What It Means To Be A Consumer|A Q&A with Presenter Cherry Healey

17 January 2018

Known for her successful BBC documentaries, Cherry Healey is a popular consumer presenter for the channel, as well as an insightful, witty, challenging and compassionate speaker and facilitator. We interviewed her to find out more about her passion for giving a voice to her contributors during her investigations into everything from food labelling to the best way to make a great cup of tea to the psychology of sales shopping on the high street!

Hi Cherry, can you briefly describe your background to date?

After university, I got a job in marketing and events because it sounded grown-up. (I'd been watching a lot of Sex In The City and wanted to 'do lunch' with my girlfriends and wear cool clothes). Turns out, I hated it, and I never met my friends for lunch as I was too busy and didn't earn enough money to buy cool clothes.

Then, one magical day, I got chatting to a director at a party and, the next day, quit my job and started hammering my way through the door of television. I finally got my first work experience role and then worked my way up through runner, researcher and assistant producer, loving every minute. A producer friend mentioned that BBC3 was looking for an immersive journalist, and he thought I was nosey enough to fit the bill. We made a short and silly taster tape and somehow it did the trick. My first documentary was looking at women's relationship with alcohol, followed by looking at pregnancy, marriage, drugs and quite a few other subjects. I've now moved over to BBC1&2 in a more consumer/lifestyle investigation role - and my bread and butter at the moment is Inside The Factory for BBC2, which is on its fourth series!

You’re known for your BBC documentaries - any particularly memorable moments while filming these?

There have been so, so many amazing moments. Watching a woman give birth is definitely up there! She had a water birth in her sitting room and then, after such a peaceful birth, she sat on the sofa with her baby and her mum made us all toast! Then there's performing a burlesque dance on stage, getting attacked by dogs while trying to interview someone, skinny dipping at a nudist campsite and spray painting my armpits were all fairly memorable!!!!

You’re a well-known consumer presenter - what do you think it means to be a consumer these days in terms of the opportunities and challenges faced?

There is a pull in opposite directions - on the one hand, there is a movement for 'less and better', but, at the same time, we've never had more access to cheaply produced stuff. Just one click while we're in our PJs or on the bus and BOOM something exciting - no matter how small - comes rushing to us, often in less than 24 hours. As more packages come whooshing through our letterbox (or get left behind the flowerpots in my case!), and our bins become overflowing with cardboard and packaging, we can't ignore our increasing addiction to 'stuff' that surge of post-purchasing endorphins. What I am hoping is that the culture of convenience, the trend for 'less and better' and the desire to support small businesses will become one and the same thing.

What are your key speaking topics?

I've been making documentaries/factual programmes now for ten years so that's probably my specialty subject! I'm also passionate about empowering women - whether it's at school, in the workplace or at home. Having made four series of Inside The Factory, I've learned so much about the incredible feat of logistics and large-scale process that gets bread/milk/cheese into every kitchen every single day - it's absolutely amazing and has really opened my eyes to how much skill and precision is required. I'm really interested in health, particularly making healthy food delicious, and also how to make exercise fun rather than pounding the treadmill!

What are the key takeaways that you want your audience to leave with?

Whatever subject I'm talking about I would want the audience to feel inspired, informed and perhaps even then occasionally laugh! My past experiences in public speaking, both being in the audience and being the speaker, have shown me that a personal approach is far more engaging than a formal, academic speech - I'd rather create one magical moment than an hour of dry facts and figures!

How do you seek to get the best out of the people that you interview?

When I'm interviewing someone, no matter how much I've prepared or researched, when I come face to face with the human being it can all change. I've learned to be sensitive to how that person is feeling in that moment and to be flexible with my questions - sometimes the main subject matter can become secondary if something more important is revealed.

I've also learned that the more prepared I am, the more research on that individual, subject matter and context, the easier it is to be spontaneous. I also try to open up about myself as that sets the tone of sharing in a safe environment - it also puts you both on an even playing field as instead of seeing me as a 'reporter' they see me as Cherry - which makes the conversation much more human and insightful.

Great tips on how to connect better with audience! So tell us, what’s next for you?

At the moment I'm filming Inside the Factory series 4 and I'll start a new three-part series for UKTV about plastic surgery and physical augmentation. I'm also planning a new online campaign and will start my fourth podcast series soon. I've got lots of pots on the boil so I'm really excited about this year!

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