I got the email from Gayle at Countryfile in February 2015. She explained that the programme was looking to do a feature on ‘Farm to Fashion’ to be put out around London fashion week and were interested in talking to me as a British producer of luxury yarn.
Over the coming days we talked about the bad publicity that Angora had received following the release in December 2013 of the horrific PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) video showing Angora being harvested inhumanely, and I realised this would be an ideal opportunity to demonstrate that there were much kinder methods of keeping Angora rabbits and harvesting their exquisite fibre.
I wasn’t keen on being in front of a camera myself, but I knew the bunnies would be the stars of the show and they had just been moved to a wonderful new shed, which was still clean and tidy (!) so this was a fantastic opportunity. Everything was arranged very quickly with a filming date booked for Tuesday 24th February.
Filming day arrived and I was up in good time to make sure everything and every-bunny was looking at its best then I proceeded to do my morning chores, feeding some sheep and early lambs in the sheep shed. The team of producer Becky, presenter Charlotte Smith, plus a camera man and sound recorder, arrived in a snow shower and were clearly keen to get going.
I had envisaged a chat about the plan for the day over a cup of coffee prior to any filming, but no, the equipment was set up and they started with some shots of me feeding the ewes and lambs (again!). Then there were introduction shots with Charlotte, repeated many times as one or both of us did or said something wrong, or the sound man picked up the noise of passing tractors and planes.
From feeding the sheep we moved into the Rabbit shed and I realised that I probably wasn’t looking my best in farming gear and many layers to keep out the cold, so I suggested a coffee break and thought this would be a chance for a spruce up, but no, filming had started and for ‘continuity’ I had to stay as I was. My Mum was not going to be happy with me!
I explained to the crew that the bunnies might appear anxious at first with so many visitors, however their inquisitive nature took over and they were soon peering through the wire and periscoping to see what was going on. The cameraman took shots from various positions whilst Becky & Charlotte discussed the plan for the story and I was wired up with a microphone so the interview could begin.
I have never found it difficult to talk about my love for everything Angora but it was very hard to keep repeating the same answers several times and I found myself getting pretty tongue tied. Eventually they had filmed enough general chat (or gave up trying to get a good answer!) and we moved on to clipping a rabbit. I had selected a beautiful silver coloured doe called Lavender as a model. Her coat was in prime condition but I just hoped she didn’t get bored of being handled as she sometimes did, and get fidgety.
Charlotte seemed a bit nervous about using the scissors to clip so near to the skin so I sat close, stroking Lavenders neck and ready to take a hold if necessary. I didn’t need to worry but clearly it was going to take all afternoon for Charlotte to finish the clip, and it was nearly lunchtime.
Becky decided we should take a break and whilst I finished clipping Lavender in the warmth of the kitchen, I chatted to Charlotte and she put together the lunch I had prepared. Meanwhile the rest of the crew went for a walk around the village, getting further background shots.
Once I finished clipping Lavender, I added the fibre (a yield of almost 220g) to my stock of Silver fibre as this was to be sent to the mini mill I was using in Lincolnshire (Farr Lacey) along with some grey Merino. The mill had agreed to put the spin through for me at short notice and the cameraman would visit the mill later in the week to film the spinning process.
After lunch, I gathered together a selection of yarns and knitted garments to be filmed, illustrating the final chapters of the Fibre to Fashion story.
The final sequence showed returning Lavender to her pen. There were a few more questions and some more shots of the other bunnies. The sun had come out, lighting up the stars of the show, my beautiful Angora rabbits.
The show went out on March 29th 2015. We were in the middle of lambing the main flock and my website crashed with enquiries for fibre, yarn and further information. I remember feeling quite overwhelmed, but ultimately delighted that the show had explained how Angora can be produced with love.
In November last year I had a call out of the blue from Becky at Countryfile, informing me that the film would be shown again at New Year, slightly edited, as part of a ‘Women in the Countryside’ special. Following this screening I was contacted immediately by Lucy. She wrote..
“I am an animal lover (putting it VERY mildly… I think the word obsessed would be somewhat more fitting!) and an animal rights activist and what you do is nothing short of inspiring. I applaud you and your beautiful rabbits (honestly the word “awww” has lost all meaning now with the amount of times it was used!) for the work you are doing and the change it will make in the world of fur.