Lancashire lass tells ‘tail’ of her new TV show ‘The Doggy Hotel’

Julie Heathcote, producer of The Doggy Hotel.
Julie Heathcote, producer of The Doggy Hotel.
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Some might have said Julie was barking mad when she decided she wanted a career in television but on Tuesday her first ever TV series “The Dog Hotel” will air on Watch TV channel.

For the past two years Julie Heathcote,46, from Birch Road, Garstang has been following her long awaited dream to have her own TV series and now with the help of business partner, Lisa Fairbank and with 20 years experience under her belt, her dream is now a reality.

But for the former Garstang County Primary School student the path into TV has taken many different routes.

After completing a communications degree at Coventry Polytechnic Julie firstly turned her hand to the music industry, which she worked in for two years starting as a secretary at Virgin records before moving up to the marketing team.

She said: “I’ve always wanted to work in TV but at the time I did my degree there were only about three places that did a degree in the subject I wanted to do.

“But I chose Coventry and then made the move to London and went straight into the music industry from university which wasn’t what I wanted to do but I did have a really good time doing it.”

During her time in the music industry, Julie was able to save enough money to go travelling and it was when she came home that she decided she was going to get into what she really wanted to do- to be in television.

“I sent out hundreds and hundreds of CV’s and eventually I got a volunteer job as a runner, making coffee for people on a quiz show and really that’s where it all started.”

After making herself known working as a runner, Julie went on to be a freelance journalist and got herself a position in Sky News as a ‘guest getter’ in which she would find up and coming guests to fill the programme with.

In the seven years that she worked with Sky, Julie worked in various roles including the news desk, where she met her former husband, before she suggested that she would like to do wildlife reports which led to her next adventure.

“I got to travel the world and absolutely loved it, I visited countries such as Australia, Peru the Phillipines and many others, all in the search for environmental stories.

“The reports were called Wildworld and on many occasions saw us hunting for sharks and whales which the national geographic saw and then asked me to work for them.

“I never anticipated that I would be on screen as I had always wanted to work behind the screens but I would never have said no.”

Whilst in her role at the national geographic Julie also worked for organisation RDF who made factual entertainment programmes and went on to be involved in the making of programmes such as Scrapheap Challenge, Faking It, and How Not to Decorate –where she worked with both UK and international broadcasters.

“It was only really at RDF that I was able to learn how to make programmes because even though I had worked within the industry there are many parts which are all very different from each other so it’s important not to have an ego in this industry because when you move on you start at the bottom again.”

Having set up home with her husband in Brighton Julie had two children which meant that her former travel lifestyle was no longer possible, but it in no means meant her dreams were over.

Julie went on to work part time for Lambent Productions in Brighton for six years which allowed her to be with her children as well as keeping up with her TV passion later returning to full time work on a celebrity biography series for a company called Back2Back.

It was here that her next adventure began when her editor told herself and her now business partner Lisa Fairbank about married couple Leon and Matt Henderson-Rood.

“When we met Matt and Leon we said they should have their own TV show because they were just brilliant and that’s when Lisa said to me this is daft we have been doing this a long time now, we have got our contacts lets try and set our own business up and I just thought why not!”

In 2012 Julie and Lisa set up their own TV company Factory Films and their first project was to be doggy hydro-therapist Leon and canine behaviourist Matt.

The couple, wanted to open Brighton’s first boutique hotel for dogs and such was their vision, and with the help of Julie and Lisa that Leon and Matt are about to be on our screens in their very own reality TV series called ‘The Dog Hotel’ which highlights the troubles and triumphs of setting up their own Dog centre in Sussex.

Julie said:“They are such a big hearted couple and such passionate dog lovers which was something that I had never been able to grasp, not being a dog owner myself but since doing the programme I get it now and understand the true and unconditional love that dogs give to their owners and they give back.”

The series begins on October 14 at 8pm and is the first of ten parts.

Julie said: “ It is just such a heart warming family series.

“People care about their dogs and this resounds in the series and it is just a really sweet thing to see.

“There are different levels of silliness throughout the show but between the lines there is such an authenticity about Leon and Matt and to see their passion for dogs is so engaging regardless of if you are a dog owner

“When you watch it you end up with a smile on your face and maybe even a tear in your eye.”

The first episode sees Matt and Leon with no business experience between them turn to their friend and mentor, straight-talking multi-millionaire, Gina Citroni who gives advice and guides them through the pitfalls of running their own company.