If you don’t know Tee and Mo, they are a delightful monkey mother and son combo who get up to all sorts of collaborative fun in the forest. They collaborate together and also with you, the preschool child/care-giver in their Bafta nominated games (also found on the Cbeebies website).
Narrated by BBC6 Music’s Lauren Laverne, Tee and Mo is the brainchild of Plug-In’s creative director Dominic Minns. I love the way he and the other clever people at Plug-in have devised the games to encourage children and their adults to play the games together, to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.
Who Did the Footprints is my first interactive story. I want to say very clever things about extending the reading experience and kinesthetic learning but that would sound terribly dull and I’d much rather you and your Cbeebie went together and gave your Cbeebies Storytime app-watching device a good shake (You’ll understand once you’ve downloaded the story) so I’ll just say that it was enormous fun writing it and I hope that you have enormous fun reading it.
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.
As I watch the setting sun,
I see the shadows getting long.
Shadows are like memories of the day we’ve had.
Some shadows happy, some are sad:
The things we did, the people we met,
The ice cream van, the girl at the vet.
I’m very little and my shadow is short.
Yesterday is far away
And I don’t remember before today.
But when I climb on Grandad’s knee,
It’s funny how much more I see.
Grandad’s long shadow shows all sorts of things:
People and places,
And long ago faces.
He shows them to me in photos and books.
And in the pictures I’m surprised to see
Some of the children look like me!
Grandmas and aunties on a trip to the zoo,
And my grandad’s grandad, and his grandad too.
Grandad can tell me about long ago;
His friends, his toys and the things he did.
But Grandad is old and forgets things today,
Like his glasses and the things I say.
So I help him find the things he forgets
And he helps me meet the people he met.
He shares them in the stories he tells.
And when my shadow’s longer, I’ll share them as well.
You can hear this as well as my short story Poppy’s Day read by Falklands War veteran Simon Weston at www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/radio
Because everything’s coming up lovely. Having spent the autumn digging round for writing commissions and hard pruning some ideas and dreaming over seed catalogues, things started to happen. But like all those dinky seeds, everything had to stay buried under non disclosure agreements. All I could do was walk round with a warm smile, rather like a compost heap steaming on a frosty morning: definitely good things going on.
Much is still to blossom but (Weren’t the flowers lovely this spring?) you should be able to see the first fruits later this month when CBeebies broadcast BING BUNNY. Actually this was a series that I wrote for last year and I think my scripts were all locked before Christmas. I’ve desperately wanted to talk about it because the show is so lovely. It was initially described to me as a reality show for preschool. And it is. Using a beautifully animated black bunny rabbit and his friends and family, the episodes show real time moments from a child’s life: the fun, the wonder and the mess. It’s brilliant. It’s bouncy. It’s a BING thing.
Back to my ‘gardenese’: I’m sure the series will blossom and grow in the hearts of its young audience and bear much fruit in their lives. And also prove fruitful for the lovely people that I worked with at Acamar Films Ltd.
As I said, much of what I’ve done this spring is still to blossom: still under a mulch of creative compost and non disclosure agreements. Nevertheless, things are developing nicely: I’ve been working with broadcasters and independent producers on more preschool projects and grown up features, a major international conservation project and, and, and… poetry! Can’t wait for the day I can show you those literary specimens: I’ll be as proud as a gold medal winner at Chelsea. Blooming marvelous.
Once upon a seabed, there lived a sponge. Giving a home to lots of tiny creatures, it felt happy and important wafting in the waters. Then along came a net, which scooped it up and dumped it onto a boat with lots of wriggling fish. Some big hairy hands had picked it out. But instead of throwing it back into the sea, the big hairy hands left it on deck in the sun. The boat sailed home and now the sponge was miles away from its home, snatched from its family and friends, all dried out and very grumpy.
“I don’t deserve this! Why me?” thought the grumpy sponge. “Thing’s can’t possibly get worse.” He heard some sloshing and thought, “Ah good, at least I can soak up some water.” But it wasn’t water: he suddenly found himself dunked in vinegar! Vinegar! Somebody said it was wine but it tasted horrid. All the little houses where the tiny creatures had lived filled up and the sponge felt horribly tingly, like being stung by a thousand sea anemones, which he was once, when he’d made a rude remark about their tentacles.
“I don’t deserve this! Why me?” hiccupped the grumpy sponge. “Things can’t possibly get worse.” But then they stuck him on a stick! He’d once been poked by an inquisitive swordfish, and been very cross about it. But at least the swordfish hadn’t hoiked him into the air and waved him about! The sponge didn’t like air at the best of times. Now he was swaying to and fro, this way and that, as he was raised higher and higher, dripping vinegar.
“I don’t deserve this! Why me?” swooned the grumpy sponge. “Things can’t possibly get worse.” But then he came face to face with a man nailed onto some bits of a tree. This man had been snatched from his family and friends, poked and pierced and now been hoiked into the air.
The people below pushed the sponge up to the man’s lips for him to take a drink. The man’s face was full of pain and pressure, as if he’d been stung by a hundred thousand sea anemones, poked by all the swordfishes in the sea and had the weight of all the water in the world pressing down on him. But the sponge saw that this man wasn’t angry or even grumpy, even though he was in agony. In fact this man was full of love: love for the people that had snatched him away, or had laughed at him, even the ones that had hoiked him into the air. Despite the pain and pressure, this man’s face was full of love for everyone.
As the sponge was lowered, he didn’t feel grumpy anymore. When he had touched this man’s lips, he’d been kissed by the greatest love in the world. “I don’t deserve this! Why me?”
Happy Easter everyone.