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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 July, 2005, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
Little Britain
By Tracy Jeune
Executive Producer, My Life as a Child

Yasmine

What does the world look like to a child? We've all been there, so we should know. But memories fade and nostalgia gets in the way. To discover what childhood is really like today, the makers of a new BBC TV series handed small digital camcorders to 21 children to record their lives.

Chelsea, from London, has observed men looking at her very beautiful mother in the street. "I just feel like, go home and stare at your wife."

Blake, in Grimsby, knows there are different types of men in the world. "Not gay enough, just gay enough, gay and then supergay - meaning you are gay."

Ellen, from Cardiff, wishes she got on better with her step father. "...the first few weeks I was terrible. We both were. We both were shouting at each other I felt like I just wanted to leave."

Danny, in Essex, reckons "You've got one life and that's it. Everyone says you come back as a fish or an animal. But what are you going to do when you're a fish?"

Such thoughts might seem passing fare coming from a young adult, or an older teenager even, but they are all the more remarkable when one considers they are the thoughts of children aged only eight, nine and 11.

MY LIFE AS A CHILD
Six part series
Tuesdays from 5 July 2005
2150 BST on BBC Two
These children, and 17 others feature in My Life as a Child, a new BBC Two series which offers a unique and honest view of the world through the eyes of seven-to-11-year-olds - a sort of snapshot of little Britain.

The series took two years to make and was filmed by the children themselves, with the full support and encouragement of their parents.

In every case parents had the courage to accept that no subjects were "off limits" to their child's camera, and that they were not allowed to watch their child's footage whilst they shot their film.

Trust between the families and the production team was essential and to help build that understanding a pilot programme was made.

An intimate portrait of family life emerged on the videotapes. In almost every case, when the parents did finally watch their children's film, they were not so much surprised by the content of the material, but the tone, manner and often deep insight into the family dynamic their offspring revealed.

"That's spot on. That's me. That's us," one mother declared about her daughter's film.

Children are far more perceptive and aware of their surroundings and situations than adults realise
The children set their own rules. They chose what to talk about and what to film. Some of the younger participants had soft toys attached to the microphone so they had a face to talk to, but other than that concession to their age, their grasp of technology would put an adult to shame.

Some hung on their cameras for a long time. Mary, in episode one, had hers for nearly five months. Other children had said all they wanted to say in less than two months.

Untidy bedrooms, dressing up, sibling rivalry are all subjects an adult viewer might expect children to discuss when left on their own to talk to a camera. And that was all there, along with hours of footage of computer games and sleeping pets.

But the production team which built up trust with the families over time, found unexpected subjects and levels of understanding on the tapes: the nature of parental relationships; what it means to be part of a family; the difficulties of living in two homes when parents split up; and how to juggle your life around it, even God.

In episode six - Soul Sisters - seven-year-old India struggles with proof of the existence of God.

"I used to belief firmly that He was there, the reason why was because everybody always says God is there... there are so many bibles. How do you know that they're true? It's just doubted me all down again."

No subject, it seems, is too big for a child's imagination. What does emerge across the series is that children are far more perceptive and aware of their surroundings and situations than adults realise, despite the fact we've were all that age once.

Below are three stories, two of which feature in the first programme, called Distant Dads.

MARY, AGED NINE

Mary
My mum, I don't think she's learnt that important thing that Dad doesn't love her and that Dad isn't the right man for her
Mary

The first time I met Mary at her school, I knew she was special, writes Josie Milani, assistant producer.

She has the most amazing face and is very expressive and open about her emotions. Mary lives with her mum, Vanessa, and two brothers. Her parents are divorced, and her father left home two years ago. He has gone to live in Portugal.

"Dad tried to get [mum] back in the first year, she said no. In the second year mum said we were all unhappy and tried to get him back, he said no. So they both tried, they both failed, unfortunately," says Mary.

In Mary's film, the family go to Portugal on holiday to visit her father and his new girlfriend for the first time. For Mary and her brothers it's a chance to see their Dad. Before setting off, Mary is in high spirits.

"I want to see my Dad most of all, my Dad's friend called Anna-Maria, I want to see the animals, I want to see the seaside, I want to go to the pubs and all that stuff, I'm really, really looking forward to it."

The holiday starts well. "It is really weird seeing mum and dad together, normally when they're together they just fight but today we were just all calm and chilled out."

Later, Mary becomes concerned about her mother. She wants her parents to be happy but realises this is harder for her mother than her father.

"Mum and Dad are a bit iffy, they're getting on well and they're not because they had two fights, the first one was about drink. Dad started it and then Mum started it about jealousy, the green-eyed monster, cos she still loves my dad a bit."

She still wants her parents to get back together but she also knows it's unlikely. For her mother, this is hard to come to terms with.

"Going to Portugal has made me expect the fact that mum and dad are never going to get back together. I already did expect it but now I know they will never, ever in this lifetime or the next, will ever get back together. My mum, I don't think she's learnt that important thing that Dad doesn't love her and that Dad isn't the right man for her... But she hasn't learnt it yet, so we're going to have to try and get her to learn it."

Mary is a remarkable girl with a huge heart and enormous insight into herself and the adult world around her. Her mother thought the series would be a wonderful opportunity for Mary to express herself and she was right.

KRISTOPHER, AGED 11

Kristopher with his mum and step dad
My mum normally takes me every year, not for my Baba's benefit and not for my mum's, but for my benefit so I know where I come from
Kristopher

My first impressions of Kristopher, when I met him in Scotland were that he was clever, studious and thoughtful, writes Karen Willis, assistant producer.

He took to the camera with ease. Kristopher's mum, Eleanor, and his stepfather Kevan, were supportive and curious about the project. I visited them often to build up trust and to make sure everyone, (including his younger sister, Antonia), understood about the camera belonging to Kristopher, for the duration of the making of his film.

Kristopher's finished film is centred around his visit to see his "biological" or real dad, in Turkey, whom he calls "Baba". He is proud of being half Turkish and wants to film his "second life in Turkey".

"I like going to Istanbul because I've got friends there, family there, a life there. My mum normally takes me... every year, not for my Baba's benefit and not for my mum's, but for my benefit so I know where I come from."

However, in Istanbul, the trip does not go according to plan, and Kristopher doesn't end up spending as much time with Baba as he thought he would.

"Some things disappointed me in Istanbul, like when we went to the bazaar to see my Baba. I was disappointed because I waited most of the day for him but he took some time off to go somewhere else."

YASMINE, AGED EIGHT

Yasmine
I am quite mean to my dad, and I don't know why - My mum is like the boss of us
Yasmine

Bend it like Beckham was the image which immediately sprang to mind when I first started visiting Yasmine, a bright eight-year-old football fanatic from Sheffield, whose mother is Bangladeshi and father, English, writes Gemma Brown, assistant producer.

In her film Yasmine talks about her family dynamic, and about her parents' everyday spats.

"My mum and dad fight a lot, they fight every two days or even every day. I tend to take sides with my mum because she's my mum and we're closer and she's always right and my dad's always wrong."

She spends much time pondering her relationship with her dad.

"I am quite mean to my dad, and I don't know why particularly. My mum is like the boss of us, the mother of both of us. It's just like I've not got a dad and then my actual dad is my brother and we're always fighting, fighting, fighting.

"He's like a little kid in my class and mum's the teacher. I say to him stuff like 'I'm telling on you' and go to my mum and say 'Well Dad did this and he didn't even do this and he's really mean, so tell him off Mummy'."

As an only child, Yasmine is used to constant attention and the camera was a chance to turn her attention away from herself to others. She confides in it, and explores her feelings. "Since I've had the camera, I know a lot more actually about me... like my Dad, I knew I loved him all along but obviously I think I love him a bit more."

My Life as a Child begins on BBC Two at 2150 BST on Tuesday 5 July 2005 and continues on Tuesdays for the following five weeks.


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