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    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.

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    1. Kids' presenters get the weirdest letters and emails.

    Unknown / BBC PICTURES
    CBBC /

    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.

    CBBC / Via

    Kirsten: "I got gunged on Get Your Own Back and I got the creamy muck muck in the bungalow, and the thing you didn't realise was how hard it is to get off. They would put you in the shower afterwards. God it was like glue! You were scraping at it and scrubbing at it, and trying to move it off your face."

    Andrew: "I remember getting gunged in the studio, and then everyone just left. And I had to find this really grim shower in TV Centre, on my own. And I was freezing."

    Kisten: "It was one thing with the coldness, actually it was quite pleasurable when you gloop into it. But afterwards, trying to get it off was another matter."

    Angellica: "I've been gunged a few times on CBBC, and days later I've found gunge in the most random of places. And that's all that I am going to say."

    3. When things went wrong, they went really wrong.


    Angellica: "Andrew and I were interviewing Steve Backshall from the Really Wild team and we had these really precarious chairs to sit on. And in the middle of a link, I just fell off the chair."

    Andrew: "I suppose I would occasionally forget the programme I was supposed to be linking into, especially when I first started."

    Toby: "Remember The Adventures of Superman? Dean Cain, who played Superman, was coming in and I thought, Brilliant, presumably he would come in as Superman, so I will come in a Superman costume. It came to five to five, and he came in, wearing a bloody suit. In a three-piece suit, and I was in my Lycra."

    Kirsten: "I remember one time we had little six-minute filler cartoons like Popeye and I remember once we were getting to it and I just heard a production assistant on my earpiece saying, 'The tape is not here!' So Dave [who operated Otis the Aardvark] and I were told to keep talking. For six minutes. This was in the days before texts, so we just grabbed a lot of kids' pictures, and really elaborated about what they've painted. 'Oh I’ve really like what you’ve done with Postman Pat here.'"

    Toby: "They asked if there was anything I would like to film outdoors for bits around the shows. I had who was an RAF pilot, so they asked, 'Why not film you being up in a hawk, doing some tricks?' They took me up in the plane and one of the stunts was, like, a loop-the-loop, so I thought I was OK but then I felt really sick, so I only held up being sick until we landed. Then camera comes up and asks 'How I am doing?' and I pulled out the bag from my jacket and was sick, with the camera in front of me.

    Andi Peters: "The good thing about it, not much of my years has been recorded, so you can't find much going wrong on YouTube. But let me assure you, loads of it went wrong. But when you're doing a live show, if it goes wrong, it's alright. You can rectify it in 25 minutes when you do the next link. You're only as ever good as your last link."

    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.

    Various / BBC PICTURES

    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.

    Unknown / BBC PICTURES

    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.

    Various / BBC PICTURES

    Angellica: "Sometimes we would meet people who were like, 'Gosh, it must have been really difficult to have worked with CBBC, working with all of those children and animals, having to be happy all the time' and you're sitting there going 'Well, no.' I was exactly the same person I was in real life on camera and a lot of the other presenters were too. You had perceptions of what a children's presenter should be."

    Andi: "We were true, so if things went wrong we used that to create more content. Some of the best bits you'll find of Live & Kicking and Going Live were when things went wrong, because we were never ashamed to experience because that was part of demystifying television."

    Angellica: "Young children are so savvy these days. They know – you don't have to talk down to them. You just be yourself."

    8. The biggest dilemma was the birthday cards.

    BBC / Via

    Kirsten: “The lengths parents would go to with creativity with the birthday cards. You were like, 'Oh my gosh there was so much effort gone into this' but at the same time you were like, 'But we shouldn’t choose the parents because of the effort that has gone in, because the other kids were just as deserving, even though some of these cards must have taken hours, if not days, if not weeks to make.'"

    Toby: “Obviously not everybody could afford the time or money to make these massive sparkly cards with designs and material all over them. Sometimes people could only afford little cards to send in. We had to balance it.”

    Andi: “It still goes on today. The number of people who said, ‘Oh you did my birthday card when I was growing up.' It always seem to be cabin crew as well, and they are like, ‘Oh I sent my card in and you read it. Do you remember?’ ‘Um, no I don’t.'”

    9. The presenters weren't always wasting time when the shows were on. They (usually) paid attention.

    Matthew Fearn / EMPICS Sports Photo Agency
    Myung Jung Kim / PA Archive/PA Images

    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.

    MJ Kim / Getty Images

    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.

    BBC Pictures
    BBC Pictures

    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."

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