The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Big Steps for Little Radio



By Chris Jarvis
Little Radio DJ
CBeebies Presenter


The term ‘Anorak’ was coined by Radio Caroline’s Andy Archer back in the '60s to describe over enthusiastic fans who sailed out to see the pirate ship.  Imagine!   There’s no way I’d brave the North Sea in the vain hope of catching a glimpse of Andy or Tony Blackburn on a rocking boat, but if you watched Children’s BBC in the 90s, you’ll know that I’m a bit of an anorak because as well as loving my job on children’s TV, I am obsessed with radio.

A dream came true last October when I helped launch ‘Little Radio’, a brand new station playing a simple format of nursery rhymes and children’s songs with stories at bedtime.  It’s like a commercial ‘hot hits’ station for pre-schoolers – instead of ‘Little Mix’ we play ‘Little Bo Peep’.  There’s only positive news, the music is always happy and our weather forecasts go no further than saying “it might be chilly so do up your coat!”  It’s an introduction to the concept of radio with jingles, DJs and hourly time checks, although you’re more likely to hear ducks quacking the hour than the GMT pips.     Please give us a listen and let me know what you think!  The ‘Little Radio’ app is free to download and you can take us anywhere.

Getting fresh material from other contributors has been relatively easy; if they haven’t got a home studio or podcast mic, the microphone on a smartphone sounds great and their only real challenge was finding a reverb-free room to record in.  Many storytellers have shone torches under the duvet to record wonderful reassuring tales for Lockdown for us, one favourite is ‘The Rabbit That Wanted To Play’ told by Jan Francis.

Soon after the Lockdown began, Little Radio was commissioned to make the ‘CBeebies Magic Den’ for BBC Sounds and CBeebies Radio.   The idea is simple : I’m hanging out in a magically ridiculous den with Stuffy (a toy from CBeebies ‘Show Me Show Me’) and Aunt Edie (an homage to the late great Thora Hird).  We get in touch with a celebrity friend who chats about their farfetched den, then takes us on an Alice-like journey to a land of make believe; Maggie Aderin-Pocock from ‘CBeebies Stargazing’ took us to a planet of unicorns and Dr Ranj from 'Get Well Soon' shrunk us to the size of an atom for a tour of the body.

We had to be equally creative with the technology.  One triumph was when Jennie Dale (who plays Captain Captain in ‘Swashbuckle’ on CBeebies) sang a song using a smartphone for foldback and a tablet as a recorder – once again, all under the duvet!  Her pitch perfect performance was emailed over and pieced back together in the studio.

Throughout ‘Lockdown’ listenership for all radio rocketed as everyone searched for
breaks from screens. With so much learning pushed on-line, radio has given children
another form of entertainment not connected to nursery or school. It is a medium that
ventures wherever it wishes, using words and sounds to conjure up incredible pictures in
young minds. It improves listening skills no end and provides a familiar voice to connect the
listener to the outside world - so important when stuck indoors. For content producers,
Radio's simple processes mean consistent and fresh shows can be produced remotely.  Is it
any wonder that Radio is having a moment?

For the occasional break from screens, please check out our wee station and podcast.

Chris Jarvis  @LittleRadioUK

CBeebies Magic Den

Children's Media Yearbook Content 2020 is sponsored by


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)