EDUCATION

  • WRITING FOR PROKOFIEV

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Books, Children's Poetry, Children's stories, Children's TV, Education, Music

    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.

  • CBEEBIES RADIO: POPPY’S DAY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Books, Children's Poetry, Children's stories, Education, Politics

    My short story Poppy’s Day is available as a free download from CBeebies Radio today and for the next seven days.  Read by Falklands War veteran, Simon Weston,  and beautifully produced by John Leagas, the story marks the centenary of the First World War and introduces little listeners to bravery and the importance of remembering.

    I’ve just read the BBC press release, which says “is as powerful as it is poignant, a reminder about how important it is to remember not just the events of history, but the people.”  So that’s me feeling smug for the rest of the day.

    Follow the link above and if you don’t see a big picture of some poppies to click on.  Click on ‘Get This Week’s Podcasts’ and then again on ‘Download Radio Podcast’ and then on ‘CBeebies:Poppy’s Day’.

  • CBEEBIES REMEMBERING THE WAR

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Children's Poetry, Education, Uncategorized

     

    I’m rather excited and very honoured today because my poem Remembering has been included in the BBC’s commemoration of the start of the first world war.  If you click on the link, you will hear it included in a wonderful podcast for children on this occasion.  My thanks to Falklands veteran Simon Weston for reading the poem and to Academy Award winning composer Steven Price for the music and to producer John Leagas.

    I hope that you enjoy it and if you have young children, that they will too.

  • WHY I WENT TO AFRICA…

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Children's stories, Education, Politics, Screenwriting, travel, Uncategorized

    No I didn’t go on safari and no I didn’t climb Kilimanjaro.

    Well I did sort of….

    Elephants

    I had the pleasure and privilege of staying on the border of the Arusha National Park and on the Masai Steppe in Tanzania with Kilimanjaro as my neighbour to research and write a screenplay for a new  initiative from Nature For Kids and the Sparkling Elephant Project: an exciting adventure film for children, working title…

    GOODWILL AND LIHWA AND THE TREASURE OF THE ELEPHANTS

    The African bush is full of dangers, especially if you’re only eleven years old and abandoned.  A boy and a young elephant both become victims of poaching. But just who is rescuing whom?

    My research included meeting with local children, Masai, rangers, farmers, ranchers, safari guides, tourists, government ministers and elephants and other wildlife. Obviously some I could get closer to than others.  It was both wonderful and awful and at times, like when I found these elephant remains, or watched a boy cut down another acacia tree for charcoal,  heartbreaking.

    Elephant Bones

    I’m not a trained conservationist or zoologist but having read and listened to people from all sides of the arguments, I truly believe that elephants play a more important role in our world wide ecology than we realise.  They may seem destructive but they are Africa’s gardeners, maintaining the rainforest (the planet’s lungs) – to be losing them at the unsustainable rate of one every fifteen minutes to ivory poachers is insanity: no elephants means no rainforest means no control over CO2 means no control over climate change means…  It is not just rhetoric but science-based knowledge when I say, “in saving the elephants we are saving ourselves”.

    The plan is for this film to be the backbone of a conservation initiative throughout Africa and China. Freely available to major conservation and tourism partners, there will be versions in multiple languages, English, Kiswahili, Mandarin for example but of course the beauty of film is that it tells a story visually and can go beyond words and their boundaries. It is hoped that the film will be the catalyst for everyone to rediscover elephants and bring the sparkle back to Africa before we lose them and ourselves forever.

  • CHILD PERFORMERS GET A NEW DEAL

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Children's Media Campaign, Children's Theatre, Children's TV, Education, Politics, The Children's Media Foundation, Uncategorized

    The New Year brought success for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children’s Media and the Arts after six months of behind the scenes activity.Jayne Kirkham, CMF’s Clerk to the Group reports…
    At the 2013 APPG AGM in June, John McVay from PACT, and representatives from the major broadcasters and children’s charities discussed the inadequacies of child performance licensing regulations, as set out in the Children and Young Persons Act 1963.  Things looked pretty grim. Along with childcare professionals, Ofcom and others, the broadcasters and charities had worked hard to draw up recommendations to improve the regulations, only to have their hopes dashed, as the Government decided not to legislate on the issue. The reason given was a lack of consensus in the response to the Government’s formal consultation.
    The APPG event proved that there was consensus in the fundamental areas, and the Group’s Chair Baroness Floella Benjamin has been highlighting these since then:
    -The need for equal opportunities and equal safeguarding for children in all types of performance on all types of platform.
    -Effectively rationalising the differences between screen, stage, ‘theatrical’ performance (acting, singing, dancing), and performing as oneself (documentary, interview, reality).
    -Removing the ‘postcode lottery’ of different Local Education Authorities having their own regulations.
    The Department of Education may have abandoned the idea of new legislation but that didn’t mean it wasn’t still needed.
    But what to do?  The parliamentary calendar offered few options, but the Children and Families Bill was coursing through the legislative process and the changes to performance regulations were essentially concerned with child welfare.But you can’t just slip in an extra sentence or two to a parliamentary bill…  can you?Baroness Benjamin started digging around and unearthed procedures and people with whom she could firmly plant the idea of an amendment to the Children and Families Bill.  After passing through the Report Stage, the Bill has emerged with significant changes to child performance regulations.

    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.

    These changes, although seemingly small, will bring clarity and consistency to all Local Education Authorities: allowing them to monitor children performing abroad as well as at home, give children better protection and opportunity based on their individual needs and ensure that their welfare is paramount.The government amendments were discussed in the Lords on 29th January and the Bill’s third and final reading is today (Feb 5th).  Six months of carefully nurturing something the Department of Education threw out, and we’re seeing the Bill – and the all-important amendments – heading for Royal Assent.  The result should be safe, happy and healthy child performances in the future.For more information on The Children and Families Bill go to:
    http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2013-14/childrenandfamilies.html.

  • LET’S STOP CROWING ABOUT OUR BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Children's Media Campaign, Education, Politics, Prix Jeunesse, The Children's Media Foundation, Uncategorized

    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.

     

  • ON BEING AN “ESTEEMED EXPERT”

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Business Trips, Children's Media Campaign, Children's TV, Education, Politics, The Children's Media Foundation, travel, Uncategorized

    I liked it.

    I liked having all my travel arrangements made for me.

    He could have tried to look pleased to see me.

    He could have tried to look pleased to see 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 hope I'm never so important that I need to be reached at any moment.  But useful I suppose if you run out of paper.

    Useful I suppose if you run out of paper.

     

     

    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.

    My auditorium before everyone arrived.  If only I could flik-flak down this aisle.

    My auditorium before everyone arrived. If only I could flik-flak down this aisle.

     

     

    And published my speech in a REAL BOOK OF CLEVER THINGS BY CLEVER PEOPLE.

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    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.

    Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc with Esteemed Experts.

    Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc with Esteemed Experts.

    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.

     

     

  • 1ST CHILDREN AND MEDIA CONGRESS IN TURKEY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Children's Media Campaign, Children's stories, Children's TV, Education, Politics, Prix Jeunesse

    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.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc opens the Congress.

     

    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.

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    2400 people of all ages attempting to get on stage for a ‘family photo’

    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.

     CMF logo cropped smaller2

    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.

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    Volume 2 of Bildriler Kitabi – essays from the Kongressi ISBN-978-975-552-093-3

     Ooh and don’t you love that they made all the adult speakers submit photos of when they were children?

  • TODAY I GET TO SAY “MELLIFLUOUS” BECAUSE…

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Books, Children's Media Campaign, Children's Poetry, Children's stories, Education, Politics

    I’ve just remembered a brilliant thing someone said last Saturday.  Rather fascinated by bees at the moment.  As is everyone apparently.  Hating to follow the herd, I can smugly say that I’m not interested in keeping them because it’s trendy – my big sister inherited a hive and I like being like her.

    Whatever, the lovely ancient apiarist in Stroud market, advised me to wait a few years “When there will be lots of second hand equipment for sale as the herd move on.  First it was chickens…” he said.

    Then he said something else, and this is why I am writing before I forget it and fill my silly head with other chattery nonsense.

    He said, “My primary school teacher taught me to keep bees.”

    “Oh,” I gushed, picturing an Edwardian lady filling her country diary with bee keeping notes and thinking ‘how quaint, he must have grown up with Laurie Lee’.

    The elderly bee keeper clearly knew I was filling my head with bucollocks (that’s rustic nonsense) so added,  “She taught me to read.”

    She taught me to read.