My name is Marlene, and I am a resident of Waltham Forest. I am also a trainee spy… not really! However, I am a part of the brand new reality series, Spies, on Channel 4.
This four-part series explains that I, along with 15 others, had been selected for our ‘exceptional aptitude and potential to become a spy’. The show sees us being tested using methods that include kidnap simulation, gun handling, surveillance, anti-surveillance, ethical hacking and manipulation techniques on both the UK and foreign soil… all in an attempt to ascertain whether or not we had what it took to make it in the world of espionage.
This show was advertised widely across the UK, and so all selected candidates had heard about it via different means. Personally, I saw the training programme advertised online and applied that way. The selection process was gruelling, and encompassed several interviews and tests – on and off camera – before I was finally accepted. Would you believe, an old acquaintance of mine was even contacted, visited, filmed and asked to give a character reference for me, as part of the vetting process?
For me, this process was intense and difficult but undeniably character building and extremely exciting. I remember feeling my heart beat faster than usual several times, especially during an anti-surveillance task, where I had to detect and identify whether or not I was being followed and by whom, giving a detailed description.
We were advised to isolate ourselves from family and friends; this was tough, as I had to be away from my husband and children. Perhaps the hardest part of this process for me was being away from them. However, it was also important that I remained focused and contributed my best efforts, that they were well cared for and rooting for me at home.
In 2009, I studied Criminology at university, and chose this course because the study of people and behaviour fascinated me. I was particularly interested in understanding what different variants make people tick, and why people commit specific types of crimes. Since studying, I have invested a lot of time looking into crime prevention research methods that focus on how to reduce crime across particular social groups.
This curiosity of the ‘unknown world’ around criminal justice, I feel, formed part of the appeal for me to take part in this reality series. Being part of the show motivated me to look at crime in a different way, considering potential weaknesses within an infrastructure, as opposed to putting single focus on ‘the criminal’.
There are people who will offend if they are given the opportunity. Perhaps, as a society, we could put our efforts into removing those opportunities: “Is a car thief 100% at fault, if we leave the car unlocked with the keys in the ignition?”
Since being on the show, I have considered a career adjustment and have re-enrolled into higher education. I am now completing an MSc in Security Management and Fraud Prevention, so I guess ‘reality TV’ can be inspiring, despite international consensus.
A common question I have been asked since the airing of the show is:.”What happens next week?” And my answer is: “Aha…. Well…. I would love to tell you, but if I did I’d have to kill you.”
Kidding, obviously… or am I?
(I’ve always wanted to say that! )