a clip of the show
The black chair, the spotlight, the ominous theme tune and quick-fire
questions from fearsome presenter John Humphrys - it's
the classic Mastermind formula, but taking their place in the hot seat
are some of the UK's brightest children.
The spotlight focuses on ten and 11-year-olds striving to emulate the
success of last year's champion - Daniel from Cardiff.
Junior Mastermind follows the same format as the adult series, with
each contestant answering two minutes on a chosen specialist subject
and two minutes on general knowledge.
When John was first asked to present Junior Mastermind last year,
he was not convinced it would work.
"I thought we would either have to dumb down the questions (so it wouldn't
really be Mastermind) or make the children look a bit silly. We didn't
make the questions easier - they struck me as really tough - but the
children did brilliantly.
"The reason it worked so well with the audience was that everyone
recognised this. We did not patronise the children and they rose magnificently
to the occasion."
This time, the contestants have chosen specialist subjects as diverse
as The Life and Career of Michael Schumacher, Egyptian Mythology, The
History of Cadbury, The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Black Holes.
"The range of subjects was extraordinary," says John, "I thought that
too many children would want to do Harry Potter!"
Of the 20 hopefuls who appear in the heats, only six will make it through
to the grand final on Saturday 21 May (one from each of the heats and
the highest scoring runner-up).
Only one can take the title of Junior Mastermind 2005.
John gives an insight into what he thinks makes a Junior Mastermind
champion. "You have to have a good memory, but I think a bit more than
that," he says. "These children really understand their subjects and
are genuinely interested in them.
"They are also remarkably cool under pressure. I wouldn't sit
in that chair for a king's ransom, but it didn't seem to worry them
Not only are the contestants Masterminds when it comes to their specialist
interests, but many of them also have bold ambitions for later life.
Abigail, from Falkirk, wants to be Prime Minister and gives her verdict
on Tony Blair. "I just don't think we've got a very good Prime Minister
right now!" she laughs.
James, from Sheffield, wants to be a barrister, not to defend justice,
but as he explains: "Because you get a lot of money!"
Another contestant had a particular reason for wanting to appear on
Junior Mastermind. Andrew, from Glasgow, has Asperger's syndrome, a
form of autism. "I wanted to show that people like me can live a normal
life and also that we're not what people think," explains Andrew. "It's
not a life sentence." As his specialist subject, Andrew chose The Star
Wars Trilogy and cites Return Of The Jedi as his favourite film.
Meeting such intelligent children has restored John's faith in the
education system. "I'd always known there were bright children around;
I just hadn't realised how many there were," he says.
"The really interesting and encouraging thing was that children from
state schools did just as well as those from independents."
And John was also surprised by some of the specialist subjects, particularly
that The Beatles are still popular with young people.
Jackson, from London, who answers questions on the Fab Four, admits
that some of his school friends prefer hip hop or rap.
"I'm not saying it's terrible, but chart music doesn't really have
much tune compared to what The Beatles did. The Beatles were great from
their early records like Love Me Do right up to Abbey Road, where they
were using all these amazing effects that really changed so much in
While the contestants are obviously keen to win, they are all looking
forward to the whole experience of appearing on Junior Mastermind.
"I think it will be really interesting seeing how it's filmed and what
goes on backstage," says Isabel, from County Durham. "And just being
on TV will be brilliant!"
But Joseph, from Salisbury, has other ideas: "I'm most looking forward
to seeing my mum's face when she sees herself on TV!"
Jackson sums up the appeal: "I'm looking forward to answering questions
on the subject I love, against the clock. It will be very exciting."
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