Six Welsh celebrities had a swill time down on the farm when they swapped the red carpet for bales of hay and high heels for wellies in the TV Olympigs.
The sextet of stars were the among the latest of crop of contestants in the popular television farming challenge show, Fferm Ffactor, which is a staple of prime time viewing on S4C.
They were taking nothing for grunted when they were set the challenge of building a pig sty using wooden pallets and sheets of plywood at Coleg Cambria’s Llysfasi agricultural college near Ruthin.
Next the ham-fisted competitors had to try their best not to make a pig’s ear of herding a pig called Donald, named after the American president, into a livestock trailer made by Ifor Williams Trailers who are based in North Wales.
Viewers will be able to find out if there is a twist in the tale when the challenge features during the new series of Fferm Ffactor which is made by Caernarfon-based TV production company Cwmni Da.
The first episode of the series will be broadcast on S4C at 8pm, on Saturday, April 11, and one featuring the porcine challenge will go out a week later on Saturday, April 18.
Among those aiming to hog all the attention will be team made up of former psychiatric nurse turned stand-up comedian, script writer and actor Eilir Jones, actress Donna Edwards and women’s international rugby player Dyddgu Hywel who will be lining up against soprano Gwawr Edwards, composer Robat Arwyn and drag queen Maggi Noggi,
Fferm Ffactor presenter Ifan Jones Evans admits the intrepid six celebrities taken on the challenge were real oinks with little experience of working with livestock.
He said: “Our celebrities, former psychiatric nurse, stand-up comedian, script writer and actor Eilir Jones, actress Donna Edwards and women’s international rugby player Dyddgu Hywel who make up one team and soprano Gwawr Edwards, composer Robat Arwyn and drag queen Maggi Noggi are a motley crew.
“A couple of them have a little farming experience but some have none whatsoever. It’s going to be a lot of fun. And as pigs are notoriously stubborn and uncooperative when the mood takes them you have to wonder what could possibly go wrong? It’s certainly promises to be a lot of fun.
“The challenge is split into two parts. Firstly, building a pig sty from the materials each team has been supplied with. The sty needs to be sturdy enough to contain the pigs of course providing them with shelter and an area to exercise in.
“Then the pigs have to be coaxed out of the respective Ifor Williams trailers and herded into the sties. The two teams will be judged on their performance and how good their sty’s are.
“The second part of the challenge will involve each team member tasting different milks and identifying from which farm animal the milk is from.”
He added: “Having seen the teams make a start on their pig sty’s I have to say I’m impressed. Maggi Noggi has really taken the bull by the horns and is very hands on. But Dyddgu and Gwawr, who both come from farming families, are very good too.
“Fferm Ffactor is a fantastic and very popular show and we have been helped massively over the years by Ifor Williams Trailers who always provide us with trailers when we need them.
“They are one of Wales’ proudest exports and it’s wonderful they continue to support Fferm Ffactor every series.”
Drag queen Maggi Noggi who claims to have lived on a farm in Llanfair-Mathafarn-Eithaf on Anglesey since she was a little girl, says the challenge wasn’t going to prove easy.
She said: “We keep Jersey cows on the farm for their milk and we have Friesians too but the only pigs I’ve worked with were at Holyhead Docks on a Thursday night.
“The trouble with the countryside is that there are lots of animals running about that are uncooked. I thought I’d be handling pork scratchings, bacon sandwiches or chops.’
She added: ‘‘I’m in a fabulous Fferm Ffactor team, they are a little on the short size compared to me but I do have high heels on but we will just have to put up with that.
“I think we should be very proud of ourselves. I had to be very safety conscious and wear gloves to protect my nails. However, I couldn’t stop getting lipstick on my teeth but that was because I was working so hard. “
Composer Robat Arwyn, from Ruthin, says he felt like a fish out of water when it came to working with livestock.
He said: “My wife, Mari, is a farmer’s daughter and she would be far better suited to this challenge than me.
“However, the idea of the show is about people with no experience of livestock and farming getting their hands dirty. I’ve never been near a tractor or any livestock quite frankly although I think I took my children to a petting farm once many years ago.
“I’m really pleased with how it went especially considering our lack of experience. I can’t give anything away but I’m pleased with how we performed as a team.”
Soprano Gwawr Edwards who hails from Bethania, near Aberaeron but now lives in Cardiff, said: “I’m a farmer’s daughter but it’s been 17 years since I lived on a farm. I do go back and I will help dad with lambing and the other odd task but I’ve never worked with pigs.
“It was a lot of fun and working with Robat and Maggi Noggi has been an education. I think we can be very proud of our teamwork.”
Welsh international rugby player Dyddgu Hywel, who hails from Betws-y-Coed, admits to having grown up on a farm but says she has never worked with pigs.
She said: ‘It’s been great fun and we have all done well. We can’t give the result away but I don’t think any of us was disgraced. The pigs were better behaved than I imagined – just!”
Former psychiatric nurse and now a stand-up comedian Eilir Jones, who hails from Bangor but now lives in Llansannan, says he was looking forward to the Fferm Ffactor challenge and it promised to be a lot of fun.
He said: “I’ve lived all around North Wales as my dad was a minister. I’ve no farming experience but after I finished as a psychiatric nurse in 1984 I did stand up as a farmer character called Ffarmwr Ffowc.
“I’ve worked with a few pigs before but not four legged ones! The day holds no fears for me really, other than Maggi Noggi who scares me to death.
“We worked so well as a team and it goes to show when the chips are down we work together.”
BAFTA Cymru award winning actress Donna Edwards of Merthyr Tydfil but who lives in Cardiff, came along to take part in Fferm Ffactor having no idea about livestock.
The actress who has played the character of Britt Monk in Welsh soap Pobol y Cwm since 2002, said: “I was brought up on a council estate so never saw farm animals really. However, they don’t frighten me, no animals do except spiders!
“It’s a very different experience to acting. Acting is much easier than reality. I love the Fferm Ffactor format. It’s a twist on the English X Factor but gives us a chance to show off our Welsh culture.”
Donna, who won her BAFTA Best Actress awards for her roles in Tair Chwaer and Belonging, added: “I’m really happy with my team. We have a gem in Dyddgu as she’s a farmer’s daughter.
“I do believe in genetic memory and I remembered at some point that my grandfather kept pigs and then I remembered him. It has been good fun though and I’m glad I was on the team I was.”
Fferm Ffactor judge Caryl Gruffydd Roberts, Farmers’ Union of Wales Head of Membership, was impressed with the enthusiasm if not with the execution of the task.
She said: “They are certainly prepared to have a go and get stuck in and they all seem to be really enjoying the occasion. There are some unique personalities, I never thought I’d see someone like Maggi Noggi build a pig sty!
“I’m a farmer’s daughter but have been with the FUW for the past eight years. Fferm Ffactor is a great series and it’s important we are able to laugh at ourselves, especially at a time when mental health issues are being highlighted.”
She added: “It’s also so good we have companies such as Ifor Williams Trailers who are prepared to get involved and loan the production company trailers to be used in the series.
“Ifor Williams Trailers are a proud Welsh company and one that the FUW are always pleased to work alongside.”
Daniel Joyce, Head of Sales for North Wales at Ifor Williams Trailers, said the company was delighted to once again help the Fferm Ffactor production team.
“Our livestock trailers are well known to farmers across Wales and much of the world, but they won’t be so familiar to celebrities taking part this year.
“I suspect the pigs will pose much more of a challenge than the trailers and we’re all looking forward to see how the celebrities get on.
“With Tokyo 2020 looming perhaps this challenge should include as an Olympic sport – or better still an Olympig sport.”