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!
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.
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!
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.
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.