It was W. C. Fields (so they say) who said “don’t ever work with children and animals” – and his reasoning, apparently, was that they would draw attention away from their older co-cast members.
Well, as far as I’m concerned, that’s great – because it’s the children who deliver the funny, the truth and the special. Those things that make a programme entertaining!
That’s why producing “Dwylo’r Enfys” is such a pleasure. Don’t get me wrong – it can be quite challenging at times, and you have to be flexible. Often I’ll bin the lovingly prepared script within seconds because the child I’m filming has a better idea!
Take Ethan. I had thought that we would do some stroking and brushing of the donkey’s coat. But oh no, he had a better idea. How about leading the donkey? And even though I watched in trepidation as this little boy took the lead rein (animals can react unexpectedly of course), once we’d made sure there were enough adults close but out of shot, that’s what happened! And the programme immediately became more dynamic!
For years, our production company has been creating children’s programming which puts the children centre stage. We had three years of fun, filming children for the series “Y Diwrnod Mawr” which proved very popular with the children and with awards judging panels both in Wales and beyond from Bafta Kids UK to RTS and Rose D’Or.
But how did “Dwylo’r Enfys” happen? Well I was producing “Something Special” for Cbeebies out of Manchester at the time, and I’m sure that this experience lent some credibility in this specialist field when S4C wanted to commission a programme which would introduce Makaton in Welsh for the first time ever.
Ruth Thomas – who’s mum to Enfys, a little girl from Caernarfon with Downs Syndrome – had contacted S4C telling them (and rightly so) that there wasn’t a platform on the channel for children with Special Needs. Ruth had an idea for a programme which would do this. The channel were keen to have such a programme in their schedule, we came on board to develop the idea into a format and produce it and so Ruth’s dream was realised!
Ruth speaks very eloquently about how Makaton transformed her family’s life – there’s Ruth and Enfys, not forgetting fiance Eurwyn and son Danial. You can see a clip of Ruth’s talk on this website. It’s a part of the brand new Welsh Makaton Training Materials. Hopefully everyone will take advantage of this opportunity to learn about how you can communicate with everybody.
Of course, it’s vitally important that children with special communication needs have the opportunity to learn to sign in their own language. But if communication is to be successful, they need to communicate with others and the child’s community – in school, locally and of course within the family – needs to understand and use signing. That’s why we’re so pleased that this programme is popular with a mixed audience of little children – both those with communication difficulties and those without.
Enfys is one of the stars of the series, featured in a beautiful Christmas show with her friends from Pendalar Special School and Bontnewydd mainstream school.
And as it’s the start of the Christmas season, we’d like to share with you a video of the concert featuring the mixed choir singing one of “Dwylo’r Enfys’” fun and anthemic songs – “Dan Ni’n Ffrindiau” (We’re Friends)!