It is an event filled with arena shows, debates, food and various activities for both land and water. We caught up with Countryfile presenter Anita Rani, whose work includes the documentaries ‘The Refugee Camp: Our Desert Home’, ‘My Family, Partition and Me: India 1947’ and ‘One Love Manchester’, to learn about her experiences as a presenter and her excitement for this year’s event.
You joined Countryfile in 2015 – what have been the biggest lessons that you’ve learned about the Great British countryside in that time?
Firstly, just how beautiful our little island is. Top to bottom we have some of the most stunning countryside on earth. People often think that rural Britain and urban Britain are two different worlds but we are connected. It doesn’t take long to get to a beautiful patch of countryside anywhere in the UK. Plus, one could not exist without the other. Now we are also aware of the incredible health benefits of getting out there – I wish schools did more to get kids out there. Also the amount of baking that goes on in the countryside is eye opening. I’ve had a lot of delicious homemade cakes in some lovely farmhouse kitchens. Every one appreciated!
Countryfile is adored by millions and the audience is about 50/50 split between those that live in the countryside and those in cities. In what ways does the show make sure it speaks to both groups?
By having a range of stories. At its heart it is a rural affairs programme but it’s also a popular Sunday night factual show about all things country. Having a mix of presenters who are experiencing things for the first time helps. I don’t come with a wealth of farming knowledge – we have Adam and Matt for that. I come with a tonne of curiosity and enthusiasm. It’s all I have!
Who are your favourite people to interview on Countryfile and what stories do you find most compelling?
I love people. The best part of the job is being allowed into someone else’s world and hearing their story. It’s the people I never forget. There’s so much warmth and generosity in the countryside. I’ve just filmed with the most wonderful family in Cornwall. They moved from Holland to run a dairy farm. They thought they’d have to close it but their 17-year-old son thought of diversifying to cheese. They now produce Cornish Gouda – the best Gouda in the UK!
We live in a time of much-increased environmental awareness – what are the biggest issues we face in terms of conservation?
Thinking about a more sustainable way of living is a reality for the entire country. What we consume, how we consume it.
There are also many great stories out there of successful projects – do you have any favourite success stories?
One of my favourites is the Squeaky Cheese made in Huddersfield by Syrian refugees. It’s won so many awards and is the tastiest haloumi I’ve ever had! I’m talking about food a lot. There’s a theme…
Do you think it’s important to introduce more children to the countryside? Should this be something we tackle with national policy?
Yes! Some children have no idea where their food comes from, this is unacceptable. Plus they need fresh air and should be allowed to experience the freedom of nature.
Countryfile Live is around the corner, with its northern debut taking place at Castle Howard. What are you most looking forward to this year and what can attendees expect from the events if it’s their first time?
I cannot wait! Plus we are in my home county of Yorkshire this year. There’s so much for the entire family to enjoy. It’s the perfect day out. I’m looking forward to interviewing my fellow presenters… grilling them! Then have a shandy or two at The Craven Arms.
What advice would you give to someone who feels the draw of the countryside but doesn’t know where to start, or is perhaps a little hesitant to get out there?
Don’t be afraid. Find somewhere near you. Get together with family or friends. Plan a little walk and have lunch in a lovely country pub. Perfect. First-timers to the outdoors need to come to Countryfile Live!