Meet Anita Newham Nandwani

As we continue to get to know our customers, we were simply delighted to have a catch up with long standing friend & fanatic of the brand, Anita Newham Nandwani. She bought her first Sarah Haran bag 4 years ago, and although she is too embarrassed to publicly admit just how many she owns, we can tell you that she has quite a spectacular collection! If you ask her, she will simply smile and mumble something about having always loved quality leather goods. And she lives by the wise words of "Bags will always fit, even if your waistline is feeling a bit tight!" 

A recent retiree, Anita gave up her work to support ill health in her family, but previous to this she enjoyed a glorious 25 year career in the TV industry. Nowadays, when she isn't lusting after handbags, she does some university lecturing and freelance leadership work. 

We caught up with her to find out some more about  

Hey Anita! Take us back to the start. How did you get into the TV industry? It's notoriously hard to break into, so you must have faced some challenges? 

In the early 80’s, when punk and anarchy were all the rage, I was due to study law, but decided to follow my heart and aim for a career in media, which rather freaked my parents out. Both my brothers had chosen to do medicine, so I became the black sheep in the family. They did not know what “media” was, and if I am honest, nor did I!

At University I studied a new subject called “Communications”. It covered Journalism, Psychology, Film & TV politics and Marketing. There were very few women working in TV at that time, and a new TV channel, Channel 4, was about to launch. Somehow, I won a sponsored place to do a training course. Having applied to do Directing, I won a place to be a Camera Woman. I soon knew why so few women did the job- the cameras were far too heavy to hold!

The month after graduation, I married my parents’ student lodger Martin. Once again I freaked my parents out and they decided to disown me. Their heart was set on me marrying a nice Indian Doctor or an Indian Chartered Accountant - Martin & I are still together 40 years later. 

Fortunately, a great job opportunity came my way. The role was a trainee media analyst in an advertising agency, working for a very fierce female boss who taught me how to survive in a male dominated environment in the 80's - “Work hard. Do research, research, and research so you know your subject & enemy inside and out. Do a perfect job. Don’t react if any of the chaps flirt or touch you. Make a perfect cup of strong coffee each morning. Take your wedding ring off at work. Don’t cry.”

I took her advice that led to a very successful career. However, 11 years into it Martin and I adopted a little baby girl. Commuting to work daily combined with long, long hours did not fit well, so I took a leadership development role that only required me to commute 2 days a fortnight, but that was to Boston, USA! 

I could report write from home the remainder of the time.  Needless to say, the 2 days soon turned into 8 days. Doubtlessly, great work, great luxury leather shopping in Boston and New York, but not great motherhood. Change was needed and as luck would have it a job was advertised to work at The BBC, a 10 minute walk from my home. BBC had begun unprecedented restructure. Producers could now out source certain services, and had become “clients" rather than “colleagues”.  The internal providers were struggling to compete. 

Hence, BBC was recruiting for a Marketing Manager who also had experience of cultural change and leadership development. After several interview panels, I started my new job in a very hostile male environment - because there had also been redundancies as part of the change. On day two I was taken aside and told “you got your job because you are black, a woman, and probably a lesbian too."

Remembering the advice my first boss gave me, I did not cry, react or deny being a lesbian. Instead, I did my research well and soon won them over. From BBC, I moved to a competitor and eventually opened my own business (whilst I was pregnant with my son) which I subsequently sold to a brilliant company called Films At 59 with whom I worked with for a further 15 years until I “retired”.

Working in Film & TV sounds very glamorous - you must have met plenty of famous people?  Can you let us in on some gossip ?

You do meet lots of famous people, yes.  I have met David Attenborough (frequently), Kirstie Allsopp, Shaun Bean, Mary Berry, Kevin McCloud, Monty Don, Paul Hollywood, David Dickinson, Bear Grylls, Gordon Ramsey, Nigel Slater, David Tennant, Prince Harry, Adam Henson, Fiona Bruce, Matt Baker, Nigella, Jeremy Clarkson to name just a few.

Like everybody, I am occasionally star struck, but they are actually just real people when you talk to them. Some are lovely and others are very rude. Most enjoy a cup of tea and biscuit. Very few are divas. The one thing they have in common is that they have a certain charisma when you meet them. There is something extra ordinary about them. The producers and directors are also special in terms of their talent and intelligence. They work in a very competitive global marketplace and have reached the pinnacle of what they do, so I guess it is fair to say they are mega. When in the public eye you are being judged and critiqued and recognized everywhere you go. I would not want to be famous.

The TV industry is very hard work indeed. It's about a creative idea being sold to a broadcaster with a budget and a deadline. It's about securing talent and managing them in a way that does not restrict their talent. Award events are glamorous but you're still working. You can’t get blind drunk and let your professionalism drop. Although people do, and it's on the front page of the Daily Mail the very next day & globally available on the Internet forever!

I can’t give you any gossip because I am a professional (and I have also signed many nondisclosure agreements in my time) Although, I will tell you that Sir David Attenborough likes a cheese sandwich with just a little butter on white bread!

What are the biggest changes you have seen in the TV industry during your 25 years ?

Computers and the Internet changed the industry beyond recognition, and of course many people struggled with the big changes. Personally, I love innovation and change. Everything was shot on film when I started in the industry. This was extremely expensive as it had to be developed and “printed” before you could be sure of what was captured. Hence if you had a natural history team out in Africa, for example, they would fly back hoping they had captured the magic moment. Now they can load it onto their laptop on location and look there and then. It can be sent digitally across the world for a viewing and rough edited straight away.  This is only possible because computers can handle huge digital files fast and relatively cost efficiently.  You can shoot much more material and in a high-resolution quality.

This has enabled better lenses with high definition 4K and even 10K.  The leopard may look as though the cameraman / woman was just inches away from his nose when you see it but actually that would have been life threatening.  It would have been shot at 20ft distance and then zoomed in on during the edit.  The picture quality is so good that the zoom is still excellent quality to the human eye even on a 79 inch 4K TV.  This offers huge creative opportunities best demonstrated on a series such as Blue Planet II. If you watch an old series of your favourite programme from 1975 and compare it to one now, the difference is obvious.

The Internet means media can be stored and viewed globally in real time which offers massive global viewing anywhere, anytime. Netflix, YouTube, iPlayer are the norm now. The global market for content has exploded and the global budget that a company such as Netflix can now bid for a blockbuster series is incredible, because the potential audience size is also incredible. The Great British Bake Off was transmitted in over 200 countries.

The other major change is that men no longer dominate the industry. The older technologies would require an engineering degree to handle the equipment. It was complex and cumbersome. Also, many shoots require a person to be away on location for days/weeks and culturally it is more acceptable for women to do this now. Many women are industry leaders now but like many sectors there is still a bias towards white and middle classes. Things are changing slowly, but it is hard in a polarised economic society.

Can you imagine the current pandemic without broadband & mobile phones?  That is what working in TV was like when I started my career.

What would you say has been  your proudest career moment?

I'd say it would have been my children asking me to speak at careers evening at their school when they were teenagers, because they thought I was cool. (Normal adjective-embarrassing)

Also, being elected to the Board of UK screen Alliance to represent the UK sector in dealing with the government policy makers.

And being trusted with knowing who won the Great British Bake Off 6 weeks before it was due to transmit.  It was nothing less than a national secret each autumn.

We've heard a little rumour that you have a special love of handbags. Is the rumour true?

Absolutely. I bought my first quality handbag to celebrate my first proper job.  It was a Mulberry satchel from their head office down in Somerset .Roger Saul himself served me. Over the years I have bought a new bag to mark every significant career & personal moment. However, they are more than trophies as they get used daily and have bumps and scars. I discovered Sarah Haran, via my sister in law, a few years ago and it is genuinely the only brand I now buy. The customer service is outstanding. The leathers are exquisite, incredible design and craftsmanship, gorgeous colours, versatile accessories, functional, professional, playful. Divine in fact. I seem to be able to find an excuse for a new bag a little too often these days.

They are my life companions that I think will age gracefully by my side!