How Leeds-based Daisybeck Studios managed to film Springtime on the Farm despite lockdown

A Yorkshire-based TV production firm has been nominated for a national award for its work in ensuring filming could go ahead during lockdown for the Channel 5 show Springtime on the Farm.

Helen Skelton presents Springtime on the Farm
Helen Skelton presents Springtime on the Farm

Daisybeck Studios, which is based in Leeds, was told the show would have to be cancelled when the Government announced the national lockdown.

The team had 24 hours to come up with a way they could continue production so the hard work of the cast and crew had already put into the show wouldn't be wasted.

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The company, led by series producer Richard Mortimer and production executive Sophie Macfarlane, which films the show on location at Cannon Hall Farm near Cawthorne in South Yorkshire, has been nominated for Best Lockdown Programme in the Broadcast TV Awards.

The programme was about to start it’s third series highlighting the work of the Nicholson family and other farmers across the country at the start of the busiest time of the year when the lockdown was announced. Four episodes had been in the planning for months and a lot of the back stories to the programme had already been filmed.

Rob and Dave Nicholson, who run the open farm with their family, had begun filming their own content for social media long before the lockdown and so the producers provided them with broadcast quality cameras and online coaching to help them gather the necessary shots to be able to complete stories already filmed.

However, that wasn’t enough though and the biggest challenge of all was how to get contributions from presenters Helen Skelton and Adam Henson, who had been due to spend the week at Cannon Hall Farm to produce the show.

Daisybeck developed a method using smartphones and supporting kit which was sent to the presenters' homes - Helen just outside Leeds and Adam in the Cotswolds - and also to the farm.

Mr Mortimer said: “It was a huge gamble. We hadn’t tried the technology in the real world – only between the team and in theory.

"On day one of the recording of the first episode it took everyone a bit of time to work out how to use smart phones, a type of Zoom communications system, laptops and at times what felt like a massive long piece of string and lots of tins cans to do what would normally be done by a multi-million pound outside broadcast unit.

"After a couple of hours we hit our stride - and a few wrong buttons on the phones - and nine hours later we had a show.”

It was the first show in the history of Daisybeck where none of the production team actually met face to face for the recording of the main show.

The series, which was broadcast in April last year, broke audience records from the previous two series. It was immediately recommissioned for this year and also led to a spin-off series This Week on the Farm.

“We were all worried about letting Channel 5 down when we had to make the show in a new way” said Mr Nicholson.

“We knew we could film material for our own social media but filming for proper telly and doing our jobs on the farm at the same time certainly was a challenge.

"Dale who works with us on the farm became the main cameraman and everyone in our working bubble on the farm just got on with it. We’re delighted that the results of those few weeks have led to such successful new shows and thrilled to have been nominated for a Broadcast Award.”

Springtime on the Farm 2021 has just finished and this time the presenters and TV crew were able to make the programme on the farm under strict Covid-19 safety protocol, which were developed by Daisybeck last year for The Yorkshire Vet.

The protocols became part of the industry gold standard safety measures that enabled documentary filming to continue during the pandemic.

The Yorkshire Vet continues on Tuesday at 8pm on Channel 5.