Kate Humble has revealed she had a rather lowly opinion of BBC2 series Lambing Live when the idea was first mentioned to her by a “scary person at the BBC” some years ago.
“She phoned up and said, ‘We’ve got this idea for a live programme, it’s called Lambing Live’,” Humble told an audience at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. “I thought, ‘Well, that’s a crap idea.’ I was like, ‘Oh, good – I’ll wait to hear from you,’ thinking, ‘Please let that be one of the ones that goes away. What are we going to do? Lamb gives birth night one, night two there we are – there’s another lamb, this is exciting, isn’t it?’
Fortunately for BBC2 viewers – who have so far enjoyed two series of the rural reality show – it didn’t go away.
“Everything goes quiet for a couple of months and I think ‘Thank god, it’s gone away’,” said Humble. “And then I get a call from this producer – phones me up and says, ‘Humble. Ausden here. Lambing Live?’ I said, ‘Isn’t it a crap idea?’ and she said, ‘It’s commissioned, I’m the executive producer and you’re the presenter. How much do you know about sheep?’ We started talking and we started to realise as we discussed this idea that neither of us really wanted to do that actually it was a fascinating subject.”
Humble also elaborated on her recently announced new three-part BBC2 series, which will see her reunite with her old Springwatch co-star Simon King this November.
“I’m going to Africa at the end of next week to do a lovely project with Simon King,” she said. “We’re going to be in the south Luangwa valley in Zambia at the very end of the rainy season. The south Luangwa valley has a river that runs through it and that’s the only permanent source of water.
“We’re going at the end of the longest dry season that anyone can remember so you get an extraordinary concentration of wildlife around the river and because of the technology that we’ve got now, because the price of it has come down, we’re going to have 75 cameras hidden along that river which we can monitor 24 hours a day. So as well as having Simon shooting and other wildlife cameramen shooting, it will give not only us but the scientists that work out there all the time incredible access to stuff that you would never normally see. We’re lucky to be working now when the technology gives you an insight.”
But the presenter of programmes including Volcano Live and Lambing Live did recall the pitfulls of live television coverage and what happens when the wildlife isn’t exactly forthcoming… “Memorably we did have one of the late night Wild In Your Garden programmes where all we saw was a woodmouse. Mercifully Bill [Oddie] is a very good talker so he did manage to fill the time.
“The nerve-wracking thing would be because Springwatch was done from late May, by the third week sometimes we would be getting a little bit thin on the ground because a lot of things would have fledged and we’d be thinking, ‘Just hold on oystercatchers because you’re the only thing we’ve got left.’ But the wildlife really never let us down and if the wildlife did let us down then Bill could always fill a gap.”