Wiltshire reporter Sarah Dalton takes us behind the scenes of what really happens at a general election overnight count.

At the UK's last general election in 2019 I was newly 19, a fresher at university, and ready to vote for the first time - in 2024 I sat among national media teams reporting live at the overnight election count.

Having worked at the Swindon Advertiser and Wiltshire Gazette and Herald for more than a year, I was thrilled to be asked to cover the count for East Wiltshire.

But it turns out there is nothing that can quite prepare you for queueing for your third coffee at 4am in a leisure centre next to the soon-to-be MP and Great British Bake off star Prue Leith's son.

The view from the 'media corner' in SalisburyThe view from the 'media corner' in Salisbury (Image: Newsquest)

The election count really is exactly as people describe it to be - simultaneously the most thrilling, surreal and most boring night of the year.

With big TV screens set up around Five Rivers Leisure Centre in Salisbury, candidates and media teams crowded around to see the results pour in across the county.

From when the exit poll was first released at 10pm until midnight, the leisure centre was buzzing with predictions, interviews, microphones, cameras and hope.

But when the East Wiltshire ballot boxes due to arrive at midnight were delayed until 2am, we started to realise just what a long night we were in for.

With candidates interviewed, photos taken and daylight approaching, 2 to 4am really is just an agonising waiting game.

Media teams from Newsquest titles, the BBC and ITV all got to know each other over an energy drink and a brownie bite as volunteers worked tirelessly to count every single vote.

Journalists from sister titles the Salisbury Journal and the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald posing for a photoJournalists from sister titles the Salisbury Journal and the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald posing for a photo (Image: Newsquest)

But it was in those tired moments I found it was easiest to forget just what a momentous event in history I was witnessing live.

With Labour win after Labour win pouring in across the county, there was a shared feeling in the room that what we were all seeing from a leisure centre in Salisbury was unlike anything before.

When I drove home at 6.30am I left with a very different government makeup than when I had arrived at 10pm, and time will only tell what this means for the future of the UK.

But one thing's for sure - the experience of an overnight election count really is one of a kind for all involved.