By train and plane, taxi and car
We’re travelling to Sheffield from Stroud and afar.
Like migrating wilderbeasts, salmon and toads
Although hopefully not eaten or squashed on the road.
On pizzas and parties we’ll spare no expense
At the annual Children’s Media Conf’rence!
I’m producing, tomorrow, the Opening Sesh
It’s a Question Time thing, in which we will flesh
Out the bones of kids’ media policy and stuff
And probably mention Brexit but without flimflam or guff
On panellists (and poets) we spare no expense
At the annual Children’s Media Conf’rence!
I’m over excited, I’m sure you can tell
Writers don’t get out much, oh you knew that as well.
Jayne World has gone all sing song with rhyme
But I’ll try to control it most of the time
On potions to pacify me, spare no expense
At the annual Children’s Media Conf’rence!
Oh this was fun to write! Have you seen Roy on CBBC? The cartoon boy in a real world. Well this is the prequel – Roy is five years old instead of ten. So it’s less about fitting in and more about finding out. He is a great character and the show is a lovely crossover from preschool to big kid content and I was very pleased to be involved.
This episode, Dr Roy, which involves bandages, biscuits and a ‘ba-doom ba-doom’ big hearted little boy, was broadcast a week or so back on CBeebies and of course I missed it. But hooray for catch up telly! If you would like to watch it, then here’s the web address: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08ffx89/little-roy-18-doctor-roy
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.
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!
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.
Because everything’s coming up lovely. Having spent the autumn digging round for writing commissions and hard pruning some ideas and dreaming over seed catalogues, things started to happen. But like all those dinky seeds, everything had to stay buried under non disclosure agreements. All I could do was walk round with a warm smile, rather like a compost heap steaming on a frosty morning: definitely good things going on.
Much is still to blossom but (Weren’t the flowers lovely this spring?) you should be able to see the first fruits later this month when CBeebies broadcast BING BUNNY. Actually this was a series that I wrote for last year and I think my scripts were all locked before Christmas. I’ve desperately wanted to talk about it because the show is so lovely. It was initially described to me as a reality show for preschool. And it is. Using a beautifully animated black bunny rabbit and his friends and family, the episodes show real time moments from a child’s life: the fun, the wonder and the mess. It’s brilliant. It’s bouncy. It’s a BING thing.
Back to my ‘gardenese’: I’m sure the series will blossom and grow in the hearts of its young audience and bear much fruit in their lives. And also prove fruitful for the lovely people that I worked with at Acamar Films Ltd.
As I said, much of what I’ve done this spring is still to blossom: still under a mulch of creative compost and non disclosure agreements. Nevertheless, things are developing nicely: I’ve been working with broadcasters and independent producers on more preschool projects and grown up features, a major international conservation project and, and, and… poetry! Can’t wait for the day I can show you those literary specimens: I’ll be as proud as a gold medal winner at Chelsea. Blooming marvelous.
Well I can’t call it ‘News’ when it happened so long ago. It’s not that nothing happens in Jayne World, it’s just that I’m having too much fun doing whatever it is to write about it. And then something else comes along and well, I don’t like to brag.
OK yes I LOVE TO BRAG. I want to shout a lot about all the brilliant things I’m up to but I wasn’t brought up to do that and so a massive knob of guilt sticks like an uncooked crumble clags in my throat and I politely slip away to a quiet corner to cough it up and somehow, amid all the spluttering and gagging, whatever it was I wanted to SHOUT about suddenly doesn’t seem so important.
August is a great excuse not to blog – everyone’s away doing family holiday stuff and-or writing their great tome. I did neither. I spent August (and September come to that) jamming with bees. Well they were honeying but it all ended up on fresh bread and butter. AND I WON ROSETTES. Ooh, that was almost a brag.
There was loads of other stuff that I should have classed as News but is now Olds. But it’s all covered by NDAs and will have to wait until the TV SHOWS are broadcast. There will be BRAGGING then. Maybe. Depends how the TV SHOWS turn out I guess. All I can say is that it was Preschool mainly this summer.
And I did the annual party conferences again.
Preschool and Politics.
You can see how well joined up my life is. When I say, ‘did’ the conferences – I watched a lot of stuff on Telly, read lots of press releases, sat on the beach at Brighton and decided I probably wouldn’t do it next year. The Libdems were too far away in Glasgow (couldn’t afford the fare) so I relied on their press releases and live debates and twitter feeds, the Tories wouldn’t give me a press pass so I didn’t go anywhere near Manchester. I did however go to Brighton for the Labour bunfight (cheap ticket and a friend put me up).
I must must must write about all that seperately and I will. If not here, then on the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain website. Because I’m a MEMBER OF THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL and have been for some time. Ooh another brag. Go me.
But the best thing that happened all summer; the really very bestest best thing happened on the river. Thames. Pangbourne. 90 brand new year sevens all coming to Adventure Dolphin for a ‘getting to know you’- ‘teambuilding’-‘secondary school teachers are great’ sort of day. The weather and river conditions were perfect for… BLACKBERRIES. Scoffing our faces with berries only accessible to those in small canoes, free from dog piddle and traffic fumes – it’s surprising how quickly you get to know each other standing in a boat close to thorn bushes, how well you work as a team to get the best berries and how great the teachers really are when they’re soaking wet. Not sure how to BRAG about that – it’s not really news; just a complete joy to be a part of. Of course I WAS EXCELLENT spotting the blackberries and their potential in the first place….
Other Olds in brief:
So once more I’m up to date on My News. That is something to BRAG about.
My bags are packed ready for another brilliant Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield. This year is the tenth anniversary which is something to celebrate. If you have anything to do with children’s media (telly, games, online, publishing…) it is definitely the place to be and not just for those of us working in the UK. Each year the international opportunities grow. But it doesn’t lose it’s goodnatured, small industry feel. This year I am once more on the blogging team. All of the sessions are blogged so nobody has to miss out. You’ll be able to find the blogs, including mine, at www.thechildrensmediaconference.org
I’ve posted two blogs already. One involved a large onion for reasons that, well it was one of those ‘you had to be there’ moments and the other goes something like:
Jayne’s Guide to Sheffield
Sheffield Sheffield, it’s a wonderful town
The Hubs are up and the Crucible’s down,
Cinema 2 is in the hole in the ground,
Sheffield, Sheffield, it’s wonderful town!
Which I think goes to show that once again ‘you have to be there’.
A Warning to Little Shrews
Winston the cat
Is big, black and fat.
But his mew is so cute,
You’d never guess he’s a brute
Who likes to kill rats
And other tom cats.
He curls on the chair
With a warm sleepy stare.
But when you think he’s at rest,
He’s at his cruel, vicious best.
So little shrew beware:
Winston knows that you’re there.
He’s watching you peep
And feel safe and then creep
To the fridg- Bam! goes his paw
As he strikes with his claw
And sinks his teeth deep
And eats even your squeap!
Please note: ‘Squeap’ is the sound a shrew makes as it disappears in one big gollop into a big black fat cat. There’s no time for squealing and or squeaking – the k gets swallowed. Trust me.
For the first time in several years, the world of children’s media have things to celebrate this Christmas.
– The Animation and Games tax relief which will help our production sector compete with the rest of the world and ensure more home grown content for our children.
– Ofcom and the ASA’s swift implementation of the Bailey review’s recommendations, which will help put the brakes on the sexualisation and commercialisation of our children
– www.parentport.org.uk, which offers parents one-stop access to all the UK’s media regulators.
However, there are still many challenges in 2013, especially for Children’s theatre, fine arts, music and dance which have been endangered by changes in Education and cuts to public arts funding.
So whether you and your family settle down to watch the BBC’s Christmas Doctor Who, or C4’s The Snowman and The Snowdog, or watch a performance of The Nutcracker, or your local pantomime, please remember that Children’s Arts and Media are not just for Christmas….
With all good wishes for a peaceful and prosperous New Year,