Some of children’s television’s most famous faces are heading for the Sheffield stage – led by family favourite Justin Fletcher.
The 44-year-old star of Something Special, Gigglebiz and Justin’s House is bringing some of his TV characters and friends to the city’s Motorpoint Arena in Mr Tumble’s Circus.
Justin says: “We wanted to highlight Mr Tumble in this show, so we thought ‘what’s his background’. Well he’s a clown, so why not bring the circus to town?
“There are speciality acts - juggling, balancing, along with a host of other CBeebies presenters.
“And we are bringing a plethora of my characters from all three shows, including Robert the Robot, Little Monster, Aunt Polly and Keith Fit – who’s going to be doing his workout on the stage.
“It’s a challenge, because I’ll be running around backstage donning many costumes, but it’s going to be great fun.”
An Arena spokesman said: “Roll up, roll up, Justin is back in a new production.
“Come and join in the excitement with Mr Tumble - as well as a host of other Tumbles from Something Special, including Aunt Polly and Grandad Tumble. See Cat Sandion and Swashbuckle presenter Gem, in their first CBeebies Live! show, along with the adventurous Andy Day.
“But Mr Tumble’s Circus is delayed en route.
“The CBeebies mega-stars with the help of Gigglebiz favourites, including Keith Fitt, Dina Lady, Gale Force and Arthur Sleep, must swing into action and save the day.
“In doing so, they discover that they too have some pretty amazing talents as well, but with Robert The Robot insisting everyone do their chores and Little Monster just wanting to cause mayhem and mischief, will Justin and the CBeebies stars help get Mr Tumble’s Circus to town on time?”
Mr Tumble is undoubtedly the star of the show, having been taken to children’s hearts through his appearances on Something Special a programme aimed at children with delayed learning and communication difficulties and which introduces them to Makaton sign language.
“My favourite show is definitely Something Special,” says Justin. “We have been filming that for 15 years now and the feedback we get from the children, parents and teachers is just phenomenal.
“When you realise the impact of the show helping children learn how to communicate, it wins hands down every time.
“I think the nation has embraced Mr Tumble, and the show is very special.
“It was conceived by Allan Johnston who came to me and said he wanted to do a small show and there was a character called Mr Tumble and I thought ‘great’, I can bring my slapstick skills to the table.
“It struck a chord and overnight he became very popular.”
Justin was inspired to get into children’s TV by watching Philip Schofield in the early 1980s.
He appeared in Playdays and Tikkabilla, before becoming a continuity presenter on CBeebies and developing his own three shows – with Mr Tumble giving him the chance to develop his own slapstick comedy.
“I am a big lover of slapstick,” says Justin, who was made an MBE in 2008 for services to ‘children’s broadcasting and the voluntary sector’.
“I watched a lot of Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and, of course, Laurel & Hardy when I was younger, and still do now.
“Those pioneering comedians are still funny to this day. Modern children will watch Laurel & Hardy and belly laugh.
“Slapstick is not done so much nowadays and I think I’m flying the flag for that form of comedy.”
And it is something he is keen to continue for children in the future.
“I’m not going to leave children’s television, because it’s what I love doing,” he says, “at least as long as the body holds out, because I tend to throw myself about and tumble around a bit.
“I will always keep one foot firmly in children’s television, because it’s where I started. I’ll probably come up with another format in the future, and will perhaps look at doing some adult comedy – I think that may appeal.
“I try to create shows that will appeal to everyone. The key thing for me is to make shows for the family to watch, together. I think that is vital, particularly in this age of iPads and other platforms. I like to put some comedy in there that the adults will like, as well as the kids.
“I saw Shaun The Sheep Movie the other day and I would love to do a Justin feature-length film one day. I think that would be nice, but nothing’s been discussed just yet. That would be a dream of mine though.”
For now through, he is happy to be tumbling about on stage.
* Justin & Friends: Mr Tumble’s Circus is on at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena on Easter Monday, April 6, at 1.30pm and 4.45pm. For tickets, call 0114 256 5656.