Sara Davies on Dragons' Den and filming during lockdown as new series starts

Dragons’ Den star Sara Davies says there’s more to filming the hit series than first meets the eye.

Dragons' Den returns to our screens next week with a new series. (PA).
Dragons' Den returns to our screens next week with a new series. (PA).

“What I think a lot of people don’t realise is we can be two hours on a pitch interrogating one of the contestants and everything like that. You see 12 minutes of it,” says the 36-year-old entrepreneur.

“I think people don’t believe us when we say to them that we don’t know anything about the businesses until they walk through the lift.

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“You’re so caught up in, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to make a big financial decision here’ and part with a lot of money potentially, that you forget about the cameras and you’re really just in the moment.”

Sara Davies returns with the fellow dragons for new series. (PA).

With series 18 marking her second series as a dragon on the hit BBC show, the experience has brought with it a number of important lessons for the Crafter’s Companion founder. “I’m really conscious of body language,” says the Universtiy of York business graduate.

“I remember going into the edit after the first series and they were putting together the first clips and I met the editors working on it.

“They were like, ‘We love working on the clips with you in because every feeling you’ve got oozes out of every pore of your body, you don’t hide it’. I’d never thought about it before.”

It’s a marked contrast to the stoic approach employed by her fellow dragons.

With the formidable line-up of Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden and Touker Suleyman returning to their seats as part of the latest instalment, Tej Lalvani has announced that series 18 will be his last in the den.

Making the switch from BBC Two to BBC One the returning show will see budding entrepreneurs once again vie for the dragons’ investment, as they undertake a three-minute pitch that could make or break their business.

Filmed between lockdowns, the production, like many others of its kind, found itself having to adapt to a new set of filming restrictions. The resulting changes saw life behind the scenes abruptly transformed into a far less attractive affair, as fellow dragon Deborah Meaden explains.

“The difference, actually, happened outside of the den,” she says. “It was a bit odd eating two metres apart, but on the last night – the country went into lockdown.

“So, once we finished filming, we couldn’t eat in the den because we’d technically stopped work, so we had to go back to the hotel and get a takeaway.”

It was an experience that became memorable for all the wrong reasons, as Meaden recalls.

“We were the only people in the hotel, in the restaurant, under their security fluorescent lights with chairs still up on the tables. They cleared a couple and we were all sat two metres apart. I mean, the glamorous life us dragons lead. We looked at each other and thought, ‘Well, it doesn’t get better than this!’”

Unconventional dining experiences aside, Davies believes there were some positives to be found in the midst of the pandemic, something that extended to the quality of this series’ entrepreneurial offerings.

“What was really interesting is the calibre of businesses we saw in this series was higher than we’d ever seen before. We had more investments where we all fought it out – it was a record-breaking number. There was over £2m pledged in the den in the series; every night we would walk back to the hotel and everyone would say, ‘I can’t believe the calibre of the businesses we’ve seen today’.”

Davies also found life outside the den shift dramatically. “My big thing during lockdown is running – and I’d never really been into running,” she says.

“I know a lot of people have talked about finding their own coping mechanism, for me, it’s not until I look back I realise how much I relied on that.”

Dragons’ Den returns on April 1 on BBC One.