Urban and gritty I'm not
I'm more chocolate and snot
But stories need bite
So I'm never trite
Because children matter a lot.
My name is Jayne Kirkham and I am a writer with over thirty years experience working with and writing for children and young people.
I’ve written for theatre, film, television, radio and online. I’ve worked on projects ranging in size from small conservation films in Africa to international feature films. My most recent credits have been here in the UK for BBC’s Cbeebies: Tee and Mo, Bing and original poems and stories for radio podcasts. For more information about what I’ve done, click on “What I’ve Done”.
Growing up on Exmoor gave me a lifelong love of nature, adventure and the mysterious. It also, surprisingly, nurtured a love of cinema, theatre and poetry. Having studied Film, Drama, English Literature and Screenwriting to Masters level, my first commission was a play for Radio 4. But having worked with children all my life, and having never grown out of watching kids TV, I decided to write for children and families.
Commissions include original feature films, adaptations of novels, shows for preschool, and older kids and online. I still write for grown ups (for example adapting Marina Lewyka’s novel Two Caravans, into an animated feature) but please don’t ask me to be all urban and gritty. I don’t do gritty but I do do muck.
Ha! I wrote do-do! Do-dos! I always like to squeeze out something earthy. But it has to be done with finesse, aplomb: I’m on a mission to put the art back into fart.
I’m also on a mission to put the grr back in girl. And boys actually: getting kids outdoors in stories and for real. I’m a canoe and kayak coach. I love the whoosh and wah-hay of white water. But I really love the woohoo of someone realising they are so much more than they ever imagined! I think stories should empower as well as entertain. Whether it’s explaining Armistice Day or exploring what it’s like to need a heart transplant, or simple whimsy and fun, I write stories that give kids a hug.
I do this because children’s media plays a powerful role in the development of our kids. This is also why I volunteer for the Children’s Media Foundation and spend a lot of my free time going into Parliament. I promote the need for diversity, quality and safety in all media for young people. As Baroness Floella Benjamin says, “Childhood lasts a lifetime.” That’s why I say children deserve the best media.
Stories with action about
Girls that can fly,
Ostriches, bunnies and apes.
War stories, more stories,
Comedy, drama and tall stories
Of doctors, detectives and grapes.
Treasure Champs, Three Arrows Media
Mixed media preschool show exploring moral values common to different faiths and cultures. Produced for CBeebies by the excellent Three Arrows Media.
Little Roy – Jam Media, CBeebies/CBBC
Little Roy, Jam Media, CBeebies/CBBC. I can’t say much before transmission but, it’s going to be “Grand!”
Tee and Mo – Plug-in Media, Cbeebies
Based on the delightful Plug-In Media/Cbeebies games, this interactive story tells how Tee, an adorable and unstoppable baby monkey and his first time mum, work together to solve the small everyday problems they face through creativity, play and collaboration. It is aimed at 2-4yr olds AND their parents as they learn to be kids and parents together.
CBeebies Radio – CBeebies
Listening to the spoken word, enjoying the rhythms and rhymes, help children develop their own language skills as well as being great fun. CBeebies Radio commissioned me to write poetry and short stories for the very young on subjects as varied as athletics (the Teddy Bear Games), Remembrance Day (Poppy’s Day and Remembering) and the BBC Proms (Prokofiev’s Grumpy Cat and Little Mouse).
Bing – Acamar, CBeebies
Acamar Films, Brown Bag Films, Tandem Films. First broadcast 9 June 2014 on BBC CBeebies.
Based on Ted Dewan’s remarkable books, Bing Bunny explores the wonder, mishaps and mess of a very young person’s world. Told in real time these are small stories (finding your shoes, playing nurse). But told from 3 year old Bing’s point of view, these little moments are full of big emotion. The resulting drama is affecting, compelling and fun.
One of my stories, Looking after Flop is now available as a sticker book.
Ajani’s Great Ape Adventures – Nature for Kids
Filmed in the Ugandan rainforest, using local children and their communities, these three films by Dutch charity Nature For Kids are part of a pan-African educational programme. Given that poverty is both the cause and consequence of many environmental problems in developing countries, Ajani’s Great Ape adventures demonstrates basic green solutions to empower 7-13 year olds and their communities to prosper. I provided additional dialogue and worked on the marketing material.
There is evidence that having seen the films, villagers refused to deal with poachers again.
Olive The Ostrich – Blue Zoo Productions, Nick Jnr
Blue-Zoo Productions Ltd. First Broadcast September 2011 on Nick Junior.
While Dad runs around, Mum lays eggs and brother eats sand, Olive prefers to bury her head in the sand and go on ‘amazing adventures’. I got to consider the throats of crocodiles and melt chocolate, lots of chocolate – research you understand; research!
Narrated by Alexi Sayle, drawn by school children and animated by the brilliant Blue-Zoo.
Roze and the Robots – Gravy Media/Passion Pictures
NOKSU – Evergreen Films/Epidem, YLE TV1
Evergreen Entertainment Ltd, Epidem Finland. Based on the Finnish preschool books by Mikko Kunnas.
With his favourite playmate, Betty B, and a handful of other colourful characters who help them along the way, NOKSU is in the complicated business of growing up. He learns something new all the time: how to cope with the dangers of crossing the road; how to avoid too much junk food; how to treat everyone with respect. All those life-skills which have to be mastered as children grow up, and which the series shares with the young viewers through humorous and engaging storylines.
One of my episodes, The Harmonica was preselected for Prix Jeunesse 2012.
View the NOKSU IMDb page HERE >
Bowerbird – Artemisia Films
Adapted from Ann Kelley’s award winning novels, supported by the Welcome Foundation and Great Ormond Street Hospital, and set in the sunlit haven of St Ives, this beautiful movie tells the story of Gussie and her mum. Determined to live each day as if it may be their last; it just may be. You see, Gussie needs a heart transplant. But how do you cram a life time into a few years? How do you get your first kiss? And what’s the point of a new heart when it might just break? Life is beautiful. Objects shine from hidden corners, laughter bursts from the unexpected, new discoveries, familiar things. Nature is as kind as it is cruel and life as raw as it is wonderful. A film about living life for today. (Produced by Anne Beresford, Artemisia Films Ltd.)
Last Night – Deadline Films/Irish Film Board
Writer/Director. Conor Morrisey, New Grange Pictures/Irish Film Board 2006.
A supernatural tale that unfolds in an Irish country manor. A couple’s marriage falls apart under the canopy of a much darker secret. I worked extensively with Conor to tighten this script. As a director, he had a strong idea of the feel and look that he wanted to achieve. I helped him develop character and find the appropriate pace. The completed film had a successful run on the international festival circuit, and was selected as a finalist at the Manhattan Short Film Festival 2006.
Watch the film HERE >
The Deadline – Deadline Films/Metrodome
Starring Brittany Murphy, Thora Birch, Writer. Sean McConville, Deadline Films LLC, Metrodome. 2009.
I first met Sean McConville at the London Institute where we took Phil Parker’s Screenwriting MA together. Sean is one of those brilliant people that don’t give up on their dreams. He left everything here in the UK and headed for Hollywood. Knowing the kind of budgets he could expect, and a director rather than writer, Sean shrewdly developed Deadline so that, rather than languish on a shelf somewhere, the script could actually be made. I worked with him on the screenplay. He secured finance, cast and the resulting movie got distribution and moved him on to the next stage of his career. I’m proud to have been a part of this project and wish Sean continuing success (especially as I know about his next project and love it…)
View The Deadline IMDb page HERE >
Fei – Peach Blossom Media/Evergreen Entertainment
A feature length anime for Peach Blossom Media, Singapore and Evergreen Entertainment, UK. In pre-production.
Have you ever wanted to fly? Have you ever wanted something so much that it was all you could see? When Fei fights the odds in pursuit of an impossible dream, she not only loses sight of what’s important, she loses the use of her eyes. But where her eyes fail her, Fei learns to see… with her heart.
The film is set in Malaya 1941 when England abandoned the country to a brutal Japanese invasion. In a world where everything can be broken, sometimes it takes a little blind girl to see how to mend the wings of nations.
6.6.04 – The Film Council
A small but perfectly formed short film that screened at Edinburgh Film Festival, was nominated for a BIFA and won something else. Made on a budget of some fish and chips for the crew and completion funding from The Film Council (R.I.P), it involved a sneaky trip to Durdle Door where we threw the director over the cliff. Guerrilla Filmmaking with the National Trust.
Watch the film HERE >
Where The Skylarks Nest – BBC Radio 4
A radio play about dementia set against key moments of the 20th century and told using the melodies of songbirds. At least that’s how I remember it. TX July 2002 or was it 3?
The Children’s Media Foundation
Having never known a world without Doctor Who and having discovered Persian poetry thanks to a Rocky and Bulwinkle cartoon (The Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam), I have always valued children’s media, as a window on the outside world and a mirror to our own. Its impact is often misunderstood and rarely valued. So much so that, in an increasingly competitive international market, our young people are in danger of losing something precious. That’s why I volunteer for the Children’s Media Foundation, making politicians and opinion formers aware of the value of good screen based media to young people both developmentally, educationally and socially.
As a parent I hated seeing my ten year old daughter beginning to worry about make up when she watched back to back episodes of Mary Kate and Ashley but it was hard to find an alternative. We found some, but it was a struggle. It shouldn’t be: UK kids should be able to see UK stories that reflect UK sensibilities as well as enjoying imported ones. And variety. The BBC is brilliant but it is not enough. Would adults put up with just one editorial voice? It all takes money though. In short supply at the best of times but we have to think about our priorities: our children are our future – don’t they deserve the best?
Working with Young People
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing, absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply nothing. Messing.. about..in boats; messing…” I agree with the Rat. But it is more than messing really: the self belief that develops from learning to navigate an elemental force like a river is stunningly uplifting. There’s a similar buzz to be had from climbing and other adventure sports. I think it’s to do with discovering that fear is not the end; that you can overcome it and use it. The only bigger buzz is when you see someone else discovering the same. Working with the Scout Association, The Prince’s Trust and West Berkshire District Council, I have met many people, young and old who have to varying degrees spent their lives imprisoned by their fears and failings. At the very least, outdoor education gives people some attention, which is always in short supply. However it usually achieves much more as each little success on the water or up a crag sees those failings and fears recede to make room for self belief and respect.
Brown and Sticky Productions
News, views, stories and stuff
No piffle or waffle, flimflam or guff
All things considered and not off the cuff
No more of this rhyme scheme: enuff is enuff!
Sporty Imogen refuses to let her asthma get in the way of her having fun in this story. https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/radio/imogen-takes-the-plunge
This story draws on some of my experiences teaching kayaking to school children. There always seemed to be at least one child with an inhaler in the class and if they were not reticent about trying something that might make them out of breath and/or falling in the river, their teachers often were.
In this story, I wanted to show that, as long as the right precautions are taken, there is no reason why a child with asthma can’t do fun stuff or go on to make their dreams come true. I was greatly inspired by stories of Olympic athletes like Rebecca Adlington OBE and hope that children listening to this story will be too and will go on to do amazing things.
Oh and thanks to the great people at my local sports centre #Dursleypool for explaining why we should shower before rather than after swimming and why widdling in the pool is such a really bad idea…
#DrRanj reads my story Jamil’s Food Challenge and shares top tips on what to do if you or someone you know has a #foodallergy https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/radio/jamils-food-challenge
It’s not much fun not being able to share the same food as your friends and it’s not much fun having to spend your birthday in the hospital allergy clinic. But when the usual allergy tests suggest his body can now cope with eggs, Jamil has to decide whether to stay safe and only eat the food he already trusts or, with the help of his specialist nurse, expand his diet. Knowing how poorly eggs have made him in the past, it is a scary notion and Jamil has to be very brave. But maybe, just maybe, this year he won’t have to blow out the candles on a pretend birthday cake made of cardboard but will be able to have his first ever ‘proper’ birthday cake, and share it with all his friends!
Having known children with very restrictive diets, I have been in awe of their patience and resilience. From a distance, it can be easy to condemn them as ‘picky’ and to think they’re just being difficult. But often these children are incredibly brave, having to guard themselves against things the rest of us take for granted.
My thanks to #CBeebiesRadio for helping with the child testimonies and medical research. In the spirit of good public service broadcasting, I was happy to undertake the necessary research into birthday cakes and bouncy castles.
I’m so glad to have written the stories for this fantastic series helping kids across the UK who have allergies, while making others aware of how they can help. https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/radio
Starting from 10th Jan with a new show every Wednesday until 7th February , this cracking series about allergies is not to be sniffed at.
I’ll stop right there with the puns because allergies are only funny until you have one yourself. Then it can be tiresome, disruptive, frightening, especially when you’re not yet even six. To be the odd one out, with special food, special gloves, special medicine, when you’re feeling poorly, doesn’t feel very special at all.
This series of five audio downloads explores different chronic conditions that some children may suffer: asthma, allergies to pet dander, nuts, dairy, pollen… what’s it like to suddenly react badly to something? What’s it like when it happens to your friend? What’s it like to have to guard what you eat or drink or touch? What’s it like to not be able to eat your own birthday cake?
When you put it like that, it’s all a bit grim.
So I didn’t put it like that.
After all, these stories are for CBeebies and CBeebies is never grim. So expect fun stories with nutty detectives, cub scouts, tennis aces, guinea pigs and pigeons, all read beautifully by the wonderfully reassuring Dr Ranj.
Of course the stories answer all of those questions above: I based them on patient testimony and the expertise of a specialist nurse. You can hear some of the children talking about their conditions in each episode as well. My lovely producers were pleased with the result. I hope that you and your little ones will be too.
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