Oh this was fun to write! Have you seen Roy on CBBC? The cartoon boy in a real world. Well this is the prequel – Roy is five years old instead of ten. So it’s less about fitting in and more about finding out. He is a great character and the show is a lovely crossover from preschool to big kid content and I was very pleased to be involved.
This episode, Dr Roy, which involves bandages, biscuits and a ‘ba-doom ba-doom’ big hearted little boy, was broadcast a week or so back on CBeebies and of course I missed it. But hooray for catch up telly! If you would like to watch it, then here’s the web address: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08ffx89/little-roy-18-doctor-roy
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.
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.
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.
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.
Did you see the BAFTAs last night? I was so pleased to see Steven Moffat receive the 2012 Television Special Award. What I really admire about his work is that he writes for everyone and has done much to make family viewing cool again. Yes I know Sherlock is not exactly family viewing but it is the kind of telly I would have badgered my parents to let me stay up after bedtime and watch; the kind of programme that they could’ve held over me as a reward for being good.
Then there’s Doctor Who. Yes yes, Russell T. Davies resurrected it and gave the tardis wings but when I teach screenwriting, it is a Steven Moffat episode that I use to illustrate so many top tips and handy hints.
I remember a particularly cool group of first year film students who decided they knew everything already. They were hard work and I just don’t do cool so hadn’t a hope of establishing a rapport. I soldiered on and showed them the first episode of Doctor Who: The Empty Child. As the titles went up, I could hear the sneers from the back row. I kept watching the screen: I might die in this class but at least the telly was good. That’s when Mr Moffat became my hero: by the end the sneers had turned to silent fear. These hardened twenty one year olds were genuinely moved, surprised and scared by the story. Being a two parter they were desperate to find out what happened next. And, seeing as I had the DVD, I was now their favourite person.
Good writing feeds the mind, stirs the spirit and excites the body; engaging our intellect, our emotions and our hormones. We question, we care, we get an adrenaline rush. When it does all these things, it has that power to engage an audience with other people’s lives, on screen and then in real life. It makes us connect; makes the world a better place.
So congratulations Steven: richly deserved.