Planet Preschool


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 ...
June 8, 2010

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’


Arhhhhhh!  Too…many…choices!!!!

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

celebrate excellence.

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

newbie reflections.

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.

About The Author


Brand Menu