Rather than a book review this month, we’re going for something a little different here at The Hills - a review of An Audience With Amanda Owen. The event - an evening at Pocklington Arts Centre in Yorkshire’s East Riding - saw Amanda, famous for her remote life in the Yorkshire Dales with ‘1 Husband, 9 Children and 1000 Sheep’, speak about her rather unusual journey from Huddersfield teen to shepherdess. And she was everything - bright, witty, energetic, honest - that you would expect, and more.
Owen has two bestselling books under her belt: the first, The Yorkshire Shepherdess, the story of how she left the city behind and the second, A Year in the Life of The Yorkshire Shepherdess, a look at the beauty and challenges of life in a remote pocket of The Dales through four very different seasons. But pigeonhole her as a hillbilly at your peril; this media-savvy countryside woman has 43.1K followers on Twitter, writes a weekly column for a national newspaper and has brands like Burberry and Boden knocking at her door begging her to model their wares.
People are fascinated by the insights into life at Ravenseat provided via Owen’s books, appearances on television and musings on social media. Her stunning, timeless photographs of her children - a wild-looking, curly-haired brood with names like Raven, Edith and Clem - are particularly popular. But anyone hoping for rose-tinted tales of idyllic rural life will find themselves disappointed. “We work hard to keep our animals and our children safe and healthy in this challenging environment,” she says soberly in the introduction to her first book. And in a year of plummeting temperatures, the Beast from the East and farmers losing unprecedented amounts of sheep, Amanda and her husband Clive’s environment has been even more challenging than usual - a fact she didn’t shy away from discussing.
She’s a force to be reckoned with, this girl who was told by her school careers advisor that she wouldn’t get the grades to fulfill her dreams of being a vet and she should set her sights some way lower - ‘GFW’ or ‘general farm worker’ was his uninspired verdict, apparently. And the woman who strode onto the stage at Pocklington Arts Centre, touching six foot, elegant in a cocktail dress and silver bangles, certainly lived up to her reputation.
The format of the first half of the evening was ‘in conversation’, and so Adam Bedford, Regional Director for the National Farmers Union in the North East, prompted Amanda’s reflections and anecdotes with a series of questions - not that she needed much prompting, however. Amanda is a natural conversationalist, and spoke frankly on topics as wide-ranging as giving birth en route to the hospital (six of her nine children were born roadside) to her responsibility as a ‘custodian of the countryside’. Engaging, inspiring stuff.
And the (fairly diverse) crowd at Pocklington - young mums, country gents, the East Riding ‘literati’ - lapped it up. The second half was devoted to questions from the audience, and they weren’t backwards at coming forward. Everything from the seemingly mundane (“Do you get annoyed when people let their dogs off the lead near your sheep?”) to the deeply personal (“Could you survive financially without the income from your public work?”) was covered with trademark humour and frankness. And when a woman asked who she’d like to play her in a film adaptation of her life, Owen revealed that she’s sold the film rights to her books and that a movie is in the offing. Watch this space!
So if you haven’t read any Amanda Owen yet, make a start - her first book reached number three in The Sunday Times bestseller list, her second number two and her third is out later this year. We think we’ve spotted a trend….