about the Internet – the dangers, the disasters. I know – I’ve been involved in the campaigns to improve online safety and privacy, leading up to the Digital Economy Act 2017 and beyond. And one of the things I’ve learned is that while politicians and vested interests move at glacial speed to make the digital world a safer place, our kids are growing up fast. So I was chuffed to bits when that brilliant BBC producer John Leagas gave me the opportunity to help children learn a few survival techniques.
And just so you don’t miss one, here they are individually-
Don’t worry, they’re not worthy, preachy or teachy – this is me writing them! Waggy dogs and lazy uncles… Globe-trotting grannies… And a cat who knows where it’s app. Have a listen and enjoy exploring the online world with your little ones in these
You might not have been aware that it was #refugeeawarenessweek recently. No matter, the terrible situations that some people find themselves in sadly haven’t gone away so here are stories I wrote for #CBeebiesRadio
With some minor adjustments to protect both the kids in the stories and the kids in the audience, each is a true story.
You might want to rant that such subject matter is entirely inappropriate for young children but young children are living through these things. Stories are there to help us understand and find ways to deal with what is going on around us. These stories celebrate the resilience, courage and love of young people and nobody is too young to celebrate love.
If you have read this far, then (oops I didn’t ask permission but as I wrote it… bad me) have this:
Everyone needs a safe place to live,
Like a bird’s nest lined with warm feathers:
Full of kindness and love, it’s the place we call home,
A refuge from the world and the weather.
But storms can sometimes blow nests from the trees
And winter brings frost, ice and snow.
Birds have to fly south or else they would freeze;
To survive until spring, they must go.
Their journey can last for thousands of miles,
It’s a daring and dangerous quest,
Flying across deserts and oceans and isles
With little food and no time to rest.
And people too must sometimes take flight,
Like birds they have to migrate
From the cruelty of rulers and armies that fight,
Blown by the ice winds of hate.
This journey can last for thousands of miles,
It’s a daring and dangerous quest,
Crossing countries and deserts and oceans and isles
With little food and no time to rest.
But unlike the birds, these people have names:
They’re not just a crowd on TV,
They love and they laugh and they work and play games:
They are people like you and like me.
There’s Farah and Birhan, Hivi, Rafiq
With sisters and aunties and mothers,
Serbest, Amez, Natania, Sadiq
With fathers, granddads and brothers.
Refugee children love stories and art,
They love chasing and shouting and play.
They’re sporty, they’re funny, thoughtful and smart
And dream of being grown up one day.
Their journey can last thousands of miles,
With little food and no time to rest.
Crossing deserts and oceans with hope and with smiles,
It’s a daring and dangerous quest.
Then after the winter, the birds fly away,
But not to wander or roam:
They fly back to rebuild the nests that they left,
To the safe places they once called home.
And refugees too love the land where they lived
And many hope to return there they say.
When summer brings the warm wind that forgives
There will be freedom and peace there, one day.
Now that is a journey of thousands of miles
And a daring and dangerous quest;
Bringing peace and forgiveness, laughter and smiles
But of all journeys, that one’s the best.
For everyone needs a safe place to live,
When we find it, there’s no need to roam.
There we can grow and learn and forgive,
Full of love, it’s the place we call home.
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.
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’.
No I didn’t go on safari and no I didn’t climb Kilimanjaro.
Well I did sort of….
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.
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.
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?
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.