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Nature of Britain: In front of the lens 1

Updated Wednesday 10th October 2007

Dr Janet Sumner has a busy time as preparation for "Nature of Britain" gets under way.

I am sure lots of you are familiar with Coast as being an Open University – BBC co-production, but many of you may not be aware that The Open University is involved in many more landmark television and radio series that go out on the BBC, including most of the recent David Attenborough series, plus programmes like Timewatch and even the recent series with James May from Top Gear.

This week marks the start of a very busy eight weeks for me, as we prepare for the broadcast of the biggest landmark series yet that the Open University has made in co-production with the BBC.

This series, which consists of 8 one hour programmes, takes a definitive look at the nature and wildlife of the British Isles – the pictures are beautifully shot by the BBC’s Natural History Unit (who are based in Bristol) and supported by some truly lovely filming by whole of the British BBC Nations and Regions.

So what’s my involvement in it? Well, as an ‘Open University Broadcast Executive’ I am responsible for managing the academic input, seeing the whole project through to completion and signing it off on behalf of the OU – a big job, I hear you say (and that’s with a whole team of people helping), well, not as big as my other job on the series…

Let me explain, the programme consists of 50 minutes of ‘network’ programming (that means everyone in the UK gets to see it) which is presented by Alan Titchmarsh, this is then followed by a 10 minute ‘regional’ segment (with specific content that relates to the region in which you live) – these regional segments are filmed with local presenters, and since I am a Cheshire lass, born and bred, and have presented on a lot of BBC science and nature programmes (such as Nature’s Calendar and The Cosmos: A Beginner's Guide), I am the presenter for my ‘home region’ the North West. Plus, there’s also a ‘daughter’ series that follows on BBC FOUR on the same night called The Nature of Britain: A Users Guide. It’s presented by Chris Packham, and I have been contributing on-screen to that, too.

Janet and Chris on camera Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC
Janet and Chris on camera.

As you can imagine, with such a huge landmark series about to begin, the big wheels of publicity start to grind into action. So, at the moment I am permanently ‘on call’ to go out and give talks to schools and the general public about what it is like to be ‘a TV presenter’ and specifically what the trials and tribulations of being a ‘science and nature presenter’ really are.

Apart from actually filming our wonderful British wildlife in fabulous settings – I can honestly say this type of public engagement is the part of my job I enjoy the most – never more so than when I met Year 7 of Park Middle School in Biddulph to talk about ‘my life in front of the lens and the making of nature TV’.


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