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21 May 2018

Lights, camera … action!

Holly, Tabitha and Peter at Culzean
Our members’ magazine editor, Clare Harris, spent a day at Culzean Castle and Country Park and shares her experience of meeting three very inspiring members as the Trust’s new TV ad was being filmed.

The gods are smiling, and we’ve been granted a glimpse of the sun this morning at Culzean Castle and Country Park. The scent of wild garlic is beginning to fill the air, and the car park is stacking up rapidly with waterproofed families ready to spend their day exploring the beaches, gardens and grand castle rooms.

However, we’re not here for a wander. I’m joining a band of camera operators, producers, runners and make-up people as a little slice of Hollywood comes to the Ayrshire coast. Today we’re filming the Trust’s brand-new TV ad which aims to switch a whole new generation of Scots on to the amazing things the Trust does. While some well-kent faces form part of the advert (filmed by Luther director Sam Miller), there are some everyday folk in there too. We’re here to meet them.

Filming on the beach at Culzean
Filming on the beach at Culzean

If you’ve never been on a film shoot before, the main thing that strikes you is the number of people involved (all wearing headsets and all looking rather distracted), and the sheer amount of not much that seems to be going on. To create a rich, engaging, three-minute advert there’s a lot of filming that needs to take place - the end result is a distillation of the best bits of five days’ worth of shooting. The people I’m here to meet – Holly, Tabitha and Peter – have been on call for much of the day, patiently gearing themselves up for their time in the limelight. While they might not be Hollywood stars, they are consummate pros, each and every one of them.

We catch up in a quiet corner of the Home Farm once they’ve had their lunch. Tabitha (or Tabby, as her mother calls her) is a seasonal guide at Craigievar Castle and has travelled to Culzean from Aberdeenshire for the day. Holly’s day job is a doula, helping women to give birth, but today she’s here as a Trust member and a fan of great days out. For Peter, the day’s filming is a chance to marry his love of amateur dramatics with a passion for history and culture. At the age of 67, he’s been a man of leisure since retiring from the police force 13 years ago.

‘I just love looking around old buildings’, says Tabitha, 17. She’s about to go to Edinburgh University to study history and archaeology, having worked as a part-time tour guide for the past few years. ‘It’s fun sharing information about things, and I like getting into in-depth conversations with visitors about the castle. I learn more with each visitor – you get different perceptions, and talking about it makes you think about what life would have been like then.’ Tabitha came to be filmed today after a suggestion from her boss. ‘It’s good for people my age to see that you can be into the Trust – especially in Aberdeenshire, there’s just so much history there. Getting people more interested in their heritage and history is such a cool thing. We need to keep that going.’

‘We learn from our history,’ says Peter. ‘Yes,’ agrees Tabitha. ‘We learn from our past mistakes, and we can build on them.’


Holly, 39, who’s made the trip from Edinburgh to be here today, spends a lot of her spare time visiting castles and gardens with her three children (aged 4, 11 and 14). ‘While we have amazing documentaries about history now, there’s nothing better than going and having that experience, really feeling that we have so much history and so much energy in Scotland. It’s great to hear Tabitha’s enthusiasm – I hope my kids get a bit of that too.’ Peter nods. ‘I see exactly the same reaction in my grandchildren now that I did when I took my children to all of these places. That wonder and awe that I experienced when I was a child. I’m based in Bridge of Allan, and nearby in Bannockburn we’ve got the Battle of Bannockburn Experience – I take great delight in taking the grandchildren along, and seeing their faces when they experience the battle. That wasn’t there when my kids were young. But it works.


‘So many Trust places make you feel as if you’re stepping into history – to know that you’re walking in the footsteps of people who made history. Down here at Culzean, we’re in the stomping grounds of Robert the Bruce. And one of my great passions is Burns. There’s just so much to see.’

‘It’s about passing on the magic,’ says Holly. ‘Yes,’ smiles Peter. ‘Watching the kids trying on the armour, getting that heavy chainmail on, it’s amazing.’ Already, there’s a rapport between the group; they’ve been here since half past eight in the morning, so they’ve had plenty of time to get to know each other. While they may all be from different backgrounds, they evidently share a sense of fun and a passion for what makes Scotland unique. ‘There’s such a sense of pride, listening to these stories you’ve been telling,’ says Tabitha to Peter. He nods. They help themselves to coffee and snacks, laid on by the film crew.


A lady with a headset bursts in – it’s time for the gang to go. It’s been great chatting, but this is what the day is really all about. We get ourselves organised and head down the footpath from Home Farm to Culzean’s Gas House bay, where the team will be placed in front of the camera to say their piece. I watch Tabitha and Holly being led to the shore by the film crew’s inner circle (we, the wider entourage, are asked to stay back, and stay quiet). They play with the seaweed on the water’s edge and then take turns to answer questions from the director – a gentle, smiling character – before heading back up, job done. Now it’s Peter’s turn, and he’s to say his piece beside an old outhouse, backing onto views of the Ayrshire coast. It’s cold now, as the day begins to turn to evening, but this is evidently the moment that Peter has been relishing. We hear his voice resonate over the quietening landscape. And suddenly, as quickly as his moment started, it’s a wrap. Peter, Tabitha and Holly rub their hands and visibly relax – it’s been a fascinating day, and one that’s brought Trust members together who may never normally have crossed paths. The crew, the members, the hangers-on and the castle staff head back up to Home Farm for a warming bowl of soup. Next time we see them, it’ll be on the silver screen.

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