BBC1’s Countryfile is coming to Shaftesbury next month to feature our town’s snowdrop celebrations. Business and community leaders say that promotion on a programme watched by 4million viewers could provide a welcome boost to our visitor economy.
“The BBC is coming to Shaftesbury to do an episode based on the snowdrops and they will be in town on the 6th and 7th of February,” said Cllr George Hall. George chairs the Town Council’s Recreation, Open Spaces and Environment Committee, that covers tourism matters. “The council and the snowdrops organisation are looking for volunteers who are willing to help us. We have got some planting to do. We have got cleaning to do to make the town look great,” added George.
On Friday morning, a meeting of community group representatives discussed plans to spruce up the town before the film crew arrive. They intend to clean signage, including the ‘Welcome to Shaftesbury’ signs. Bunting and banners are amongst the snowdrop season-themed decorations, which will add a sense of occasion to the High Street.
Snowdrops became part of Shaftesbury’s calendar eight years ago when around 100,000 bulbs were planted around the town as a lasting legacy of the celebrations to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Shaftesbury’s mayor, Cllr Tim Cook, has been closely connected with the snowdrop project since its inception. In 2012 Tim invited dignitaries to plant bulbs in the grounds of the Trinity Centre.
“It has proved its worth in that it has made the town look better over the years and brought people together at a time when we don’t have a lot of tourism in the town,” explained Tim. “It’s brought footfall into the town.”
The new snowdrops website was launched three weeks ago, and Tim says that piqued the programme-makers’ interest. “The BBC picked up on that and decided that they wanted to come to the town. It has proved its worth by making a small town in rural North Dorset a centre for snowdrop tourism and the publicity,” he said.
The BBC hasn’t confirmed which Countryfile host will come to Shaftesbury. Snowdrop committee member Pam Cruickshank is looking forward to guiding the crew and presenters around Shaftesbury’s snowdrop sites.
“The BBC is looking at the organisations that work with the snowdrops project to make the town beautiful, to impress visitors,” said Pam. “We’re going to be going with the BBC to look at the potter Jonathan Garratt at Stour Row. And we will be talking to Brigit Strawbridge about pollinators and bees.”
Pam says that Dorset Blue Viney cheese is used in the soup served during the snowdrop enthusiasts’ event or ‘Study Day’ so a visit to their dairy is being proposed, along with recording at Snowdrops Season sponsor BV Dairy. It’s hoped that the flowers will be in bloom for the camera crew in the most impressive snowdrop sites, like Stoney Path and the Trinity Centre churchyard. “We will be getting them out and about in the town, looking at where the community have planted snowdrops and letting them see the celebration that we make of it,” said Pam.
The traditional baker’s bike will be placed on Gold Hill with a snowdrops display in the basket, to remind viewers that Shaftesbury is the setting of the iconic 1973 Hovis commercial. Pam has obtained permission for the camera crew to record the stunning views from the top of the Trinity Tower, too.
Abbey School pupils will be making snowdrop lanterns for the annual parade. Their workshops and the procession rehearsals are likely to be filmed ahead of the actual event, which leaves Trinity Church at 6.15pm on Sunday 9th February.
This year, the Shaftesbury snowdrops poster features a design by artist Amy Yates. Chamber of Commerce chair Virginia Edwyn-Jones plans to distribute A4-sized copies of the artwork to town centre business. “What we’d like is to present a visual, united front. Wherever Countryfile points their cameras, they can see that the whole town is behind the snowdrops. I’d like every shop, every office in the High Street and all the banks all pulling together and having this snowdrop poster in their windows,” said Virginia.
She says that exposure on national TV will be good for our town’s retailers and accommodation providers. “It’s hugely important. People might see Shaftesbury on the television because of the snowdrops and think, ‘What a beautiful town. We must go and visit it. We might go and stay for the weekend’. It’s a fantastic opportunity for Shaftesbury.”
The Snowdrop Season begins on Friday 7th February with an exhibition at Shaftesbury Arts Centre. On Saturday, 8th February, visitors and residents will have a chance to climb the Trinity Tower, between 12pm and 3pm, for £3. There is a specialist talk and snowdrop sale in the Town Hall on the same day.
On Sunday, 9th February, a two-hour snowdrop walk sets off from the Bell Street car park at 12 noon. It is repeated on Sunday, 16th February, at the same time. And Steps in Time will perform a snowdrop ceilidh in the Town Hall from 7pm on 9th February.