Hannah Poulton was just fifteen when she first appeared on Countdown on 28th January 1994. She knocked out four-time winner Robin Benoy (who then lost in the semi-finals to number one seed Richard Campbell) in a game which started out close, but ended with Hannah the victor by 47 points to 27, after Robin faded in the second half. Her second game was less successful, with Edna Trewella knocking her out 45-35 and thus ending her Countdown run. This is her recollection of events in her own words...
I was a contestant on Countdown when I was 15, in 1993 - although the programme was shown in 1994. I could be wrong, but I think at the time I was possibly one of the youngest female contestants to take part, as I think that most of the school age contestants I have seen over the years have been boys. I had always enjoyed watching the show when I got home from school and liked to play along. I can't remember exactly what made me apply to go on the programme, but I can recall going for an audition at a hotel in Southampton docks, where I met the producer Mark Nyman, who was very nice.
My memories of the actual filming are all a bit of a blur - I think I was so nervous that I didn't take it all in at the time! If ever I catch the programme now I have to keep reminding myself that I have been there, done that, myself as it doesn't seem possible!
I travelled to Leeds the day before with my Mum (and a selection of different tops to wear during the filming, as instructed!) and stayed in a hotel that night, and the following morning we went and did some Christmas shopping, as I wasn't needed for filming until the afternoon. My Dad arrived around lunch time and then we made our way to the studios! I briefly met Richard Whiteley in the corridor, but he seemed to be in a hurry and didn't say much - I have to say he wasn't overly friendly! I didn't meet Carol until the filming actually started but she wasn't all that friendly either and spent all the time that she wasn't being filmed slouching on a stool looking bored. The Dictionary Corner guest on the day was the actor Sheridan Morley and the lexicographer was Susie Dent - who, it turns out, my boyfriend had a crush on in the early 1990s when he used to watch Countdown as a student! Who knows, he may have even seen my appearance all those years before we met.
Before actually taking my place as a contestant I had to sit and watch the preceding game taking place. This made me even more nervous as I had a complete mental block on just about all of the games, but once I finally took my place I started to relax a little bit and managed to do okay and actually won my first game! Unfortunately my nerves came back after that and I didn't win the next one - mainly due to mishearing the target figure in one of the numbers games - but it was nice to be a reigning champion at least for one day! At one point in one of the letters games a completely impossible selection of letters came out - I can't remember what it was but I am sure it involved Js and Ks and Xs and all sorts. After the letters had been chosen we were told there was a "technical problem" and that we would have to start the round again. Carol Vorderman took all the letters down from the board and we had a new selection - I will always wonder whether it really was a technical problem or whether the producers felt that particular selection of letters wouldn't make for very interesting viewing!
The programme wasn't shown until after Christmas, so my Mum wrote a note in everyone's Christmas card that year telling them the date and reminding them to watch! A special "showing" was arranged at my school (although I decided to go and watch it at home as I felt too embarrassed to see it with all of my friends being there!) and apparently everyone cheered when I won - I had managed to keep the result of the game secret right up until then! I went round to my friend's house for a party after that - but my headmaster managed to track me down and phoned up to congratulate me!
Old school friends still occasionally mention my Countdown appearance, but very few of the friends I've made since then actually know about it, as I tend to keep my past as a Countdown contestant secret! Also, I know they'd want to see the video - and who wants to show their friends what they looked like when they were 15?!
Being a contestant on Countdown was an enjoyable experience, and something good to look back on, but now that I am older (and possibly wiser!) I am not sure if I would put myself through something quite so nerve-wracking again!