The growing success of rural television programming is partly due to people taking comfort from portrayals of the traditional and familiar at a time of uncertainty, according to the creator of one of TV’s most successful countryside series.
Paul Stead, managing director of Leeds-based Daisybeck Studios, the company that produces hugely popular Channel 5 series The Yorkshire Vet, said rural Yorkshire is “a television producer’s dream” at a time when audiences are demanding “real” and “raw” coverage of the world.
The Wakefield-raised screen boss will be at this week’s Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate as Daisybeck produces its latest series Today at The Great Yorkshire Show, the first ever televised highlights package from the country’s premier agricultural event.
Ahead of the show, he told The Yorkshire Post that he thinks viewers have connected with Daisybeck’s productions, including Springtime on the Farm shot largely on Cannon Hall Farm near Barnsley, because they capture a world that comes across as very traditionally British.
“With so much uncertainty about the future – not just for the agricultural world, but for all of us – I think that viewers are really drawn to the familiar. Increasingly people tell us they like to see a traditional British way of life being portrayed on the telly.
“They want ‘the warm bath’ but they also demand that our programmes are real, raw and rural,” said Mr Stead, who admits to being oblivious to the richness of rural life in Yorkshire until later in life. “That’s why I think we’re so lucky in securing access to the people and places that make up this world that I’d ignored for too long.”
Rural Yorkshire proved to be a revelation
Mr Stead, who has been at the helm for eight series of The Yorkshire Vet which documents the working rural lives of North Yorkshire veterinarians Julian Norton and Peter Wright, grew up on a council estate in Wakefield where he had no real concept of the rural way of life.
“Although we were on the edge of the rural parts of West and South Yorkshire I didn’t really get the chance to engage with the countryside in my youth and believe it or not I had absolutely no interest in rural affairs, farms or animals until we were asked to find the real James Herriot by Channel 5,” he said.
“It was a real light bulb moment for me. Life changing in many ways. I suddenly realised there was a whole world I had missed. Full of passionate, hardworking characters with thousands of stories to tell - a TV producer’s dream.”
It was The Yorkshire Vet that led the Daisybeck supremo to the Great Yorkshire Show, which starts tomorrow and is the focus of the company’s new two-part series which will be broadcast on Channel 5 at 8pm on Wednesday and Thursday.
“It was during the second series of The Yorkshire Vet that I visited the Great Yorkshire Show for the first time,” Mr Stead said.
“I couldn’t believe that this amazing event had been right under my nose all these years and it immediately hit me that this landmark county show should be a national TV event. I was thinking “This could be like the Chelsea Flower Show”.
“It’s taken three years but because we were able to include parts of the Great Yorkshire Show in Yorkshire Vet specials we demonstrated to Channel 5 the potential for a series based at the event for a series in its own right.”
The Yorkshire Vet co-stars Norton and Wright will make guest appearances in Today at The Great Yorkshire Show, which will be presented by Bradford-born Countryfile co-host Anita Rani and fellow BBC presenter Jules Hudson.
The new show has been renamed having earlier going under the working title of The Great Yorkshire Show Show.