Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Tamara Drewe Circus comes to town

When we got wind that a major film was being made in west Dorset last year, it was the talk of The Enchanted Village.

We were to be the epicentre, twixt Yetminster, Salway Ash and Blackdown where many of the scenes for Tamara Drewe were filmed.

A house we passed every day suddenly had a new fence. Not just any new fence, but a wibbly-wobbly, rustic-style fence. It looked like something from Babe.

‘Why would anyone put up such a stupid, hideous fence?’ my friend Pelly asked, before we realised this was the location for the ‘writers’ retreat’ run by central characters Beth and Nicholas Hardiment.

And then the trailers began to arrive. Cars and vehicles parked under an electricity pylon in the middle of a field. The Tamara Drewe Circus had come to town.

There was money to be made, deals to be struck. Celebrities wandered through Beaminster, flash cars drove through our lanes and a catering truck paid to park on the village allotments. There was swooning from period drama fans because Dominic Cooper was within range. Was it possible to cycle past the set, perhaps, and feign a puncture in the hope he might dash out to give his assistance?

Posters for the church fete bearing  the strapline ‘film location for Tamara Drewe’ attracted visitors by the thousands.

And now the film is out. Not surprisingly, the star of the show is the Dorset countryside.

There is no trace of My Kind of Town's rural Lidl in Frears’ rural idyll. Hell, even the electricity pylons look pretty. The wooded top of my beloved Bluebell Hill dominates long shots and you can almost feel the lush grass and smell the cows’ milky breath as the camera pans across the field.

The thought of even more self-absorbed, middle class people simultaneously romping around the luscious Dorset countryside and being up their own backsides fills me with dread: the people who complain about the long-established kebab shop next door to a newly-opened boutique hotel, the self-styled literati who condescend at the drop of a panama hat, the Badger Brigade who put a stop to housing developments and curse the farmers for wanting to cull dear old Brock for infecting cattle with TB.

When a woman reviewing Tamara Drewe remarked on Radio 4’s Front Row that the properties in Dorset looked so beautiful she wondered if any were for sale, the whole village heard my scream.

‘But, lady, the bloody cattle, ’I yelled. ‘They’re beasts.’

And do you know, I think I heard a heifer softly mooing in agreement, before being overrun by badgers.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x
PS An edited version of this appeared in The Guardian's G2 today.

PPS Tamara Drewe receives a gala showing in Bridport, Dorset, tomorrow night, when director Stephen Frears and writer Posy Simmonds will be among those attending, along with the local literati...


  1. I will have to go and see the movie now - let's hope our beautiful Dorset doesn't get too over run. Don't worry too much though, it will be getting muddy soon and those designer wellies have rubbish grip - that will put people off!

  2. Beautiful post. Very well-written and with a lot of no-nonsense attitude. I have fond memories of Dorset as I camped there with the local branch of Woodcraft every summer, near Corfe Castle.

    I wonder why the Guardian edited this line out: "'But, lady, the bloody cattle, ’I yelled. ‘They’re beasts.’"

    Somehow the last line of the article in G2 makes no sense at all but now that I read in the right context, I understand it. :-)

    Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  3. Oh yes, I would find that kind of sudden attention very disturbing too. Hopefully it will be just a passing fancy and not a huge draw for too many. Thanks for the amusing tale. :)

  4. I'll have to watch for it - in a year or two when it shows over here on the edge of the continent.
    We've just been through a horror over our rooster - new neighbour, short fuse, threatening behaviour and a in the end, a dead rooster. So much for 'rural idyll' sales out our way should come with a warning.

  5. Great shame that they edited out your 'rural Lidl' line, which is very clever. Delighted to have found your excellent blog.

  6. I used to live in that part of Dorset and you've made me home-sick (even though I've not moved far away).

    I hope this film is better than 'The Boat That Rocked'. We were very excited about that when it came out because it's set on Portland - at least, we thought it was . . . and the film itself was so unpleasant (to our taste) we gave up on it half way through.

    I get the sense, from this post, that I ought, already, to know who Tamara Drewe is. But I don't.


  7. The wibbly-wobbly fence is cleft chestnut fencing,typical not of Babe but the Weald of Kent and Sussex where sweet chestnut is still managed in woodlands,thus supporting the British woodland industry and retaining a traditional form of rural fencing.I think it looks great, proper job. Better than imported softwood fencing anyway's. Just thought you might be interested.

    Yours, a poor Devonian who,s not so sure there's much of a warm welcome over the border for outsiders. Then again, the Cornish don't like us either. Bugger..ZummerZet it is then.

  8. Just been to see it and thought the locations looked familiar. I regularly used to cycle between Sherborne and Bridport when I was a boy and kept chuckling as I recognised places I haven't seen for years...

  9. Hello Maddie

    Dorset is such a beautiful county.

    Hope Tamara Drewe doesn't bring hordes of people looking to buy yet more second homes: they cause such damage to rural life with their selfish and self-absorbed attitudes. Second-home ownership is middle-class vandalism of the very worst kind.

    Curious to know if the Guardian just lifted your blog entry under some form of creative commons licence, or whether they asked (and paid) for your permission first.

    Have just seen the film and must say that it is a delight. It might not be perfect but it is entertaining, and Dorset looks suitably sumptuous.

  10. Woodsman,you'd be welcome to Darzet anytime. The fence thing is just a personal preference - it looks out of place to me, probably because it's typical of Kent and Sussex.
    Arpleopid, the Guardian folk are nice people, they paid me.
    Esther, the film is much better than the Boat that Rocked. My friend's hand was in that film.
    Thanks for all your kind words. I think the way to be a columnist in that there London is to have a nose job, like Tamara Drewe.

  11. Hello there - just came across this via @realwestdorset Great piece! I am resident just round the corner from you, and was down in London at the w/end chatting with a friend who knows someone who has just bought a holiday home here. Her response was amazing - 'why spend half a mill on a place you have to drive 3 hours to get to and the weather's crap? I much prefer to get on a plane and spend a day flying to my house in Costa Rica where the sun shines'. I was speechless, and then pleased - just goes to show not all the monied classes 'get it' down here....

    Dorset is lovely, but hard to live in - it takes gumption and imagination to create a living for oneself. It was untouched for many years and now it's time has come, like the Dales / Last of Summer Wine. Don't panic though - without a motorway / decent rail connections the 'horrid' people won't bother to stay long!


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