Blue Peter's Lindsey Russell in Belfast for Cinemagic kids festival
Ahead of her appearance at this month's Cinemagic festival Jenny Lee chats to Blue Peter presenter Lindsey Russell about the challenges of live children's television and her epic journey across the Irish Sea inside a plastic zorb
THE last time Blue Peter presenter Lyndsey Russell was in the north of Ireland, she was climbing inside a giant plastic zorb on the beach of Donaghadee to embark upon a 20-mile journey across the Irish Sea to Portpatrick, Scotland, in aid of Sports Relief.
Fast forward eight months and the 25-year-old is looking forward to returning to a drier experience as she hosts two workshops in this month's Cinemagic Festival.
Lindsey, together with fellow CBBC Officially Amazing presenter Ben Shires, will host a behind-the-scenes look at the Bafta Children’s Awards with live demonstrations, challenges and Q&As with some of the talented people behind the films, television and games nominated at last year’s awards, including Adventure Time, Horrible Histories, Operation Ouch, Paddington and Wolfblood.
They will also be hosting the Bafta kids TV presenting workshop, offering seven-to-11-year-olds an insight into the world of live television answering questions such as: 'How do you prepare for filming?' 'What are the best interviewing techniques?' and 'Can you stop yourself laughing in front of the camera?'
As a Blue Peter presenter, Lindsey has had many occasions to stop herself from giggling when things don't go according to plan.
"We are live every week of the year so things are bound to go wrong. I’ve tripped down stairs and fallen on my face and my guide dog has got off her lead and ran across the studio. It’s kids telly, it’s allowed. The best part of my job is often when stuff goes wrong – it can lead to some amazing moments.”
The Oxford girl landed the role as Blue Peter's 36th host in 2013 after triumphing in a viewer vote from the three finalists in the Blue Peter – You Decide series.
"I always wanted to get into television and in my last year at uni I put together a presenting show-reel and sent it off to the Blue Peter competition. I heard that 23,000 people had applied for it and I never expected to hear back. I guess I just lucked out."
For Lindsey, who was finishing her degree in French and drama, it was her dream job. "Watching Blue Peter was part of my after-school routine. I would sit and eat my sandwiches and watch Connie Hug, Matt Baker and Katy Hill. It’s just an amazing show to be a part of; I’m really proud of it."
And why does she believe Blue Peter, the world's longest-running kids show, is still so popular almost 60 years after it's creation? "I think it's because we stayed true to what it originally was. There are little parts of it that have modernised, but we still do all the makes, bakes and live shows with the Blue Peter pets and children's choirs."
Seven-to-14-year-old's interested in being a Blue Peter presenter of the future can start by entering the Bafta young presenter competition, which Lindsey will help judge, and have the opportunity to host behind-the-scenes coverage at the British Academy Children’s Awards in November.
And what will the judges be looking for? "We find a lot of the qualities presenters need are qualities that kids need in life in general – confidence and self-esteem. You don't need to be perfect, but willing to give it a go. Also a bit of humour helps."
Blue Peter presenters certainly have to give the many zany and gruelling challenges 'a go'. Lindsey admits some of her favourites were also her worst. "I guess with every challenge comes blood, sweat and tears and my favourite was either the18-hour ski race I did with the Swiss army or my epic Wave Runner Challenge across the Irish Sea which was truly awful, but great."
Lindsey was forced to abandon her journey four miles short of the Scottish coastline due to bad weather. “The lovely people of Donaghadee have invited me back to try again but I had six months hard training inside that ball, so I need to put it to rest.”
Training is also involved for some of the show's live makes. "I had a pretty epic Shelley the Tortoise beanbag make that took two days of rehearsals," she laughs.
Away from the Blue Peter studio she has also appeared in two feature films, voices the character of Peony in Kung Fu Panda 3 and Hysteria in Danger Mouse. “I absolutely love voicing characters, though it is surprisingly tiring," adds Lindsey.
::Lindsey Russell will host the Bafta Kids: Behind the Scenes workshop at Odyssey Cinemas Belfast on October 11 at 10.30. See Cinemagic.org.uk.
To enter the Bafta competition visit Baftakids.org/young-presenter-competition.
FEAST OF FILM ON THE MENU AT CINEMAGIC
OVER 200 films are on the bill at this years Cinemagic Film and Television Festival programme from October 7-30. There are also a host of masterclasses and workshop aimed at giving young people an invaluable insight to the media industry, from animation and scriptwriting to Shaun the Sheep model making.
The festival opens with the screening of much anticipated animated adventure Storks and closes with the documentary Life, Animated from director Roger Ross Williams.
Guests from the world of film and TV who'll be in Belfast for the festival include film critic Mark Kermode and William McGregor, the 27-year-old director of Poldark and of BBC mini-series One of Us. Norfolk native William is a Cinemagic alumnus, winning the Belfast kids film festival's Annual Young Film-maker awards in 2010 with Who’s Afraid of the Water Sprite and in 2012 with his film Eradicate.
As well as bringing young people premieres and previews from the Hollywood studios, the diverse New World Cinema programme will celebrate stories, peoples and cultures from around the globe. Highlights include the adventure-filled Little Mountain Boy, animated/live action hybrid Monster Hunt, book-to-film adaptation Gamba and a remake of Heidi.
Special events for the juniors will include a focus on master storyteller Hans Christian Andersen, with film screenings of The Little Mermaid and Thumbelina.
:: For full programme details visit Cinemagic.org.uk. Online box office for public films and events Wegottickets.com.