Back in May of this year I was asked by a friend at Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT) if I would be interested in taking an artist diving. Of course I replied, if I can spread the love of diving and the knowledge of the amazing life under the waves, then I am happy to. I met Chris Rose a few weeks later, where he asked me, not only if I would be his dive buddy, but would I be happy to appear as his dive buddy on Countryfile…. This is how it all started. I was contacted by the BBC subsequently to arrange all of the diving, the boat hire and the venue. To my surprise, I was then asked by the director if I would like to appear in the episode too. How could I turn that opportunity down? I always wanted Kate Humble’s job!
The day of filming (3rd July 2015) dawned so sunny and warm. I was parked up in Bamburgh carpark waiting for the film crew. When they arrived, we walked up to the castle to fly the drone, watching the live footage as it flew it over a huge golden and empty beach then up over the castle. Matt then arrived by taxi, having spent the night in Edinburgh. Yes, he had been live on the One Show in London the night before! He looked a bit tired, had a cold and was very worried that his t-shirt didn’t look right. We were introduced and I was immediately struck by his genuine curiosity about all things marine.
We did our piece to camera only once, with microphones hidden in our clothes, chatting about Seasearch and the records which recreational divers have been able to gather. Then we re acted the initial piece, but happily chatted about all other things, his up-coming trip to host Monterey Bay Live in California and his family. Apparently this is how they do it, first the spoken bit to camera, then all film other angles while just chatting, hence the final piece had 3 minutes of talking, but we were filed from the drone, a hand held camera and for the final cut, other wildlife and beach shots were added too. Matt then filmed his link-in bits, telling the viewers how wonderful Northumberland is!
On leaving the beach we headed down to the boat to do the section out on the Farne Islands with Chris Rose the artist. We loaded all of our kit on board and tried to work out if the safety dive manager was actually going to take charge. Matt had a cold, so I advised him not to use his “full face mask” as it makes clearing your nose a lot harder, but Matt didn’t have a spare regulator, and would only dive with two. So in the end, Matt dived with my kit (hence his pink dive kit on film!!), and I dived with his. Due to his cold our max depth was only four metres, but did at least allow a good amount of light in for the underwater filming.
In the water were six of us: Matt and his buddy, Chris and Me as his buddy plus a camera man and his buddy. Where we ended up diving was quite silty with a lot of large brown kelp. I took on the role as retriever, so like a happy puppy, I kept finning off and finding things, then bringing them back for Matt and Chris to draw. A sea urchin, a shore crab, –
– a nudibranch and then pointed out a small shoal of fish. Chris drew some lovely sketches underwater, Matt’s looked more like a big bottom with a snail on it…. Much to everyone’s amusement when he brought it up at the end of the dive and showed everyone what he had drawn!
On surfacing we all boarded the boat, chatting about what we had seen. Matt and Chris were happy, they liked the crab and the nudibranch especially. We did a few more pieces to camera then headed in and hence to the pub.
In the pub we sat and chatted about the day and the other filming jobs that the camera man and sound man do. I also found out that there are four freelance teams working on Country File: two for each weekly episode and each episode has a two week lead in. So they guys are constantly busy and looking for new ideas and destinations.
While in the pub Chris started to paint. We were a little worried about talking to him while he was painting, but he assured us that he can multi-task. He had also developed a painting pallet, so that he can have and mix his acrylic paints all on one hand, then hold the paper and paint with the other. Quite a good system, allowing him to paint outdoors or on a boat. Only waterproof paper and pencils work underwater though.
While in the pub, Matt saw someone trying to covertly take a photo of him, so he got up walked over and said “hello, are you papping?” the guy looked terrified, his wife looked delighted! In the end they got some photos and all were happy. I had a few hours to talk to Matt while in the pub. He does come across and a really nice guy, even if I was insanely jealous of his trip to do a show from California in the autumn.
The final scenes were filmed back on the beach, the big reveal of Chris Rose’s painting from the morning’s dive, the meeting up of Matt and Anita and the introduction of the themes for the following week’s episode. It was a nice end to the day, seeing the final scenes being filmed. On finishing we all said our good byes, it had been a busy but enjoyable day. Now to wait to see what the final production is like.