Been doing a spot of Morpurgoing recently. Sat in on Michael Parkinson’s Sky Arts masterclass with the lovely man a few weeks ago, for which there was much raiding of daughter’s bookshelf for stories like Kensuke’s Kingdom, War Horse, The Butterfly Lion, and being inspired by his autobiography.
Then last week Mr Morpurgo spoke at the Action For Children’s Arts Conference at the Unicorn Theatre. Such an inspirational, entertaining man. And impassioned. He spoke up for literacy. But not just simplistic, measurable reading and writing: “20% of children leave school unable to read. And of the 80% that can, few are theatre goers, book readers etc. So most are denied Freedom of Expression and the unfettered seeking of truth that awakens our creativity.”
The ACA’s paper, “Putting Children First” states that despite childen under 12 comprising 15% of the population only 1% of public funding for the arts is directed to their needs. 600 libraries have had to close. As Michael Morpurgo said, “The oxygen of freedom of thought and expression that children could access is being denied.”
How can that be fulfilling articles 17, 29 or 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child?
Three great meetings, one excellent film, several new lovely people and one brilliant cross cultural moment…
Firstly thank you to the Children’s Media Conference and UKTI for inviting me to meet with the China Animation Association Delegation. It was good to learn about the Chinese animation industry, meet some of its key players and begin to explore ways that we can work together in the future. I was particularly touched when the Ordos Dongsheng Skywind Animation Film Co., Ltd gave me The Big Horn, the delightful character from the Go Calf! animation series. I thought we were just going to have our photos taken together so it was a lovely surprise when I came away from the morning with The Big Horn under my arm.
And so onto the Annual General Meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children’s Media and the Arts. I added The Big Horn to the guest list. He was particularly impressed by the Grand Committee Room. So was I.
I was even more impressed by the meeting though. With Baroness Floella Benjamin re-elected as chair, and MPs Tom Watson and Damian Hinds as vice chairs, the meeting got down to the real business: reviewing the Bailey Review. One year after Reg Bailey’s report on the sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood “Letting Children Be Children” was published, we were able to bring together the regulators, broadcasters and other stake holders to discuss how they had implemented Reg’s recommendations and consider the successes and challenges. I remember when I read the report being somewhat cynical that any of the recommendations would be seriously followed through – it’s easy to pay lip service and equally easy to come up with excuses when nothing is done. But hats off to Ofcom, the Advertising Standards Authority, ITV, UKCISS and others as well for the changes that have been made – making it easier for parents to voice their concerns on www.parentport.org.uk, removing innappropriate advertising from inappropriate places to name the obvious. Good job to everyone who has signed up to better self regulation and the general good will and desire to protect young people from inappropriate… stuff. I’m generalising as I need to write a more detailed report for the parliamentarians that were unable to attend. I will also post something on the Children’s Media Foundation website. AND Reg Bailey will be speaking at the Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield at the beginning of July. Besides, I’d rather post more photos of my day with The Big Horn.
I said Three Meetings… The third was the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain’s Children’s Committee. We met at BAFTA to discuss… things. Things to do with those that write for children. Things like contractual issues, intellectual property, the BFI plans for UK film, e-publishing: things like that. I think all of us on the committee would rather spend our time messing about with The Big Horn but we have to support ourselves if we are to provide good quality content for young people.
The film? Jeff Who Lives At Home. Loved it. So did The Big Horn although he did have to ask me what a bong was.
So a busy day. Oh what was the brilliant cross-cultural moment? I’m sure you’ll have guessed that during the Chinese Delegation meeting there was a certain amount of stifled tittering amongst the British participants every time The Big Horn was mentioned: nobody dared to catch anyone else’s eye and there was much chewing of lips, especially when the Chinese-English translator talked about the “happy growth of the Big Horn”. Then when one of the English contingent began to speak, I saw a pair of Chinese shoulders begin to heave, I saw others stifling their titters, desperately not looking at each others, chewing their lips. I can only imagine what the translation was and hope it gave my new friends as much pleasure as The Big Horn gave me.
I’ve just come back from six days in Munich at the 2012 Prix Jeunesse International Children’s Television Festival. Fantastic. A biennial festival and competition bringing together children’s programming from over seventy countries with the intention of improving the quality of children’s television world wide, deepening understanding and promoting communication between cultures. I read the brochure.
To be fair, if you were there I think you’d agree that the festival achieved all that. This year’s theme was ‘watch, learn and grow with children’s TV. And I did. The watching was extreme: 85 shows in competition, plus about 400 available to screen outside. The learning was extensive: from what it’s like to have or live with autism, to how to wash a willy, to how to make mohitos, to what challenges programme makers face in places like Bhutan (not saying where I learned what or from whom). And the growing was, perhaps too much growing: Kartoffelsalat how I love thee. So…
Jayne’s best bits:
Jayne’s Worst bits:
If you were there, I’d be interested to know what your best and worst bits were.
The range of shows from across the world was fascinating – seeing how different cultures respond to our stuff, learning what they enjoy, or don’t. I admit I felt a little disappointed though: I went expecting to be overwhelmed by brilliant new content and style. But nothing seemed truly innovative or daring. In fact too much seemed to use the bells and whistles of commercial American shows. However, without the tight construction of a well crafted script, such imitations were poor.
Oh one other thing I learned watching all this stuff: we are so lucky in the UK. Our content makers are among the best in the world. Companies like The Foundation, Kindle Entertainment, Darrall and MacQueen, Plug-In Media… the inhouse productions from CBBC and CBeebies… they are beacons of brilliance. I hope I wasn’t the only person to notice this and that rather than aping commercial American stuff, overseas broadcasters get inspired by UK storytelling and production values and so buy our programmes AS WELL AS finding their own ways of telling stories that will feed back and inspire me.