Report – Creative Keynote: Dani Harmer and Jacqueline Wilson
● Tracy Beaker is back, all grown up and bringing up her own daughter.
● Dani Harmer: ‘Unless you’re in a soap, you don’t normally get this kind of role.’
● Mobile phones have ruined so much for writers!
● Children love naughtiness and recognise that Tracy has learnt to be tough and stick up for herself, but underneath she just wants her mum.
● Jacqueline Wilson: ‘I’m in the mind of a child; I see things from a child’s point of view.’
Sue Nott, CMC Advisory Chair, introduced this keynote session as the first in-person CMC panel since lockdown; live from a studio, complete with extra-long socially distanced sofas!
Rhianna Dhillon started by reminding ‘Tracy Beaker’ author Jacqueline Wilson, and Tracy Beaker actor Dani Harmer they were on ‘Blue Peter’ together about 20-years before and asked Jacqueline if she knew she would still be writing about Tracy today.
‘Absolutely not – she’s been my lucky character,’ said Jacqueline, adding that it was the later television series that really made Tracy Beaker a household name. She never guessed Tracy would be a mum 20-years on. And why is the character so popular? Jacqueline said she believes it’s because she’s naughty. ‘Children love naughtiness and recognise that Tracy has learnt to be tough and stick up for herself, but underneath she just wants her mum.’
When the book, ‘My Mum, Tracy Beaker’, was published, Dani admitted she was waiting for the call. ‘Unless you’re in a soap, you don’t normally get this kind of role.’
When Jacqueline first saw the 12-year-old Dani, she thought that CBBC had absolutely got it right with the casting, and with the new series, she has a wonderful feeling of continuity that almost feels like family. She reckoned that Tracy has been part of the 20-somethings’ growing up. ‘And the thirty-somethings,’ Dani added.
Rhianna asked how the books and TV series differed. Jacqueline said that at first the of ‘My Mum, Tracy Beaker’ had stuck to the book, but that later episodes had expanded on her work while keeping the feeling of the book. As for Tracy’s famous catchphrase, Jacqueline said that ‘bog off’ was created for Tracy’s TV persona. Jacqueline said that did not necessarily picture Dani when she wrote Tracy, as she wrote in the first person. ‘I’m in the mind of a child; I see things from a child’s point of view.’
Dani thought that it was always going to be hard to cast Mini Beaker (Tracy’s daughter, Jess), but she thought Emma Maggie Davies is amazing and has a bright future ahead of her. Dani later reflected that she would have felt a lot more pressure as a child actor in the age of social media. Jacqueline believes that mobile phones have ruined so much for writers, plotwise, but because the story is based in the modern world, she has to go with the flow. As for ideas, she said that she mulls them, often thinking about them while waiting in the supermarket queue. If they are still in her mind when she gets home, there is a chance that they might work.
Both Dani and Jacqueline stated that the series was very much Tracy’s story and that not every person brought up in care would identify with her life as a mother or the successful lives of other recurring characters from the Dumping Ground, such as Peter and Justine. However, Jacqueline has met with many from the care system who, like Tracy, have gone on to become excellent parents. She likes to keep up with the changing world of the care system and often gets invited to awards ceremonies and is a member of the East Sussex Foster Care Association.
Jacqueline explained that she has been lucky, regarding adaptations of her work, to have known the teams involved. She’s happy for them to make changes to her work, as long as it seems carefully thought out. When she’s on set, she behaves well and sits in the corner. The one thing she’s always wanted to do, though, is to be involved in the casting sessions.
‘I would have passed out if Jacqueline had been in the room wen I auditioned ,’ quipped Dani, ‘I’d never have got the job.’