By Cara Sulieman
A QUIET coastal village has been shortlisted as the setting for a new reality TV show, leaving residents worried that they will be manipulated to make good television.
Aberdour has been earmarked as the potential location for a new Channel 4 programme following four couples who are fighting to win a house in the picturesque village.
The 2,000 current residents would vote for the winning couple after they’ve lived there for eight weeks.
But villagers now say that they were initially told it the production company wanted to film a documentary – and that they knew nothing about the reality aspect.
William Dryburgh, chairman of the local community council, said: “We first heard about it in October or November last year.
“They came up and said they’d been commissioned by Channel 4 to do a documentary on the village and village life.
“We went along with it because we thought it would be good for advertising the village, getting it on the map and getting more tourism in.
“They came back again just before and after Christmas and it was all very positive.
“Then they came back in March and dropped this bombshell.
“I’d have been happy just for a documentary and would’ve had no problem if that was the format, with the controlling interest that nothing we’d be unhappy about would be aired.”
Now residents are concerned that their privacy will be invaded and they will be portrayed in a bad light by the show and want to have editorial control if it goes ahead.
Mr Dryburgh said: “The Prisoner put Portmeirion on the map.
“But talking to my colleagues on the community council, we don’t know if this is the right way to put Aberdour on the map.
“The village has got more integrity than that.
“I’ve already been approached by one couple who foster a child – there are degrees of privacy involved and they’re concerned their natural parents could recognise them on TV and find out where they are.
“My sister and brother-in-law know a couple who were on Channel 4’s Grand Designs – the work went without a hitch but the producers said, ‘we can’t have that, we’ve got to have drama.’
“We’re wondering if Channel 4 will go down that road – introduce things that don’t exist.
“We’ll have to discuss at the next community council meeting whether to put it on public record that we want to distance ourselves, or, as some people have suggested, pick up the cudgel on behalf of the village and have some degree of control over what does and doesn’t happen.”
According to Mr Dryburgh, the producers will buy a house in the village which the winners will get to keep.
He added: “Obviously it would have to be a four-bedroom house and I don’t know where they’d get that in Aberdour.
“The contestants will be given the opportunity to integrate into the community and eventually villagers will get to vote on who’s impressed the most.
“They did press on us that one of the very strict provisos was the winners would not be able to sell the house but stay in the village – there’d be a commitment to Aberdour for 12-15 years.”
Sam Wood, owner of Cedar Inn, where the Studio Lambert crew stayed, is more open to the idea.
She said: “I’ll be on my best behaviour for eight weeks – I hope they’re not looking for a live version of Shameless. They’d be in the wrong place.
“We don’t get that in Aberdour.
“There are a few people who’re quite interested in getting themselves on television.
“But there are people who want to be left in peace and don’t want a camera stuck in their face.”
A spokesman for the channel said: “The series will follow a small number of individuals as they move into a home in a thriving British village to begin to live the rural life that has been their dream.
“After extensive research across Britain, Aberdour has been identified as an ideal village to feature in the programme and has been added to a shortlist of possible locations.
“The production team have already had several meetings with prominent members of the community and some officers of Fife Council.
“All the residents of Aberdour will be invited to attend a meeting later this month at which the producers will consult with residents and explain further the nature of the programme.”