Southend’s creative industry received a huge boost last week as local TV production firm Cockles and Mussels Productions was awarded a £6 million BBC contract to produce one hundred episodes of the revamped children’s television classic Teletubbies.
However, Cockles and Mussels Productions is already in hot water as plans for the revamped multi-faith format have been slammed by local Christian groups for not having a single outwardly Christian character.
The new format introduces a host of new characters including Vishnu, Shakti-Wakti, Pohammed, Ba-Bar and Steve – a Sikh, a Hindu, a devout Muslim, and for the first time an openly gay interracial couple.
Southend News Network spoke to the MD of Cockles and Mussels Productions Nigel Fluff, and he told our Chief Reporter that this was a bright new beginning for a popular and eternally-loved kids TV show. Nigel is also the fifth-cousin seven times removed of Theresa Jackemov, controller of under 3’s programming at the BBC.
He said: ‘We think it’s important to ensure that all faiths and aspects of modern culture are represented in kids TV. Positive images of extremely devout Muslims chilling with homosexuals and playing peacefully with other religions are quite rare in children’s programming.’
If you get to children young enough you can make them think anything is normal – it’s not called ‘programming’ for nothing!’
The new contract is a huge boost for Southend and will create at least forty jobs, with grants being made available from the EU Creative Industries Fund, the BBC and the National Lottery to train apprentices from ethnically and culturally-diverse backgrounds.
Terence Flump is the Southend and District Co-Ordinator for Essex First – the right-wing pressure group whose operating policy is ‘to promote the values of Essex culture and heritage in order to protect the identity of the county.’
He said: ‘While I welcome the news that the TV show will create a huge amount of new jobs in the area, we are concerned that children from Essex will not see a traditional Essex-based character on screen.’
‘I’m all for seeing Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and interracial gay couples, but surely it would have also been appropriate to see another Teletubby riding a scooter and pestering adults to buy them cigarettes while they hang around outside Tesco Express.’
According to inside sources, the revamped show will launch in 2017.