Farmer Recalls ‘Courteous Chat’ With Rihanna

A farmer who asked pop superstar Rihanna to “cover up” as she filmed a music video on his land has recalled the “courteous conversation” they had.

The singer made headlines in 2011 when she filmed ‘We Found Love’ in a field off Belfast Road near Bangor, County Down.

A decade on, Alan Graham said the media misrepresented the situation and that he and the Barbardian artist parted company on “good terms”.

Rihanna, then aged 23, also drew crowds when filming in parts of Belfast.

“She was virtually unknown to me – I was illiterate regarding issues to do with pop music,” Mr Graham told BBC News NI’s Good Morning Ulster programme.

The former Ards and North Down councillor said he helped the filming crew recover a vehicle that had become stuck in the field when he noticed Rihanna had removed clothing.

“It wasn’t a case of being scantily clad – it was a case of part of the clothing being missing altogether, let’s put it that way,” Mr Graham recalled.

“I spoke first of all to the filming crew and explained to them that this was over and at that stage Rihanna wrapped herself up very nicely and came over and we had a very short conversation but a courteous conversation.”

The distinctive oak tree that became locally known as the “Rihanna tree” because of its prominent role in the video is dying, according to the farmer.

‘We Found Love’ later won best video of the year at the MTV Video Music Awards. It was also filmed in New Lodge in north Belfast, where huge crowds turned out to watch, and at a chip shop in North Street in Belfast city centre.

Mr Graham, who has a barn which features a large biblical inscription that is visible on the Belfast-to-Bangor carriageway, said he was “haunted for a wee while” by the song.

“I went to different places I heard this music starting up it reminded me of the whole situation.”

His call for Rihanna to put more clothes on made global headlines.

The late TV star Dame Barbara Windsor came to his aid at that time, saying she did not blame him for his stance and that he had a right to voice his opinion as “it’s his land”.

Rihanna – whose real name is Robyn Fenty – went on to become one of the best-selling music artists of all time.

In August 2021, she was officially listed as a billionaire, according to Forbes magazine, with business interests in areas such as beauty and lingerie. Joking about their different fortunes since 2011, Mr Graham said: “I understand Rihanna has officially become a billionaire – I keep farming until the money runs out.”