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Ambient Election

2017 Update

This has been hastily updated to show the 2017 livestreams. It's a bit broken. Sorry.

What is this?

This is people in sports halls at 2am counting bits of paper.


On Tuesday 5th May 2015 the BBC broadcast a two-hour realtime canal journey on TV, as part of their Slow TV season. Two days later on Thursday 7th May they transmitted live coverage of the General Election results. The coverage was frantic; full of interviews, old men arguing, exit polls and giant floating graphics.

Ambient Election is an alternative. General Election coverage in the style of Slow TV.

Coverage that focuses on the electoral process instead of speculation. No commentary, just slow lingering footage of ballot counts. That sort of thing.

Luckily Sky News broadcast livestreams of 136 constituencies on Youtube. Each video is about 11 hours long. I've been enjoying watching them. Empty halls that slowly fill with people sat at folding tables making idle chitchat. The eventual arrival of ballot boxes, emptied onto the tables. The main event, counting, usually with people nudging in trying to see which candidate's piles are largest. Then the declaration of the results.

There's a surprising variety between constituencies. In some constituencies the counters wear coloured bibs or matching tshirts or high-vis jackets. Sometimes the counting is roped or fenced off to keep supporters and observers out of the way. It can happen in sports halls, town halls, the occasional barn or a theatre. I've spotted two velodromes so far.

It's very much in keeping with the cobbled-together, improvised feel of British elections.


This is very much inspired by Voy's lovely Robot Voyager. Thanks to Sky for all the videos, and to @oobr and @puntofisso for tipping me off about them.