12 Things You Only Know If You Were A CBBC Presenter
Did you know that Andrew Hayden-Smith used to receive emails from someone in prison?
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Children's BBC, we spoke five presenters across the years to ask what their jobs were really like.
1. Kids' presenters get the weirdest letters and emails.
Andrew Hayden-Smith: "I had one guy who used to email the studio from prison, quite a lot, which was a bit odd. They would get vetted first."
Kirsten O'Brien: "I used to get somebody who used to constantly used to ask 'did I smoke a pipe?', and if I did smoke a pipe could I send them a picture of me smoking a pipe. Sadly I didn’t smoke a pipe so I couldn’t oblige."
Andrew: "And I used to (and still do) get quite a lot of requests asking whether I'm ticklish, which I find quite odd."
Toby Anstis: "Around the time that I started, Take That were just starting. I did some magaziney shoots with them. There were Take That fans watching the show, so I used to get sent cuddly toys they used to throw up on the stage."
2. The absolute worst thing in the world was gunge.
3. When things went wrong, they went really wrong.
4. There hasn't always been a studio. The Broom Cupboard, which Toby and Andi presented in the late '80s and early '90s, was shot in a cupboard.
Andi: “It really was a cupboard. It genuinely was the smallest space you’ve ever seen. It’s a continuity booth, where an announcer would sit to say ‘coming up next on BBC One'. And they decided that if they put a camera in there and put some lights in there we could use it as a space to broadcast from."
Toby: “It was a bit like being a DJ on the telly, really. You had an old audio desk, and then a little camera in front of you, and that was essentially it. At 3:30pm you took control of BBC One, pretty much. It sounds scary, an inexperienced 21-year-old in there, but no. It would mean that if you opened the mic, you would go out throughout the nation – but of course you wouldn’t, but you had that control.”
Andi: “There was a day once when somebody was introducing the Nine O’Clock News and all you could hear was part of the [Broom Cupboard] set falling down. It was the funniest thing, just all the toys falling from the shelves."
5. Working hours were sometimes a little bit crazy.
Andi: "Ultimately I was working six if not seven days a week. I worked for 150 days in a row once, so there was no time for that [staying out late drinking], so you were respectful of your job. You adapted at the time. There were only three of us."
6. Working with a puppet was never not weird.
Kirsten: "Dave Chapman [who did Otis the Aardvark] is absolutely brilliant. He's done the Disney films. He's working on the Star Wars films at the moment, so you're in completely safe hands."
Toby: "The beauty of The Broom Cupboard is that you could just muck around in there. The puppets at first...I worked with Otis, looking at the eyes of the puppet and not at the floor, that was a little bit weird at first. 'Oh no, don't talk to Dave.'"
Toby: "The name Otis is the name of a lift company at the old TV Centre in Shepherd's Bush. The people who made the lift there are called Otis. And we had a whiteboard going in the office full of suggestions for names, and somebody had come in and had seen the name Otis, and thought that was it, and it stuck."
Kirsten: "My main memory is just corpsing on air. I remember once I just laughed solidly into Neighbours because I was trying to duck out of shot, but as the camera was panning down Dave was panicking that he [the cameraman] was going to see him operating Otis."
7. And they never tried to talk down to children.
8. The biggest dilemma was the birthday cards.
9. The presenters weren't always wasting time when the shows were on. They (usually) paid attention.
Andrew: "We used to just rock up there about five minutes before air, and sometimes we would get a rehearsal and sometimes we didn't. Because Angellica and I got on so well, it was like having a laugh with your mate on the telly."
Angellica: "I mean, we would loosely rehearse, we'd have a basic script, some of the producers would do a rough script with pointers and would say, 'You do that, you do that'. But most of the time it wouldn't really happen when it went live, but we knew the start and the endpoint where we needed to get to."
Toby: "We used to get a tape that we received each morning with the first three minutes and the final three minutes of every show, so I knew how it was going to start, how it was going to end, or the producer would let us know on the air."
Kirsten: "I was a complete teacher's pet and I would watch them all beforehand, whereas Dick and Dom would watch the first minute of the way in and the last minute of the way out. But in contrast, they would watch themselves back and learn from it really religiously, and I never ever watched that."
Andi: "We would be rehearsing what we were going to do, talking about what we were going to do, but always having one eye. I could probably tell you what would happen during Neighbours because I would babysit Neighbours as well. So when I introduced Neighbours I would have to wait until quarter to, and then the announcer would come back and babysit the programme until the Six O'Clock News."
10. They sometimes had issues with what they wanted to do on camera though.
Angellica: '"Andrew and I thought we were quite cool and he hated dressing up, but I would dress up now and then. I remember once he just didn't like his hair messy at that time. It was quite spiky and stuff, and we had to dress up like chickens. We then had this massive, massive chat with the producer with him going, 'I do not want to dress up as a chicken.' And I was like, 'Andrew, if you don't dress up as a chicken, there's no point of me dressing up as a chicken.' And he was like, 'Yes, you are.'"
Andrew: "Yeah, I wasn't happy."
11. There was a reason why the Saturday morning show Fully Booked was in studios in Scotland.
Toby: "A lot was coming out from London, and we used to have those big BBC hubs around the country, and Scotland was a big hub up there, and it was decided that we do half the year from London and half the year from Scotland. In terms of where it comes from, I think it's quite important. And both shows did really well."
12. And even once you leave CBBC, people still ask about what you did. And still freak out when they see you.
Angellica: "What is bizarre is that I interviewed a little boy who I took a picture with during my CBBC days. And since I've had to interview him for The One Show on a film as a contributor. Random."