CBBC - putting the heart into participation

Controller of CBBC

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Frantic phone calls are flying in and out of the CBBC offices in Salford and Events Manager Claire Rainford is fielding one bizarre query after another. "What's the best way to get a giant mermaid on a chariot front of stage; and how do we transport a throne, an ostrich egg and a pirate's chest to Gateshead?" are just a few of the practical issues she is wrestling with as the big day looms.

What is going on? What big day? I'll explain all.

One thing that sets CBBC apart from other broadcasters is that we offer unique opportunities to get involved with the Channel - from starring in shows like Junior Bake Off or Show Me What You're Made Of to writing in for a Blue Peter badge. We have such a confident and vibrant relationship with our viewers that last year they helped make a hugely important decision as they voted Lindsey Russell in as the newest face of the Blue Peter team at CBBC Live at Leeds.

Lindsey Russell was announced as presenter of Blue Peter at CBBC Live in Leeds in 2013.

38,500 people attended our inaugural live event in Leeds over the 3 days and we did all sorts of inspiring things both on TV and in our hands-on activity zones. We all loved doing it so much we thought we'd do it all again - this time next to BALTIC on the River Tyne.

So we're heading to NewcastleGateshead for three days - 29th, 30th and 31st of May and the Children's and Learning teams from Salford have been doing a fantastic job pulling everything together with our BBC North colleagues.

One of the main TV attractions will be Sam and Mark's Geordie Challenge - on Friday 30th. It's a one hour spectacular hosted by seasoned pros - Sam Nixon & Mark Rhodes joined by CBBC stars going head-to-head in this one off extravaganza. Challenge by name, challenge by nature! This project is a real treat to be involved in and the robust production team were under no illusion that it would be extremely difficult to put on a one hour live show at two months notice.

And so far they've been proved right. It's been a huge group effort across all the CBBC brands - Blue Peter, DNN, CBBC Presentation, Newsround will all be there on the day and help has poured in from Hacker Time, BBC Breakfast, Question Of Sport and Friday Download too. All live from the quayside…what could possibly go wrong?!

Hacker T Dog will be at CBBC Live in NewcastleGateshead

Inhouse Production are the very epitome of collaboration as they plan to share scanners and teams between the Geordie Challenge and Blue Peter, and the Presentation and Drama teams have worked together beautifully on how to reveal the result of the vote for the name of the new Dumping Ground Dog (more participation - we've had over 14,000 suggestions for our new canine cast member). Head of Inhouse Production Helen Bullough and Exec Annette Williams will be omni-present on the day ensuring that presenters don't get mobbed or Hacker T Dog doesn't stray (cue: groans all round) from his script.

The other things BBC North and CBBC are really proud of, are our commitment to partnership and innovation. Our colleagues in BBC Learning have been hard at work to ensure there will be lots of fun interactive activities for families coming along each day.

For example, their Creative Zone at CBBC Live will be jam-packed with digital whizzbangery. From game making to programming 'wearable' technologies creating has never been this much fun. You'll be able to cause mayhem for Steve Backshall by making a Deadly 60 game; help Hacker to find his lunch in the meat paste factory (no really) and bring an electronic mini-beast to life with the brand new BBC Code Bug.

Last year our interactive treasure hunt was a palpable hit. This year our tech-savvy chums have worked really hard to make a trail that's even bigger and better. Who would not wish to sport a CBBC Bracelet that is connected to the internet - a digital talisman distributed at the start of the hunt that remembers children¹s preferences through activity zones as they answer brand related multiple choice questions. It'll be like wearing 'The Future' right there on your wrist and I challenge anyone not to want to be part of that!

Lots of creative and industrious people have been very busy indeed and I haven't even got the space to mention the great things like the Wolfblood and Dumping Ground screenings (we make both shows - two of our most popular - in the North East you know?)

Across the three days our visitors will be entertained by some amazing local acts, from cheerleaders and beatboxers to circus performers and choirs. There'll be plenty of audience participation and the event will go out with a bang on Saturday at 2.00pm with a massive Dance Flash Mob, where everyone is expected to join in and show off their best moves.

And once the dancing stops, we'll hand over to our colleagues from the BBC's Religion and Ethics team who will be jumping onto our stage and filming the BBC's first ever Junior Songs of Praise Singalong. I know last month's The Great North Passion on BBC One, wowed the crowds in South Shields, and I'm sure this will do the same again for some younger audience members.

Everyone at BBC North – from CBBC to BBC Learning - are always on the look out for exciting partnerships and ways to innovate for audiences. And the brilliant, creative people from across the north east and our partners at NewcastleGateshead Initiative and Gateshead and Newcastle council who we have been able to work with, will be crucial in helping create great memories for kids who can make it to the event and those watching at home.

If you're in the area come along and join in with CBBC - or tune in to the Channel and check out the many ways you can get involved with us on TV and online. It's Take Part-y time.

Cheryl Taylor is Controller, CBBC

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