Susannah Constantine on life in Sussex and local producers
PUBLISHED: 10:21 13 January 2016 | UPDATED: 11:57 03 November 2017
Jim Holden www.jimholden.co.uk 07590 683036 01825 841157
Television presenter Susannah Constantine – queen of the makeover alongside her friend Trinny – is bringing her impeccable taste to a project closer to home. Alice Cooke caught up with her just before she entered the jungle for ITV’s I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here
Originally published in the December 2015 issue of Sussex Life
When I meet Susannah Constantine she is curled up on a chair in her beautiful country kitchen, sipping tea and cuddling an impossibly gorgeous Italian greyhound puppy named Rocco. She is surrounded by hand-painted crockery, charming paintings of rural Sussex idylls and antique objects that range from china plates to chandeliers. It’s a far cry from the Australian jungle, where she recently resided as part of ITV’s hit show, I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here.
But of course, you might be thinking, she is a city girl who can afford to splash out on nothing but the best.
The best it may be, but a city girl she is not – Susannah grew up in rural Leicestershire and Lincolnshire, and what I see before me is not the carefully coiffed, bejewelled glamour puss so beloved of television shows such as What Not To Wear, which she presented with her friend Trinny Woodall. Susannah is gorgeous, even in a slouchy jumper, a pair of jeans and minimal make up, but no stylists were harmed in the making of this picture, for this is just how she is. She is a Sussex girl these days, and has been for a good eight years, so while all the London spark and glittering charisma remain, this is Susannah going back to her rural roots, slowing down and taking time to really relish the finer things in life – those being “all things thoughtful, considered and above all, local.”
When her family first moved here from London, there was no heating “and the place was a bit of a tip. We only got proper heating two years ago – it was a matter of huddling around the Aga before that, which I know plenty of us do around here.”
While she acknowledges that a lot of people are “posh but poor”, she is quick to remind us to buck up our ideas and count our blessings. “We are so incredibly lucky to have so many fantastic artisan producers at our fingertips. There seems to be this perception that if you want something really well made then you’d better travel to London to get it – that’s a load of nonsense.”
One of the things that she adores about Sussex is that “you become friends with the people that you deal with, and you really appreciate the people who take the time to do things properly.” But it hasn’t all been plain sailing: “There are definitely people I’ve dealt with here who think that they’re better than they are – what I want to do is to champion the unsung heroes who really deserve our time and business.
“I think being in Sussex has made me more discerning – there’s a tremendous sense of community here, and I love being a part of that, but in the same breath I feel that there’s so much more that could be made of all of the wonderful things here – we have so much that people just don’t know about. We’re not very good at blowing our own trumpets, and I think we need to be a little less British about it, stand up proudly and show everyone just exactly who we are. I have met some truly amazing people who are old-school, salt-of-the-earth Sussex, and who make or do the most fantastic things, but they have no concept of how to market themselves, to make a song and dance about it, to get people talking. Being modest and self-effacing is all well and good, but it won’t get you very far – that’s where I come in. I will never put anyone down, ever, but if I come across someone who is latent in their enthusiasm, I will happily tear strips off them – Sussex deserves more than that.”
Everything the light touches in her home on the outskirts of Handcross is either Sussex-made or passed down through her family and treasured, whether it be worth pounds or pittance. “The value is not in what something costs, but in what it means to me – its history, who made it, who’s owned it before,” she says. “I am totally infatuated with the idea of having things that you can adore with all your heart, before handing them on to your loved ones, who in turn can love them with all of theirs.”
By way of explanation she references a “baby pillow” that she takes with her on all her travels. “It was given to me as a child, and although it didn’t cost anyone a huge amount of money, it is beautifully made and has lasted me my whole life – it really means something to me.”
This idea of creating heirloom pieces is a message that she is keen to convey, especially at this time of year. “Instead of buying 50 things that cost you nothing and will be appreciated for all of about two minutes before the novelty wears off and they are discarded, why not buy one really precious thing that will cost you the same amount of money, but that will last and be loved for years to come?”
It’s a difficult stance to argue with, but I am quick to admit that I am as guilty as the next person of falling into the trap of buying clothes and furniture that are so cheap that they’re nigh-on disposable. “Oh don’t get me wrong,” she says. “I’m the same and it’s so easy to do, especially at Christmas. We all want to give our children bulging stockings full of goodies, but buying fewer things that they’ll really love, rather than just delight over for as long as it takes them to unwrap them, that’s what I am aiming to do this year.”
• Peter James: why I love Munich, revisiting the Giggling Squid and dinner in the Shard - Bestselling crime writer Peter James talks us through his gastronomic adventures and keeps us abreast of everything relating to his fictional detective, Roy Grace
• Rick Englert, Richard Taylor and the home they built from scratch - Rick Englert and Richard Taylor have not only built their dream house from scratch, they’ve also surrounded it with the most beautiful gardens and parkland. Alice Cooke was hard pushed not to take up residence