You thought Prokofiev’s famous Dance of the Knights was all about Lord Sugar and his apprentices didn’t you? No? Men in ballet tights? Or maybe if you’re a Star Trek fan, Romulans in ballet tights?
Well before you start parading round singing “Romulans and Capulets” let me put you straight because no no no. As the lovely people at CBeebies Radio, a lot of children under the age of 6, Robert the Robot and I all know, this piece of music is, in fact, all about a grumpy marmalade cat and a teeny tiny mouse… in the rain.
Did you see the CBeebies Prom on television on August 25th? (still on BBC i-player) Those lovely people have an extra special treat for you to freely download at http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/prom/radio/cbeebies-prom-extra Your little ones (and you) can do-si-do and round up imaginary cattle on imaginary horses, thanks to the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra’s special recording of Aaron Copland’s Hoedown before settling down to hear their recording of Prokofiev’s famous march and Robert The Robot’s beautiful telling of a story it inspired me to write; a thrilling tale of life and death excitement in the back garden: “Past the pond, round the rockery; round the rockery, past the pond.”
Hear the cat “Slink and prow-wl,
And pounce and grow-wl…” in the music.
And can you hear the young mouse showing off?
“I’m so fast,
The orange thing
With clawy paws
Won’t catch me!…”
While overhead a blackbird cries in alarm “Run! Run! Run! Run!”
Goodness I had fun writing this story. I hope that you and your younglings have fun listening to it.
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.
Tabled by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, Lord Nash, in brief, these amendments will:
-Replace the complex restrictions on the hours children can perform at different ages, which were different for theatre and broadcast, with a simpler, single set of limits subject to age group (0-4, 5-10, 11-16).
-Repeal the limit on the nature of the daily performances that a child can be licensed to take part in.
-Remove the requirement for medical certificates. These could still be requested by the local authority if, for example, there was cause for concern about a child’s health, but would not be a requirement.
And celebrate their other qualities instead. Like their kindness, courage, tenacity, empathy, sense of justice, compassion, generosity, ability to love and be loved.
They may in fact be damn ugly physically and what’s wrong with that? Who’s to say what is beautiful? We are doing our children a grave disservice when our affirmations focus on their external appearance. Of course they’re beautiful to us, because we love them. But we don’t love them because they’re beautiful. But do they know that?
What do they hear, what do they learn, when with the best intentions we crow and brag about our ‘beautiful’ daughters, on Facebook, on Twitter and to our friends?
I recently heard Dr Dafna Lemish talk about Girl Power, and I have to agree that Girl Power has empowered our daughters in two ways only: sexual power and consumer power. So after all this time, after all that the women’s movement has tried to do, daughters and mothers alike still unwittingly define and value themselves and each other according to whether they’re attractive, can pull, and stick their tits out. And as consumers, we’ve grown demanding – ‘make it in pink and we’ll buy it’. ‘Born to Shop’? Oh please. No wonder women are still not taken seriously.
The Children’s Media Foundation has an event this coming Wednesday to discuss role models, representation and gender skew. If you can go to it, do. And let’s celebrate and affirm our daughters and our sons as wonderful human beings who can change the world because of who they are, not what they look like.
I liked it.
I liked having all my travel arrangements made for me.
I liked getting caught up in a motorcade with blue lights flashing and outriders. An excellent way to get through Istanbul traffic as long as the the driver pulls back when the outriders start getting twitchy.
I liked five star accommodation.
I liked my Turkish Bath.
But who takes calls on the loo? I hope I’m never that esteemed.
And if you’ll forgive the unfortunate juxtaposition here, I liked delivering my paper. If I wasn’t already full enough of my own self importance, they gave me two TWO interpreters: one into Turkish and the other Sign Language.
And published my speech in a REAL BOOK OF CLEVER THINGS BY CLEVER PEOPLE.
AND I very much liked getting caught up in the Deputy Prime Minister’s procession when we all went to dinner. Top Tip: secret service people are not very secret and they don’t make good dinner conversation.
Another top tip: if you mention politics to a politician, be prepared for facial expressions that can only be described as ‘inscrutable’. Try as I might, I couldn’t scrute the Deputy Prime Minister. I later learned I’d been mentioned in despatches and in a good way, but you’d never have scruted that at the time.
I’ve just returned from the 1.Turkiye Cocuk ve Medya Kongresi in Istanbul-not Contantinople.
Oh look, I tried then to take myself seriously but couldn’t even manage a sentence.
I did however take the Kongresi seriously. On behalf of the Children’s Media Foundation, I was invited to speak at this new conference and share some of the lessons we’ve learned in the last few years.
The Kongresi was set up by the Turkish deputy prime minister to develop a strategy for children and media.
The two day event brought together representatives from across Turkey, adults, children and young people as well as “esteemed overseas experts” (about twenty professors and me) in child development, media studies (and me) and was, from my perspective brilliant. It was superb having lots of young people involved and at the heart of things.
And despite the language barriers (some interesting translations – “Our children are so intelligent, so beautiful and so clean” ), there was a fantastic spirit of collaboration and fun.
It was disappointing not to see a stronger presence from the Turkish kids’ media industry. I think they were invited and there were a number of trade stands but the talks, other than mine, Sabrina Unterstell from Prix Jeunesse, and kiwi programme makers Robyn Scott Vincent and Tanya Black were more from the media studies and media literacy POV, with titles such as “Cultural functions of the Cartoons”, and lots of words like pedagogy’, ‘positioning’. My title was also rather dry – “Children’s Media and Systems Related to Policy Issues”, but never fear, I spiced it up with some jokes and, I have to say quite a lot of triumphalism. But nobody left my session or fell asleep…
In essence I explained how the Children’s Media Foundation came to be and what it had achieved. The jokes and triumphalism weren’t strained or shoehorned in – since 2006, we have done a lot: I was going to list it all but you can read all that stuff over at www.thechildrensmediafoundation.org
It all went down rather well – there were genuinely interested questions, the moderator Prof. Dr Davut Dursun – head of the Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council – said it was “A critical presentation for the congress” and that “Congress should study this [our] model.” And that the Children’s Media Foundation “served as an example.” Go us.
I had been in two minds about attending – of all the members of the Children’s Media Foundation executive, I have the least experience and the fewest letters after my name. But I can tell the story of all that we have done and all that we want to do and who can argue with an airhead when she states that ‘children deserve the best media’? So go me.
Ooh and don’t you love that they made all the adult speakers submit photos of when they were children?
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.
Very pleased to see the artwork and my blurb for the DVD for Ajani’s Great Ape Adventures. This was such a great project to work on.
Supported by a whole host of international conservation charities, the three films that make up Ajani’s Great Ape Adventures are designed to teach young people across Africa about our close relatives the apes and how important it is to keep them and their habitat safe: not just for the apes but for the young people and their real families too. With poverty so often the consequence as well as the cause of habitat loss and species extinction, it is vital that solutions that benefit people as well as animals are found.
That all sounds far too heavy to put on a young one’s shoulders. But these stories, like any good educational tool, are fun and exciting with a feel good factor that will encourage rather than condemn. And they offer simple, practical and doable solutions that will help, not hinder local people to thrive.
I was brought in to work on the narration. Originating with Dutch filmmakers, the English version needed colloquializing so that it felt more in keeping with the characters. It was great fun and because I was working off of the rough cuts rather than the script, it was perhaps more akin to editing than writing. I loved watching the children’s performances and the footage of the chimps and gorillas is wonderful. And there is a poop fight. Of which I wholeheartedly approve.
I wish the Dutch makers of the films, Nature for Kids, every success with this project and hope I can work with them again in the future.