to observe people. In a carriage at 3am you will have drunk people going home, hospital workers who have just finished a shift, cleaners going to work- even a pair of teenage tube spotters discussing train stock on the Piccadilly line. It's such a mixture, people are thrown together, and it's so different to the daytime. People actually talk to each other- probably because of the amount of alcohol that has been drunk by some, but the atmosphere is so different.

Everyone seemed really joyful during the first weekend. There was very little aggression and we had hardly any resistance to our filming. Usually when you are making a documentary like this some people do get angry when they see the camera, but nearly everyone was excited about the prospect of being in it.

We found some amazing characters from all walks of life, travelling for all sorts of reasons.

My favourite moments in the film are when you see the contrast between these characters, and the ebb and flow of the night- how quickly it turns from rammed and noisy, to empty and silent. Moving from a party carriage with reggae and disco tracks booming from someone's Ipad to Samaritans volunteer Katie, who was travelling home after her shift at 3am. Until now she has had to sleep in a bedroom in the charity's office because her journey home was so difficult.

And on so many occasions we watched as people who would never normally communicate had a laugh together. Like Dave, a dad from Devon in his 50s, high fiving students, and instigating a chorus of Happy Birthday for one very embarrassed 20-year-old. This wouldn't happen on my rush hour journey home from White City. We are all more cynical and mean at that hour. Any London rudeness seemed to disappear as the night rolled on.

As a documentary maker it's really exciting to work on something that will be a slice of history in years to come. I hope the film sums up what it's like to live in London in 2016, and shows that even when we are all crammed into a tube carriage together at 2am we can still get along.

Watch Night Tube: The First Weekend on BBC Three iPlayer You can view highlights here.