Last year’s Children’s Media Conference (CMC) was one of the myriad events forced to go online almost overnight as a result of the pandemic, but organising 2021’s event has been a far smoother affair. Helen Dugdale finds out what’s in store.
With a packed agenda of webinars and panels playing host to broadcasters, co-producers, funders and investors from across the world, the theme for CMC 2021 Online is ‘Together’, aiming to tackle the urgent issues facing the children’s media industry and young audiences.
Last year’s bespoke online platform was developed at great speed, but has since been honed, allowing delegates access to extra strands of VOD content covering topics including ‘Research’, ‘The Art of…’, ‘Inclusivity Now’ and presentations by CMC’s cohort of young speakers: The Changemakers.
According to editorial director Greg Childs, creating new networking opportunities has been a main focus. “We appreciate people come to CMC wanting to meet. So, we’re trying to recreate that sense online of people bumping into each other at the bar in Sheffield. Delegates will be able to attend networking in small groups and direct message each other inside the conference platform. We want to put people in touch with each other as much as possible,“ he explained.
Engaging with the audience
Running 5-9 July, the event is offering up two unique keynotes. This year’s opening speaker is Global Teacher Prize winner Andria Zafirakou, discussing ‘The Power of Potential – Learning Together’. Zafirakou, an art and textiles teacher, is passionate about changing young people’s lives through creativity. Using the money awarded by the Global Teacher Prize, she founded a charity called Artists in Residence to improve arts education in schools.
During the event, she will share insights on inspiring and empowering kids and will reveal the greatest lessons she has learned while engaging with young people. Zafirakou will consider how creators of media content should understand their responsibilities to them.
Childs said Zafirakou brings a fresh view of young people to CMC. “Her no-nonsense approach combined with her passion to realise the potential of every child through the power of creative engagement will both inspire delegates and challenge us to think again about how we are talking to young people – and how much they are listening.”
In a brand-new slot, presenter, author and actor, Konnie Huq, will be the inaugural ‘The Key To…’ keynote interviewee. Huq will discuss her three decades as a presenter and writer – her experiences, inspirations, and what she cares about most when it comes to kids’ media, current and future.
She said: “To be a keynote is a real honour. I’ve worked in children’s media my whole adult life and believe we in this industry have a responsibility and mandate, which if got right, can impact future generations in the UK. People are shaping and forming in their primary years and if given the right values and liberal amounts of altruism, the future is bright. I’m excited about discussing this further, together with the kids’ media community on 6 July.”
Huq was the first presenter of Channel 5’s Milkshake! and went on to become CBBC staple Blue Peter’s longest-serving female presenter from 1997-2008. She is the author of three books published by Piccadilly Press and a live-action Cookie TV series based on the novels is in development with Zodiak Kids.
“This new event is not an opening keynote where somebody has got a passionate campaign and wants to thump the lectern, it’s different” reveals Childs. “We’re thrilled to welcome Konnie to launch our new format – ‘The Key To…’ interview. We thought it’d be fun to set up an interview scenario where someone can talk about both their career and what they care about. Konnie wants to empower kids, especially girls, to take on STEM subjects. Plus, being a mother of two, all adds up to a fascinating set of perspectives on current and future prospects for the kids’ media scene.”
This year’s Inclusivity Now strand will hold sessions looking at how the media should be thinking about promoting kids and their wellbeing, with subsections around empowerment. The conference welcomes comedian and presenter Rose Jones to evoke a discussion around the language media creators use to describe disabilities.
“There is a whole bunch of kids coming out of the pandemic not happy with the way their schooling works and now they know that things can be different. I think we’ve got to ask ourselves questions as to how we work with that,” says Childs.
While CMC is a meeting of the minds for experienced children’s content creators, there is also a host of new delegates with freshly typed pitches hoping to secure a deal or receive some encouraging words of wisdom.
Jane Finch, founder of J-Toon Production, is an excited newbie. She has developed an animation based on her childhood growing up in the removals industry. Like many creatives heading to the conference, Finch is hoping to get some advice on financing her first IP.
“The cartoon concept I’m hoping to pitch at CMC is educational, but charming in a way that engages young minds to the possibility that moving home is an exciting adventure and it doesn’t have to be stressful. It’s called Happy Moovers and is about a little girl whose dad runs a removal company. She plays in the removal company depot, and travels in the van with him to different locations, delivering furniture for other people who are moving home, as well as having adventures along the way. I’m excited to share my story with everyone.”
New to the event, but not to the media industry, Tim Hague is an ex-BBC journalist and presenter, and the creator and founder of social impact and enterprise company and series, Tiger And Tim. He describes the show, which he presents alongside an animated tiger, as an educational and entertaining movement for a preschool audience. It has already attracted 1.2million views on YouTube and various streaming apps and Hague has been approached by US broadcasters about commissioning the show. He is looking to secure corporate partners at CMC to support him in conversations with broadcasters.
“Our major focus is to make kids fall in love with learning and literacy. Literacy levels around the world are an international disgrace. The one thing I hope to get out of the conference is to make more people aware of our social impact business and get more support – with a view to a commission. We have every ingredient to become a global brand but need a helping hand. The more commercially successful the brand becomes, the more we can drive our social impact agenda,” explains Manchester-based Hague.