This image of Pope John Paul ll was taken in May 1982, during his visit to the UK. The preparation for my getting access to the press area at Coventry airport began some months before the pontiff arrived. Even 34 years ago, security was tight and getting media accreditation was tough, especially for a young photographer based in the Midlands. The first stage of the process was to complete the appropriate application forms, including providing a passport and the details of the agency/publication sponsoring my coverage. In my case, it was a London picture agency, Barnaby’s. Once I was notified that accreditation had been approved, I had to collect the large laminated press pass in person from the Catholic Church press office in London. (Unfortunately, in recent years I’ve disposed of this card, which included my photograph. I certainly had a lot more hair in those days!) The press office wouldn't post it for security reasons. Again, for a young freelancer on a budget, the trip was all part of the essential prep. work.
On the day the Pope was due to arrive in Coventry, it was a 5am start, in order for me to be well in time and go through security and get a good position on one of the two photographer platforms. On arrival, I found the press tent and proudly handed over my accreditation card to the awaiting representative of Warwickshire constabulary, whose job it was to verify the details and issue another signed and rubber-stamped pin badge, for access to one of the photographer areas. To be honest, there was a temporary hiccup at this point, where my name was missing from a list of all those expected. I gulped, thinking after all this; I was going to be chucked out. But, after a little shuffling of papers, all was well.