In March 2016, artist and conservationist Katie Tunn left her home in north Skye to embark on a year-long pursuit building a utopian society as part of Channel 4’s reality programme ‘Eden’.
The show, which was filmed on the Ardnarmurchan peninsula between March 2016 and March 2017, challenged 23 participants to live off the land, using their skills and know-how to create their own ‘Eden’. To survive, the group were expected to build their own houses and hunt their own food, developing important relationships and overcoming fundamental obstacles all while under the gaze of the watching masses back in the civilised world.
Unfortunately, the experiment did not go quite according to plan — with poor ratings originally curtailing the programme to just four episodes, which were shown in 2016. The project also had to contend with something of an exodus as the year progressed, with eight out of the 23 contestants going on to leave just six months in, and only 10 of the original group managing to see out the duration of the show.
With the final five episodes due to start airing from Monday night (7th August) onwards on Channel 4, amid renewed media interest surrounding its return, Adam Gordon spoke to Katie, one of the 10 ‘survivors’, who explained why the experience had helped to toughen her up and what she missed most during her time on the programme.
What attracted you to the idea of appearing on ‘Eden’?
Katie Tunn: When you get offered an opportunity to try something different and take a break from ordinary life, I think you’d be mad to pass it up. I think a good life motto is ‘never say no to an adventure’! I had no idea what to expect but I had hoped it would be a chance to spend more time living a low-impact life alongside nature.
WHFP: What were the high and low points, and what did you miss most during your time there?
Of course, family and friends were what I missed most. Having that support network when times are tough is so important. On a more superficial level, I missed lemon, fresh fruit and butter!
As for the highs and lows, I can’t say too much as you’ll see that on the programme — but raising pigs, goats and sheep was one of my favourite bits.
How did it feel to have cameras record your every move?
It was odd at first but you quickly get used to the cameras. What was strange was knowing that there’s a whole team of people behind the lenses who probably now know our habits better than we do!
Did it live up to your expectations?
Although I tried to go into the project without expectations, you can’t help but hope for some things. One thing I was looking forward to was having time to explore, swim, climb and paint… Who was I kidding?! When just making a cup of tea involves finding and chopping wood, fetching water, maintaining a fire and milking a goat, you don’t have much time for relaxing!
Did you miss life on Skye while you were away, and what have you enjoyed about being back?
I didn’t expect to miss Skye as much as I did. I missed it terribly!
I had hoped that the ‘Eden’ experience would be about creating a modern version of the traditional crofting community. It soon became clear that not everyone had the same goals (to say the least!). It wasn’t anything like the vibrant and friendly little community I love on Skye… It’s so good to be home.
How has your family reacted to your time on the programme?
My family have been wonderful. I know it must have been especially hard for my Mum to say goodbye to me for a whole year without contact but she still encouraged me to go for it. Their support means everything to me, I hope that the rest of the programme isn’t too hard to watch — they might need to brace themselves…
Have you experienced any changes in your day-to-day life since appearing on the programme?
Going through challenges in ‘Eden’ has shown me I’ve got a lot more grit than I expected and I’m definitely more no-nonsense now. I’m also really conscious about not wasting a crumb of food or scrap of paper — whilst not caring about being dirty or caked in mud now. I’m also really proud that if any of my neighbours ever need any help dosing the flock or clipping hooves I’m now able to lend a hand”
What advice, if any, would you give to someone considering appearing on a reality TV show?
Although it didn’t work out as I’d hoped, I’d still say that you should grab every opportunity that comes your way with both hands! You never know what you might learn or experience and what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger!
Channel 4 was due to begin screening Eden last night (Monday) 7th August at 10pm.