Vicky Edwards meets – Diana Hinshelwood

Diana Hinshelwood
Diana Hinshelwood

Involved in the creation of some of the best-loved children’s programmes – Lazytown, The Bedtime Hour and Sarah and Duck to name but a few – when Diana from Southbourne started at the BBC, she was hoping for a career in news and current affairs.

But then a brief spell in the children’s department led to a light bulb moment.

“It wasn’t part of the plan, but I loved it” said Diana, who now has many successes to her credit and several projects in development.

So, what are the key ingredients for a great children’s show?

“Children love to see the funny side of things so definitely comedy and humour, with slapstick being a particular favourite.

“It’s also important that you don’t patronise; talk TO children, not AT them.

“A strong narrative, a good story and characters that they can really relate to are also key.”

Talking of identifiable characters, Diana sites one particular programme that was widely criticised on its debut.

“The initial reaction to The Teletubbies from the industry and parents was one of horror. There was outrage because the characters didn’t speak properly, but children understood it perfectly and knew exactly who they were; these characters talked like they did. It turned children’s television on its head.”

There has been much debate about children watching television. Does Diana have any thoughts on the subject?

“Television is one of the best mediums for educating children and the quality and range of programmes today is amazing. It’s about interacting, ideas, creativity – most programmes are underpinned by educational values, even if it’s not obvious. And those that are entertainment still have moral frameworks. For example, Ben 10 is a classic tale of good vs evil.

“Clearly children shouldn’t watch television all day, but it’s up to parents to regulate how much their children watch.

“Television inspires and fires the imagination because children are so receptive to ideas.

“A dish runs away with a spoon? Of course it does! Take In the Night Garden. It’s beautiful and surreal and children adore it.”

Finding it interesting to note how children’s tastes have changed, becoming more sophisticated over the years, Diana admits that things she loved as a child aren’t always as popular with her son. “Children today are used to a much faster pace.

“They don’t always respond to the tweeness of stories and programmes enjoyed by previous generations.”

Asked to pick her favourite projects, Diana chooses CBeebies shows Sarah and Duck, on which she is currently working and describes as ‘fabulously bonkers’, and also Lazytown.

“Lazytown characters were brilliant to write for, especially Robbie Rotten who is the perfect pantomime villain. It was my idea to adapt it as a CBeebies radio show. I ended up writing and directing 42 episodes,” she laughs.

And while she has a degree in sports therapy and is a qualified aerobics and gym instructor, Diana can’t see herself switching careers.

“I absolutely love television. I count myself lucky to be paid for doing something I love. What more could I want?”