The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

When Sheffield Comes To You


By Jane Kirkham
Clerk to the All Party Parliamentary Group
CMF Executive Group Member for political and governmental liaison.


Maybe I don’t get out enough but I love going to Sheffield. The annual bunfight that is the Children’s Media Conference - I look forward to it all year.  OK, I don’t get out much but then I’m a writer living in an obscure backwater and my professional life is one of feast and famine.  So, the annual train ride to Sheffield for this industry gathering means a lot.  It’s a chance to find work, to catch up on industry trends, network, wear something other than pyjamas, eat canapes and sing and dance until I hurt.  It is such an important fixture in the children’s media calendar, nothing gets in its way.  Nothing.

Ha...

No. Not even… Call yourself a pandemic? This is children’s media for heaven’s sake! These people thrive on solving problems.  We couldn’t get to Sheffield, so they brought Sheffield to us.  At least as much as is humanly possible.  Actually more: instead of two and a bit days, this year I had to book out a whole week (true I didn’t sign up for the international industry meetings but I still had to get organised; plan my time, pack my virtual wheelie suitcase). With 49 pre-recorded sessions on-demand, there were also live sessions throughout the days that I didn’t want to miss. Go to the website for all the details.  It was a veritable feast of content ranging from policy makers to content creators, to, oh all the stuff you’d expect and a ten-year-old drummer who was truly beyond awesomeness.

The only thing that CMC Online couldn’t provide were those wonderful reunions when you catch up with your mates and colleagues after months in isolation.  Or so I thought.  Clicking on the Backchat button after the Black Lives Matter keynote, I found myself in a ‘room’ with other delegates.  At first it felt like we were all wallflowers at the school disco.  Then I recognised a name: a buddy had just logged on.  Couldn’t help myself: typed,

‘YAY!

‘YAY!’ back.

It felt good.

Other conversations started.  Questions and answers. New names I came to recognise and looked forward to seeing in other sessions.

And there it was: CMC came to us.  True there wasn’t any Henderson’s Sauce (something to consider for the goody bag in future?), but there was plenty of fun through the Backchat chatroom and the Facebook page.  I turned out to be not the only one recreating a hotel breakfast buffet in my kitchen in the mornings or eating copious amounts of pizza.  And Master of Quizardry, Steve Wynne certainly wasn’t the only one recreating the Thursday Hangover.  My neighbours did ask why I was zigzagging up to the war memorial and back at 3 in the morning.  When I explained, she very kindly offered to look after my wheelie suitcase on Friday morning so I could watch the Last Word unencumbered.  She even dug out an old raffle ticket for me to hand back and identify it later.

Despite being so far apart, there was a fantastic sense of togetherness – silly reminiscences ‘CRISPS! OH YEAH, I FORGOT ABOUT THE CRISPS!’ (no, me neither – no idea), supportive and encouraging comments and honest, searching questions during the live sessions and in the chat facilities, all made this year’s conference very special and incredibly good value.  I have still to watch the VOD sessions.  I’m very grateful that I have until the end of September to watch and fully digest them all.  Normally I miss so much of the good stuff because my brain is fried, and then the moment is gone.  I’m in the swing of this – one a day is going to be perfect.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all cakes and ale (though I did provide myself with substantial amounts of both and the karaoke was just the Best Night In EVER- duet next year Jamie Badminton).  The CMC banquet provided plenty of meat to chew on.  My personal takeaways – I’d never heard of adultification but know exactly what they meant and, as political liaison for CMF, I have already brought it to the attention of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children’s Media and the Arts.  I have also reminded parliamentarians, during these Covid-crazy times that all children should, as Cressida Cowell said in her keynote, be encouraged to be creative. I’m glad to see the government has reined in its plans to remove non-core subjects from the curriculum for most children in September and are instead encouraging a broad curriculum that includes, amongst other subjects, the arts and relationships.

More personally, I’m taking away something Ash Perrin said – no I haven’t seen The Art of Playful Communication session yet but saw this quote on the CMC Facebook page:

The new norm is not defined yet and it’s up to us to create it.  You are still the dream makers, mischief sharers and heart inspirers of our kids.  What will you do to answer this question?’

 

 

Isn’t that lovely?  I’m up for making dreams, sharing mischief and inspiring the hearts of our kids.  As soon as I find that raffle ticket and can collect my wheelie suitcase.

Jayne Kirkham

Jayne has written for and worked with children for over 30 years.  Having written for most formats, her most recent commission was to write the text for all exhibits for Showtown – Blackpool’s new museum of fun and entertainment, opening in 2021. In 2012 she established the APPG for Children’s Media and The Arts and continues to act as CMF’s political liaison.

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