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‘I’m a proud parent’: Rare breeds farmer talks Game of Thrones screen time

The fantasy TV smash changed the lives of locals who were asked to get involved

“It made a whole new life for me,” Kenny Gracey told The Big Issue. He is a farmer, from Northern Ireland, and is talking about small screen sensation Game of Thrones.

Gracey owns a rare breeds farm in Tandragee, Co Armagh. Back in 2009, his profit margins were small and business was difficult. But then Natalie Portman got involved – the team behind comedy Your Highness on the hunt for medieval livestock, and Kenny was the only breeder who could provide them.

Thrones came knocking a year later. Kenny spend the next few years supplying many of the animals seen in the show, including the Iron Age pigs he bred for that very purpose. And thanks to the global success of the show, his reputation received a huge boost by default. Now he’s always in demand.

“They just know me as the animal man in Northern Ireland, because there’s nobody else doing it,” he said. “They know that if I haven’t got it, I have the contacts that I will be able to get it or produce it.”

He added: “I’m not going to be a millionaire, I’m not a wealthy man, but I am very wealthy with the life that I lead. Money isn’t everything.

“But Game of Thrones did afford me the luxury – and I use that word ‘luxury’ – of what I would say is working with the joy of my life, and that is working with the animals.”

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Seeing his animals on screen makes him feel like a proud parent, he said.

“It’s like seeing your child on stage and they’re doing their bit. When you bring an animal out, your heart is in your mouth. The director in one or two scenes said he didn’t think in a million years they’d behave, he thought it would have to be CGI imagery. But the animals performed and did what they wanted, and that was just a joy to behold. Money couldn’t have bought that feeling.”

Read the full interview with Gracey – and several others whose lives were changed by Game of Thrones – in this week’s Big Issue.

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