Had to abandon several plans this summer because those lovely people at CBeebies Radio asked me to to write some stories and poems for them sharpish. Hopefully my friends, real and imaginary, didn’t feel too neglected and they, especially if they’re under six years old, will enjoy the results. You can hear them from today on the BBC iplayer radio app, just look for the Cbeebies bug! Then from next Monday 6th November you can download my story The Paintpots from the CBeebies website
The following Monday your little ones will be able to hear all about a quite magnificent Sock Drawer!
And in between listen out for poems about the sounds of colours – how do they sound to you?
Developing and writing these was a blast and an education. Here are some of the key things I learnt during this project:
– Yellow is an existential colour
– D.H. Lawrence has a lot to answer for
– Snail snot should never be underestimated
None of these conclusions found their way into the CBeebies material, you’ll no doubt be happy to learn. Instead, your preschoolers will enjoy discovering, for example that:
The colour yellow is a primary colour
But it’s a great mixer and go between.
If blue gets all flustered, yellow really cuts the mustard,
Shouting, “Bananas in custard!
Hey look: we’ve made green!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve just come back from six days in Munich at the 2012 Prix Jeunesse International Children’s Television Festival. Fantastic. A biennial festival and competition bringing together children’s programming from over seventy countries with the intention of improving the quality of children’s television world wide, deepening understanding and promoting communication between cultures. I read the brochure.
To be fair, if you were there I think you’d agree that the festival achieved all that. This year’s theme was ‘watch, learn and grow with children’s TV. And I did. The watching was extreme: 85 shows in competition, plus about 400 available to screen outside. The learning was extensive: from what it’s like to have or live with autism, to how to wash a willy, to how to make mohitos, to what challenges programme makers face in places like Bhutan (not saying where I learned what or from whom). And the growing was, perhaps too much growing: Kartoffelsalat how I love thee. So…
Jayne’s best bits:
Jayne’s Worst bits:
If you were there, I’d be interested to know what your best and worst bits were.
The range of shows from across the world was fascinating – seeing how different cultures respond to our stuff, learning what they enjoy, or don’t. I admit I felt a little disappointed though: I went expecting to be overwhelmed by brilliant new content and style. But nothing seemed truly innovative or daring. In fact too much seemed to use the bells and whistles of commercial American shows. However, without the tight construction of a well crafted script, such imitations were poor.
Oh one other thing I learned watching all this stuff: we are so lucky in the UK. Our content makers are among the best in the world. Companies like The Foundation, Kindle Entertainment, Darrall and MacQueen, Plug-In Media… the inhouse productions from CBBC and CBeebies… they are beacons of brilliance. I hope I wasn’t the only person to notice this and that rather than aping commercial American stuff, overseas broadcasters get inspired by UK storytelling and production values and so buy our programmes AS WELL AS finding their own ways of telling stories that will feed back and inspire me.