Press Centre

Alison Steadman’s Shetland

  • Episode: 

    1 of 1

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Tue 24 Jun 2014
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    9.00pm - 10.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 26 2014 : Sat 21 Jun - Fri 27 Jun
  • Channel: 

  • Status: 

The information contained herein is strictly embargoed from all press use, non-commercial publication, or syndication until Tuesday 17 June 2014.
“I’ve always said, if I hadn’t been an actress all my life the thing I would really like to have done is work with animals, birds or work in the countryside.”  Alison Steadman
Actress and ‘twitcher’ Alison Steadman fulfills her ambition to visit Shetland in this new documentary. Alison explores the breathtaking landscape and experiences the region’s abundant wildlife getting to see gannets, otters, puffins and Shetland ponies in their natural habitat.
Starting out on the mainland she travels across the region by car and boat and finishes her journey in the Northern region of Hermaness. Along the way Alison tries out sea kayaking, tastes freshly foraged razor clams, wakes up at dawn to go otter spotting and explains how her love of birds and animals first began. 
Located 200 miles away from Aberdeen, the Shetland Archipelago is inhabited by just 23,000 people and spans across more than 100 islands. On many of the islands there are no shops, and no roads but it is biologically and geographically diverse and home to thriving communities of rare birds. Alison, a self confessed city dweller, begins her trip in Reawick where she begins to acclimatise to the unique scenery and the solitude.
She says: “The one thing that’s really kind of amazing me is there are no trees here. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere in the world where there are no trees. There’s hardly any people which is something I’m not used to, having lived in two cities my whole life.”
One of the birds Alison most wants to see whilst in Shetland is a puffin – a rare bird that can be found in the region. During the high season there will be 1500 puffins in Shetland but at this time of year they are more scarce. Alison travels to Sumburgh Head in South Shetland to meet Helen Moncrieff from the RSPB who has recently seen some on the coast. Alison is delighted to be able to see them in their natural habitat.
She says: “That’s so wonderful. I’ve been waiting for this moment really all my life.”
Back on the mainland, Alison is advised to try sea kayaking to get the best views of the coast and of the wildlife around the shore. She agrees to give it a try despite being nervous.
She says: “Now I’m not keen on this at all, I’m very apprehensive, I’d go as far to say I’m a little bit nervous about it.”
Once she is out on the water, Alison gains a bit of confidence and her guide Angus points out the spectacular rock formations as well as the different seabirds nesting on the cliffs. 
Next Alison travels to the island of Noss, where she meets two wardens who will spend the next five months living in relative isolation. Kat and Craig both work for Scottish Natural Heritage and will be counting gannets and guillemots on the island as part of their work. They also take Alison to see a guillemot or tystie as they are known on Shetland.
Shetland’s shores are rich with seafood and Alison is invited to go foraging on the beach with local Kenny Johnson who has spent his life on Shetland’s beaches.  The pair search the shoreline and find a selection of razor clams and sea urchins which Kenny makes into a pasta sauce on a small outdoor stove. 
Tasting the dish, Alison says: “That’s lovely. It’s really lovely. It’s lovely to be round the fire and warm for once, in the open air with my chef cooking me razor clams and urchin roe!”
Then Alison travels to Unst in the hope of seeing an otter. Shetland is home to around 1000 otters making it one of the strong holds for them in the UK. She meets Brydon Thomason, a native Shetlander who has spent his life photographing and tracking them. He takes Alison otter spotting at dawn and they get to see a selection of these extraordinary mammals.  
Finally Alison heads North to Hermaness to see a huge colony of 33,000 gannets. She meets up with local expert Richard Shucksmith who records the sounds of the colony using a special powerbolic listening device. Alison tells Richard how she first recorded bird song in her back garden as a teenager. 
She says: “When I was 17 I bought a reel to reel tape recorder and so I put the little microphone on the windowsill and recorded the bird song in our garden. It was just  so beautiful it just seemed to be every evening this chorus. I did find this tape recorder recently and I listened to it hoping the bird song would be on but sadly it isn’t but there is a very, very embarrassing recording of me and my boyfriend singing Kumbaya”
Alison and Richard hook up the listening device and Alison is overwhelmed by the sight and sound of the thousands of gannets. 
She says: “It’s just amazing. If I were to live a thousand years I don’t think I’d see anything as amazing as this. It’s like snow down the cliff.”
Speaking about her trip to Shetland, Alison said: “It took me years to finally make it to these islands I should have done it a long time ago.”
“It will remain in my memory for many, many years.”
Notes to Editors
Alison Steadman’s Shetland was commissioned for ITV by Katy Thorogood, Factual Commissioning Editor and Richard Klein, Director of Factual, and is executive produced by Melanie Leach, Juliet Rice and Dan Adamson for Twofour. Produced & Directed By Scott Tankard.