A long overdue update to our website after what has been the most challenging year for us, the industry and everyone else in the world.
2020 was not the year any of us had planned for, but thanks to the skills, passion and talent of our teams, we managed to produce more than 60 hours of TV – safely – having been one of the first production companies in the UK to develop safe filming protocols.
The year began well enough following a record amount of output over Christmas 2019. Springtime on the Farm was due to launch for the third series in April. As the pandemic hit in early March, the decision to cancel was one ringing in our ears. We were determined that the show COULD and SHOULD go on, if nothing else, to provide the loyal audience with a distraction and much needed escape from the looming lockdown.
Working closely with Channel 5, our industry body PACT and our health and safety advisors, we set about a safety strategy that enabled us to provide presenters Helen Skelton and Adam Henson with the latest iPhone 11s and gave remote instruction as we pieced together a brand-new way of making a multi-camera outside broadcast.
We knew that the Nicholson family at Cannon Hall Farm (third-time host farm for Springtime on the Farm) were adept at filming their own footage largely down to their incredible use of social media. We provided them with some additional kit and lots of guidance on a daily basis so we were able to gather enough material to add to that we had been filming since the back end of 2019.
It was quite literally a first for any programme in the UK up to that point. We shared our techniques with many others who were also able to keep their shows on the road during the major part of the lockdown.
We were also able to resume filming on our other shows like The Yorkshire Vet once the DCMS had approved stringent filming protocols that are still in place today. We worked with Nan Whittingham, Director of Production at Channel 5, who was a key driver in making sure that IF filming was to resume, it had to do so SAFELY for our crews and contributors. It was a shared mission and along with our Health and Safety advisors, we were able to roll out COVID-19 protocols that have become the benchmark for the industry UK wide.
SPRINGTIME ON THE FARM – HIGHEST AUDIENCES EVER
We were rewarded for making sure the show must go on with the highest audiences ever – peaking at 2m as the show was stripped from Monday to Thursday in early April. This led to Channel 5 commissioning us to make a weekly series called This Week on the Farm which ran over the summer regularly attracting 1.5m viewers each week and then an autumn run which was played at 9pm on a Friday night (instead of a Tuesday night slot at 8pm). Once again, the audience came to see what the Nicholson brothers, Helen Skelton and new host Jules Hudson were up to on the South Yorkshire farm. A Christmas special was produced and a new series planned for early in the new year.
We’d like to thank Rob, Dave, all the Nicholsons at Cannon Hall Farm and all the other farmers that have allowed us into their world during such a challenging year.
NEW CAST JOIN THE UK’S MOST POPULAR FACTUAL VET SERIES
2020 saw the arrival of some new faces in our standout hit The Yorkshire Vet. As series 10 and 11 hit the air, Matt, David, Shona and their colleagues from Donaldson’s Vets in Huddersfield joined Peter and Julian for this celebration of the REAL All Creatures Great and Small. With so many changes in the veterinary world, we have worked hard with Peter and Julian to keep this wonderful show going and growing. Adding some new vets and their clients has taken the pressure off them both whilst enabling them to continue to be the backbone of the series.
Both Peter and Julian have worked with the Donaldsons teams before, having met them during filming for Springtime on the Farm. There is a real sense of excitement for everyone – knowing that the workload can be spread across several practices as we head into the production of Series 12 and 13 in 2021.
CHANNEL 4 FIRST COMMISSION SINCE MOVING TO LEEDS
We were delighted to be commissioned by Channel 4 to make a timely and moving documentary following the staff at Alton Towers as they prepared to re-open following their closure during the first lockdown.
2020 should have been a year of celebration for one of Britain’s best loved theme parks, but instead its future and that of its staff lay in jeopardy if it couldn’t open for at least part of its 40th anniversary summer.
Alton Towers: A Rollercoaster Year is now available on ALL 4, as are our other Channel 4 documentaries including The World’s Best Christmas Lights: From Liverpool to Bethlehem, Beatrix Potter with Patricia Routledge and Virginia McKenna’s Born Free.