And having too good a time to tweet about it.
This was on Wednesday, at the Broadcast Awards at Grosvenor House. I hope they had as good a time as me, although as nominees (or rather part of shows that had been nominated), they might not have been as relaxed as me, a judge, could be. I had done my bit watching and reviewing the programmes submitted for the Children’s 6-12 and 0-6 categories, then discussing with my fellow judges before voting. All I had to do now was enjoy the champagne and glitz.
There was quite a lot of glitz: dinner included some Sweet Pea Emulsion which I have only seen before on a Dulux colour chart, the bits of stem broccoli that usually fall through my colander, turnips the size of snowdrop bulbs and for pudding we had a dessert. That involved yuzo: Alison Moyet, what a great voice.
Jonathan Ross presided over the award ceremony which, despite him, seemed endless – about lots of programmes that I haven’t watched or did watch but have forgotten. But there was plenty of wine on the table and ooh, a bit of slate with some rather lovely petits fours that I was probably meant to pass round the table.
The older kids’ award went to My Life: The Boy on the Bicycle, a CBBC documentary (directed by Stefania Buonajuti) following a lad round one of the largest refugee camps in the world. If you are one of those people that talks about ‘these people’ then you need to see this.
The preschool award went to Topsy and Tim. An outstanding episode in an already excellent series. Written by Dave Ingham, the episode is about a pet dog dying. It is handled with such care, wit and honesty that it made me cry. I was genuinely moved by the story. I also cried because I still haven’t worked with producers Darrall Macqueen.
I didn’t stay until ‘Carriages at Three’ but left sensibly early, determined to get a good night’s sleep so that, with a new day, inspired by these great shows, I could work harder and write better. And find out when yuzu left the music industry and moved into citrus fruit based desserts.
The longer you put something off, the harder it is to do it, right? That’s how I felt in September when I saw that my last bit of news here was in July. I felt it again in November, even though by then I had had a book published, achieved my next canoeing qualification, got a new commission, successfully lobbied Government and I had much to tell. Then December came.
“I’ll send a Festive Newsletter!” I cried. But Christmas was just too merry to think about newsletters.
“I’ll send a New Year Newsletter!” I sang. But New Year was just too happy to think about newsletters.
Now it is January and for the life of me I can’t remember what happened last year. “Oh well done, Jayne.”
And I’m not likely to remember because where I live, it is now the Wassailing Season. Yes it can involve marching round orchards, sticking bits of toast in the trees but more than that, it’s about wishing your neighbours and friends good health for the coming year, “Waes Hael”, and sharing cakes and ale. And singing. And dancing. And, did I mention the cakes and ale? That has nothing to do with me forgetting whatever it was that happened in the latter half of 2016, nothing at all. It’s just that looking backward isn’t always the way forward. As January strokes its double beard, I will stroke mine and look to what’s ahead of me in 2017:
Having mentioned these, it would be unkind not to come back with more information so, by my January beard, I will endeavour to write more frequently and usefully. But in the meantime, Waes Hael!
My first radio interview will be broadcast tomorrow Tuesday 26th July, 1530hrs BBC Radio 4. What’s the aural equivalent of ‘blink and you’ll miss it’? Probably ‘poke your finger in your ear to scoop the wax out’. Although if your ears are fairly clean you won’t miss it all as my bit was going to be about five minutes long.
It came as a big surprise. That tremendous journalist, comic and role model Timandra Harkness got in touch to talk about how incongruous cinematic moments can throw us out of the film’s story world. We’ve all groaned at plot holes and continuity errors but what about when a filmmaker does this sort of thing deliberately? What’s going on and why? And why was the tremendous journalist, comic and role model Timandra Harkness asking me these sorts of questions?
The Human Zoo looks at current events through the lens of psychology. This episode is called News of An Atrocity, the Psychology of Rare Events and looks at why we are more attuned to the dangers of exceptional situations, such as acts of terrorism, than to more everyday threats such as a car crash.
Part of the programme looks at how we use stories to make sense of the world around us. How the patterns, rhythms and themes of a constructed world help us deal with the fears and uncertainties of real life and contribute to our well being. That was where I fitted in although I will have to listen to the programme myself to remember exactly what I said. I know there was talk about Doctor Who, and the importance of getting the right breed of cow in your costume drama and I may even have said “Verfremdungseffekt”. ‘m pretty sure I mentioned Gumball, Ned Stark’s death and David Lynch, although possibly not in that order.
And we came up with the title of my forthcoming Screenwriting manual: “Bury the Wizard.”
Thing is, I didn’t know I had a forthcoming screenwriting manual. Another example of how life is full of plot holes.
“Bufo Bufo” said the lusting toad
“I want some love action, I must cross the road”
“Bufo Bufo” said the toad, full of lust,
“To get to the love pond, cross the road I must.”
You’ve heard of the Great Migration across the plains of Africa? Well this is a little closer to home but no less magnificent given the scale of the creatures involved. Every year common toads come out from under the rocks, mud and compost heaps where they’ve spent the winter and take the long march to the Ancestral Pond. It might be only up the road or across a couple of fields to you and me but then we’re not 2-3 centimetres high.
Then a motorcar sped down the road
Heart full of desire, out stepped the toad
Out stepped the toad, heart full of desire,
“Glitch” went the toad, between tarmac and tyre.
Another toad crossing said “Oh bother and f**k it”
If only someone had a big plastic bucket.
If someone had a big plastic bucket
To the pond I’d go safely, find another toad and…
Thanks to the less than wintry weather here, the toads started moving very early this spring. January. We saw the first squashed one in January. As these animals are declining in numbers, our crack team of patrollers have been out every night to lift them to safety on the pond side of the road. Some nights are just too cold and only the hardiest, lustiest toads make a move. But other nights when the conditions are just right, warm and damp, we’ve been collecting them by the bucketful.
Ever wondered what 40 toads looks like?
The collective noun is a ‘knot’.
I like that.
The sun is just setting, I am waiting for the last blackbird to shut up and go to sleep and then I’m off again, armed with bucket and torch to zigzag my way up and down the lane so that fewer toads look like this:
And more look like this:
And just so’s you know: they don’t croak – frogs croak.
Well, if your instincts promised a pond full of passion, wouldn’t you?
Very pleased to have been invited to this last week. Not least because the magnificent Geena Davis was giving the keynote. If I wasn’t me, I’d like to be her. You can read more about her brilliant Geena Davis Institute here and its research into women and girls in film, or rather the lack of women and girls in film. You can also see their excellent See Jane Video which is far more eloquent than me.
Many of my fellow delegates were interested in the lack of women in the film industry but the research and campaign goes further to show the lack of women and girls in the films themselves. Don’t girls and women matter? Is it really true that boys won’t watch girl protagonists but that girls are ok with watching boys? Really? Why do girls have to be the ones that give way on this? What damage have we done, shoehorning our youngsters into gender roles? I’ve always wanted more from life than fashion and boyfriends and I can’t understand why women continue to punish their bodies with high heels and uncomfortable corsetry.
I got the feeling that the majority of the audience at the symposium would agree that women and girls deserve more from the media and from their lives. I love the motto, “If she can see it, she can be it”. It was generally felt that this starts right back in the early years, in kids’ media. I totally agree and hope that there will be a major shift in kids’ content away from girls being bossy big sisters, the sensible ones and the sidekick/love interests. I hope there will be an even split of protagonists and sidekicks and antagonists across the genders. But what I hope most, is that the big profitable organisations (public, private, multinational… broadcasters, film companies, internet providers…) that were represented at the symposium will not just say there needs to be change, but will pay for it: someone has to. There were some wealthy players attending and applauding the See Jane campaign – I charmingly asked a couple about putting their money where their mouths were. They fixed their smiles and moved on. Obviously they didn’t see this Jane.
If you don’t know Tee and Mo, they are a delightful monkey mother and son combo who get up to all sorts of collaborative fun in the forest. They collaborate together and also with you, the preschool child/care-giver in their Bafta nominated games (also found on the Cbeebies website).
Narrated by BBC6 Music’s Lauren Laverne, Tee and Mo is the brainchild of Plug-In’s creative director Dominic Minns. I love the way he and the other clever people at Plug-in have devised the games to encourage children and their adults to play the games together, to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.
Who Did the Footprints is my first interactive story. I want to say very clever things about extending the reading experience and kinesthetic learning but that would sound terribly dull and I’d much rather you and your Cbeebie went together and gave your Cbeebies Storytime app-watching device a good shake (You’ll understand once you’ve downloaded the story) so I’ll just say that it was enormous fun writing it and I hope that you have enormous fun reading it.
Me! I had a brilliant evening at the Sandford St Martin 2015 Awards last night. OK so I didn’t win an award, but then I wasn’t up for one: I was a juror. But I came away from Lambeth Palace feeling like a winner. The evening had celebrated some of the best, most thought provoking, meaningful and, in some cases, uplifting media content of the past year: radio and TV documentaries, sit coms, murder mysteries, period dramas, bio-pics and everything in between. Some of the programmes had flown under the mainstream radar – the winner of the children’s award for example (Fettle Animation’s ‘Children of the Holocaust’ BBC 2) had first been broadcast at 4 in the morning as a teaching aid for schools! – so there were loads of titles that I came home wanting to seek out, others that I wanted to watch again.
The best thing though was being in the presence of some quite outstandingly wonderful people. Award ceremonies are always full of outstanding people, we’re there to celebrate the most talented after all. But this room was full of people who were not only talented and not only nice but really rather wonderful: men and women who clearly care about their work beyond personal ambition.
The winners of the Sandford Awards are can be found at http://sandfordawards.org.uk/the-awards/2015-awards/2015-award-winners/ I think you can also view the programmes there. Definitely worth it.
So why did I feel like a winner myself? Because:
But the best bit?
The best bit, the bit I enjoyed most came right at the end when fellow juror Tim Herbert and the winners of the Children’s Award, Producer Kath Shackleton and Director Zane Whittingham of Fettle Animation and I were about to leave. Standing in the hallowed hall, the home of the head of the Church of England, with its oak paneling and Tudor fireplace, surrounded by oil paintings of all the Archbishops that have gone before, surrounded by history and the host of unseen witnesses, the cry went up, “Anyone coming for a beer?”
Like I said, I was in the presence of some quite outstandingly wonderful people.
Earlier this spring, the Children’s Media Foundation was invited to take part in the jury for a new Children’s Broadcast Award. Having recently joined the CMF’s board, I took great pleasure in this my first official duty; as if I ever need an excuse to watch lots of children’s television programmes and discuss them over lunch.
The organisation giving the award is the Sandford St Martin Trust, an independent and non-profit organisation that seeks to promote and encourage excellence in religious programming and religious literacy amongst policy makers, journalists and individuals. To this end it has been making annual awards for the best programmes about religion, ethics and spirituality since 1978.
This year the trust has introduced a new award for children’s content. It was championed by Sandford trustee and broadcaster Roger Bolton who, like the Children’s Media Foundation, recognizes the importance of children having quality and variety in programming made especially for them: “It is critical that children and young people are exposed to imaginative works that open their eyes to the world they share and the beliefs people hold.”
There were ten programmes on the shortlist. Submissions were for radio, television and online broadcasts and came from a range of producers; from broadcasting behemoths such as the BBC to small religious charities and producers of teaching material. As a writer of fiction, I usually gravitate to drama but there were some brilliant documentaries too. There were some programmes, both fiction and non-fiction, that left me cold: a little too preachy and putting the ‘die’ into didactic. But the ones that really worked, that made me think and feel and consider in new ways, had one thing in common: people, real people’s experiences at their heart. Even the fictional ones. Their testimonies needed no explanation, no editorial interpretation. Of course there was editorial input: duh! But the programmes that worked best were constructed to let the stories, the ideas, speak for themselves.
But how can you compare a preschool radio show with a fluffy Christmas special or a hard-hitting teen documentary? That’s where children’s programming differs from the grown up stuff: it’s so much about the audience. Programmes have to be age appropriate; giving or considering a child’s perspective, and the best did just that.
Having watched the shortlist and decided which was the most fabulous and worthy winner of the award, I hied me to Westminster to meet with the other jury members: independent producer and children’s author Hilary Robinson, National Geographic Kids editor Tim Herbert and Senior Lecturer in Media Practice at Salford University Beth Hewitt.
It was a fascinating process: we each brought different perspectives and expertise and there were biscuits. We were pretty unanimous in the way we shortened the shortlist but then it got …difficult as we tried to tease out the best of the best. Like the Mole in The Wind in the Willows, we “scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then we scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped” until at last – “pop!” we had a runner up and a winner.
And the Winner is….
To be announced this evening at Lambeth Palace….
You expect me to tell you now? I’m off to get ready for tonight’s ceremony!
I wish you a Christmas full of joy, love and hope,
With laughter and peace, but no time to mope.
I hope you feel loved and can share that with others,
Like strangers and friends, aunties and brothers.
But the wish I wish most while I have this one chance,
I hope you don’t get pine cones in your pants.
I’m saying nothing about needles.
Today, Friday 28th November, and Monday 1st December, I have episodes of “Bing” screening on CBeebies. Today’s episode is called “Jingly Shoes” and goes out at 9.10am and 1.10pm. If, like me you were doing something this morning and missed it, it will also be on BBC i-player.
“Looking After Flop”, goes out at 9.10am on Monday and then repeated at 1.10pm (and then also on BBC i-player.
I loved writing for these delightful characters; each one is full of raw emotion, wonder and real love, reflecting the lives of the very special people this show is aimed at, three to six year olds and their carers. I hope you and more importantly, any little ones you know, enjoy watching them. I’d love to hear what you think.