By Cate McQuillen, Guest Blogger
I was really chuffed when Josh asked if I would guest blog and I
accepted right away.
‘Great!’ I thought….and then the panic set in.
What to blog about?
Passion and heart, funny experiences of a newbie,
creating global preschool TV from the middle of nowhere,
transmedia and me,
sustainability in children’s programs,
nice people I have met or
why I chose to give up singing and growing veggies to make kids’
Or I could just write about the Prix Jeunesse International
seeing I am in Munich, hanging out with an extraordinary group of
kids’ content creators and sharers!
So here goes…
Creating, producing and sharing dirtgirlworld over the last 3 years
has offered me so many amazing experiences.
The latest in this adventure was being nominated as a finalist in the
Up to 6 Fiction category
and attending the Prix Jeunesse International Children’s Festival in
Munich is a long way from Australia.
Actually, Lenny Henry says that Australia should be renamed ‘far’…
but that is another conversation.
Munich has wonderful trees, a river, loads of beer, lederhosen and
fantastic melt in your mouth wiener schnitzel.
Munich is very punctual.
The Prix Jeunesse Festival is run every two years and to be honest it’s
a very different crowd from the MIP and KidScreen gang.
None of the usual suspects and lots of time to get to know and chat
with the diverse faces, feelings, opinions and approaches of a whole
world of kids’ creators.
Researchers, academics, consultants, broadcasters, producers and
creators gather to share 6 days away from the office and to enter into
a world of why we make and what we make as kids’ content and to
It’s not a pitchfest but a place of reflection, discussion and debate.
While diversity is this festival’s core theme, the TV shows do not have
to revolve around the theme, and the topics and styles are as broad
and varied as children themselves around the globe are.
But how did the collection of shows stack up against the theme.
Well, firstly, what is diversity?
Now all of what follows is merely my observations, my take and my
Just limiting ‘diversity’ to diversity of culture isn’t that diverse.
Here’s a few facts they threw our way…
In the world 85% of our children are non-white and in kids’ TV 28% of
the characters are non-white.
In the world 50% of children are girls, in our TV girls are represented
32% of the time
and a staggering 80% live on less than 10 US dollars a day.
There’s diversity in culture, gender, health, financial resources,
sexuality, age and living circumstances.
Including diversity in our program creation is a deliberate choice.
Perhaps the challenge is to create a rich and relevant storyworld for
our characters to inhabit where we passionately wrap our narratives
and bring a sensitivity that helps kids feel included, rather than
alienated, by the world!
Mostly it’s a mindfulness.
However, there were also some big questions raised.
Do we risk becoming tokenistic and condescending if we try and
weave all social, political and cultural elements into one storyworld?
Do we plant the seeds of discrimination in our young audiences’
hearts by addressing it too simply? Too tritely?
Do small children choose their friends by colour or ability?
Do we just need to create stories where difference is not an issue?
Are we so led by social curriculum that by highlighting intolerance we
may be empowering it?
All interesting and thought provoking questions raised in discussion
groups at the festival.
For me there is no doubt now that telling rich stories and celebrating
diversity makes great real stories.
It’s surely about being genuine and I don’t think anyone at the festival
was suggesting creating a diversity checklist to be adhered to.
And it’s not just the mindfulness of creators but also of broadcasters
whose role it is to programme, scheduling a rich and diverse range of
content that integrates this holistic view. There’s plenty of it out
there. Creators are doing an extraordinary job.
We saw 89 examples of just that over the 6 days, which may explain
my square eyes and current aversion to sunlight.
My favourite thought was that it was about recognising the diversity
in yourself and supporting children with stories that celebrate that
But here we are in preschool land.
Our audience is not big on subtitles and having badly synced
re-voiced versions or mono-tonal narrations can surely water down
the diversity experience.
Equally creating a plethora of dialogue-free stories just so they can
sell globally doesn’t really play the diversity card either.
There’s pressure for homogenization and commercial mainstream
representation by the licensing community.
But how many of us as creators are driven by commercial constraints.
If we are creating from what we know, who we are and from our
hearts plus this new mindfulness we should, as we also have done, be
able to continue to create shows that are loved and successful for all
the right reasons.
I did lots of thinking during the Prix Jeunesse festival.
I also had to put myself under the magnifying glass during the
I am a white, English speaking, privileged, educated, healthy, female
creator. Does this filter through into my creative content?
I’m also a rural-based, environmentalist musician who cares for the
future and respects the global community.
Is dirtgirlworld diverse?
There’s a balance of female and male roles…the principal character is
female. Grubby, a limbless Hayman can only communicate using one
There’s a diversity in ages. Diversity of species…2 people, one grub,
one weevil, one scarecrow and numerous bugs, lizards and creations.
And in spirituality….although it is not overt….there is an underlying
respect and love for the magnitude of nature and a commitment to
care for and nurture the earth.
I think one of the program’s strengths is that it is a story driven from a
‘rural’ part of the globe for the urban dwellers and legitimising rural
Was all of this intentional or instinctive?
But enough navel gazing.
The Prix Jeunesse festival wasn’t all serious and soul searching.
I got to joyously live diversity for 6 days.
I got to meet and get to know people from every corner of the planet.
There were celebrations, dancing, karaoke and a fantastic awards
I got to hang out with Josh, Bernadette and J.J. in another country.
I met extraordinary people like Harold and Carla and Adrian and
Greg and Joe and Ann Sophie.
And congratulations to the preschool winners this year.
The delicious Lucy Goodman produced ‘Bookaboo’ in the Up to 6 Non
And the exquisite Carsten Bunte produced ‘The Little Boy and the
Beast’ in the Up to 6 Fiction
The whole experience has had such a positive effect on me.
I say thank you to the organisers and everyone for their warmth and
commitment to making meaningful, relevant and fantastically
entertaining television for kids.
It was a very real reminder that there are wonderful people who really
care about all children
and caring broadcasters that do recognise and bring these stories to
the kids around the world.
But the thing I recount most to my team was something that David
Kleeman shared with us on the last day.
I would rather be 9 people’s favourite thing than a hundred people’s
ninth favourite thing.
Thanks for that David…it warms my heart.