'It was really hard having to down tools and admit I wasn’t coping, especially on camera' | Johnny Vegas on the second series of Carry On Glamping © Jonathan Jacob / Channel 4

'It was really hard having to down tools and admit I wasn’t coping, especially on camera'

Johnny Vegas on the second series of Carry On Glamping

Johnny Vegas and his long-suffering assistant Beverley Dixon return for a second series of Carry on Glamping later this month. It covers the comedian’s efforts to find a new, bigger home for his quirky campsite and the vintage vehicles he uses as accommodation – as well as his tribulations in adding and renovating a rusty helicopter and a broken boat fro the collection. Here the pair talk about their latest struggles…

Tell us about this series…

Johnny: We started filming over two-and-a half years ago. We start as we’re packing up at Breaks Fold Farm [the location of the first Field of Dreams glamping site], so we’re right back to where we started. Not quite drunkenly buying a bus online, but we’re looking for a new home.

Obviously, I put the cart before the horse and buy a helicopter before we’ve found the new home. That all started as a joke with Bev at the end of the first series but then someone had a helicopter for sale.

So, this series is about where do we go now and how do we keep the dream alive.

How hard was it to find the perfect location?

Johnny: The first time round it was all exciting and new but this time around it was disheartening.We had a business and we had nowhere to put it.

This series does feel more grown-up, it’s not just a giggle about buying the buses anymore, we have lots to do. It was all quite overwhelming and it’s documented in the series that I had to take time out and the project went on hold.

Bev: We started looking for land and fell in love with Melbourne Hall [in Derbyshire] quite early on in 2022 but they couldn't get the planning permission on the field we viewed.

We loved every piece of land we saw and every person we met, but nothing worked for all of the vehicles and it didn’t feel like we’d ever find anything.

But in the interim, like Johnny said, he was quite impulsive and got the helicopter, then we got the great news that we could have Melbourne Hall but as a 28-day pop-up while we waited on the planning permission for another field on the estate.

It was the summer and you were doing a lot, Johnny, weren’t you? You had to make a huge amount of decisions and it was hard. It was physically and mentally demanding and it just became untenable, didn't it?

Johnny: A lot was building up and then I got an ADHD diagnosis. There was a lot being asked of me, too many questions in too short a time for something that wasn't feeling permanent.

My brain absolutely ground to a halt and I had to step out. Something had to give and it was me. Thankfully, everyone put everything on hold, even Melbourne Hall.

In series one, you were naïve in the world of business. Has that changed?

Johnny: I have no head for business. I acknowledge that. I’m an ideas man. I abuse that term a lot – ‘I don’t know how much it costs, I’m an ideas man!’ I have a bit of a get-it-done attitude but, actually, with the ongoing hangover from lockdown and everything within the industry, this isn’t a project we could just throw money at because we didn't have money to throw. So there was a lot of having to come up with creative solutions.

I stayed on site and for someone without a business head, I did wander into realms of control freak.

It will be an interesting watch because like with the first series, we follow the journey for better or worse. And as much as it's entertainment, it is real life and we do have a site to manage, and real people paying real money to come and stay. We’re not playing, it's not for entertainment purposes.

Bev: It’s a long-term thing, we’re committed for three years and we know it’s going to take a while to break even, but we couldn’t miss the opportunity of Melbourne Hall.

Johnny: Series one was accidental entertainment, but with this one we had to commit and it was a lot of time and effort. I’m dreading to see what I look like under pressure.

Bev: Johnny gets overloaded and I appreciate that and try and deliver things slowly, but I needed a lot of answers. And if Johnny’s knows I’m ringing him, he automatically thinks I’m going to ask him so much stuff and then he’s already overloaded before I’ve asked him anything. And in the second half of the series that’s when the biggest decisions needed to be made, so it was tough.

Johnny: We don’t create things for telly but there are situations like not being able to get any power and it’s stressful, they’re real-life problems.

What did you take away from the first series?

Johnny: What was lovely was people really took it to heart. People were really rooting for Patricia [Johnny’s Maltese bus named after his late mum] and when she hit the barn, they felt how we felt.

It was really life-affirming how much folk believed in it and got behind it. I know it was called Carry on Glamping, but to me it was always the Field of Dreams. I think they knew how earnest we were about it and we weren’t doing it for the sake of making telly.

Like with Patricia, there are plenty of hairy moments this time around too. Getting the helicopter onto site was particularly challenging, wasn’t it?

Johnny: Oh god, I thought they’d have some sophisticated piece of equipment, but it was just Stu [the engineer who converted the helicopter] and two guys with some straps.

Bev: When it arrived in the village, all the villagers followed it down. It’s a lovely village with Lord and Lady Kerr's estate, a beautiful church, beautiful cottages… When they lifted the helicopter up it swung one way towards a chimney pot, then it swung the other way towards the church window. We were like, ‘please do not take out the church window’ – we would not be welcome if we did that.

Johnny: It’s been there since the 12th Century and suddenly we’re there threatening it with this helicopter. And do you know what? When things are at their hardest, or me and Bev are falling out, you know the director’s loving it and saying, ‘Get another camera on them, they’re going to have a row’.

Johnny and helicopter Oscar

Do you think Oscar the helicopter is this series’ Patricia?

Bev: Because we had to halt everything, the helicopter was in Stu’s workshop for a year and Oscar, his son, became so attached to it. He was gutted when it left.

Johnny: He was and that’s why we named it after him, so he still felt that connection to it. It was his playground for a year and, actually, that year bought us a lot of time to do things to it. I’m almost kind of glad I had to take time out because it meant we didn’t rush it to market.

Is there anything you wanted to achieve but had to draw the line because it was too ‘out there’?

Johnny: I don’t really have a line. I’ve got ambitions to do an indoor cinema on the site and I’m looking at a piece of land thinking we could do a lunar landing on it.

Obviously we can’t salvage an Apollo 11 but I’ve got into this thing about the history of travel. When we’re on site, poor Bev is saying, ‘the horse box toilets aren’t working’ and I’m like ‘we could put a spaceship there’.

Johnny and Bev

We see a lot of the dynamic between you both in this series, including a lot of bickering. Is that what everyday life is like?

Johnny: We clash a lot more in this one don’t we?

Bev: Oh we do, we don’t get on. We irritate the life out of each other. There are some tense moments, and lots of eye-rolling.

We do a lot of driving when we’re looking for the land and we irritate each other. Johnny doesn't like the way I drive, every time we get out of the car we’re arguing – it feels like I’m on a permanent driving test, and he's failed me every time.

The wedding at the end of the series created some particularly heated moments. Would you consider organising another?

Johnny: It was my bright idea to put on a wedding, which I never want to do again. I’ve never even put that much effort into any of my own romances - now I understand why my own brides were in such a huff with me. I didn’t know a wedding was so much work…

Bev: It is when you make all the props yourself, Johnny. You got quite fixated, didn’t you?

Johnny: Yeah, because I’m a geek and you’re not. You kept calling things Star Trek [the wedding was actually Star Wars-themed].

Bev: Johnny and the groom were absolute Star Wars fanatics. I was more concerned with food, drink, flowers and timings and I didn’t get everything Johnny was doing. And I needed to control the budget, as he'd have blown it all on the props. But it did look great in the end.

Johnny: We had to be parted like kids on a school trip because we argued over everything. We had to have a crisis meeting to separate the budget and work on different things. It was like couples’ counselling.

Bev: We’re definitely not going to have a spin-off series as wedding planners.

The series is filmed over two years and there are a lot of ups and downs, did you ever think about throwing in the towel?

Johnny: There was a point I could have walked if I wasn’t so passionate about it. There was a grown-up bit of beyond wanting to do all these amazing things with vehicles, the pragmatic side of it was quite overwhelming.

And with the ADHD thing and being more hands-on with this, it really brought to light that if I’m away filming, acting, everything is done for me, I just have to stand in front of a camera.

In some respects, this series is a bit closer to the knuckle of living with ADHD, having all these ideas but then trying to do the pragmatic thing of making them happen. It’s still good fun though, and people seem to get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing me and Bev bickering.

Johnny with one of the glamping buses

There are also highs and lows personally for you, Johnny. How are you doing now?

Johnny: I’m in a really good place. I’ve rediscovered art, I’ve got a studio, I’m making things and I’m really happy. It’s like a bit of a rebirth and art has come along at just the right point in my life.

With the site, when it gets overwhelming, if I just go and make something, it brings everything down for me. But then I can’t stop myself from going, ‘I should do a pop-up gallery in Manchester,’ without thinking about any of the practical things that would need to happen.

But after a rough time of it, I’m starting to feel very lucky for what I’ve got and for the people I’ve got around me. I’m happy.

I’m nervous about this series because there’s a lot of Michael [Johnny’s real name] in it, it’s not just Johnny, and it was really hard having to down tools and admit I wasn’t coping, especially on camera.

But hopefully people will see it’s alright not to be alright and that not saying anything is worse.

Do you still enjoy going glamping or has running the site taken the shine off it?

Johnny: I love being on site and I love involving my sons in it. The older one got involved and really did some hard graft and the younger one just loves being there, especially the helicopter – I’ve finally done something cool.

My thing with glamping is that it attracts such a broad spectrum of people as well. I love it.

How gratifying is it to see your vision come to life?

Bev: It’s been great, hasn’t it?

Johnny: It has. The people who are working on the site and visiting it have the same infectious passion as us and it’s lovely when other folk get it. It’s a big responsibility and it’s not just for TV, we are always adding bits and doing things that aren’t in the show.

Bev: Like you said, it's not something that you’ve put the work in on then walked away. You’ve stayed at the site quite a lot through the season… it’s been lovely to see everyone enjoying staying on the vehicles

What’s next for the site?

Johnny: We took on a lot with the two fields. We need to be making a better return so we’re going to move things on to the one field, and we also need to look at the power to try to make it greener. Maybe with solar power.

Bev: I don’t know whether we can do that, Johnny, we need to look at the other options.

Johnny: I’m not listening to you, Bev. I’m an ideas man.

Johnny Vegas: Carry On Glamping returns to Channel 4 at 9pm on January 24.

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Published: 16 Jan 2024

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