Justin Fletcher is best known as Mr Tumble, the Cbeebies character who brings silliness and a smile to the TV screen. Despite his target audience being pre-schoolers and primary schoolers, Justin is very much an eligible bachelor, with mums all over Britain admitting they quite fancy the 38-year-old.
Justin, who is looking forward to having kids of his own one day (but is too busy right now), laughs off the suggestion that he has a huge adult female fan base, and focuses on what matters to him – making quality kids’ TV programmes. And there are so many of them.
He’s gone from Fun Song Factory, through the Tikkabilla Studio to Higgledy House and out on the road with Something Special. Now he has no less than three new BBC projects on the go, featuring nine new characters. Justin was recently awarded an MBE for services to children’s TV and the voluntary sector.
He gave us an insight into his busy schedule.
Is this your first time presenting a live tour?
“Yes, this is my fourth Cbeebies Live tour but my first as presenter. I love the live shows because you get to see and interact with the audience.”
Do you think up your own stuff?
“I do generally. A new pilot, Humphrey, went out on Monday and that’s a silent comedy character, very much modelled on Mr Bean. I’m a huge fan of silent comedy and as a child I watched Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy.
“There’s another pilot going out today for a programme called Gigglebox, which is basically a sketch show in the style of Little Britain. It’s Little Britain for very little Britons. There are six new characters in that and I hope that is well received.
“There’s also one more pilot for a new character called Captain Adorable – he is a superhero who has no super powers whatsoever. He thinks he’s needed by the town, and he has an entourage of people around him like a butler and an assistant who always save the day but they give Captain Adorable the credit.”
Which children’s TV presenter did you most want to be like, when you were younger?
“When I was in my third year of drama school, I was a big fan of Phillip Schofield and his broom cupboard. I made a showreel of myself doing my own broom cupboard, reading out letters, and I cut to three different characters, which were all me doing sketches.
“About two weeks after I sent it out I was offered a job working on Fun Song Factory.”
You seem to be lucky in rolling one TV show out of another.
“Higgledy House was a spin-off. It started as an insert for Tikkabilla and then we turned it into its own programme. Again, it was great to do the silent comedy and I enjoyed working with Sarah-Jane.
“Something Special also sprang out of me working on Tikkabilla – the producer asked us to do four episodes using the Makaton sign language. Following that, I was then asked to present Something Special and I had two weeks to learn about 300 words – it was all new to me.”
Which is your favourite of the shows you have made?
“I think Something Special is my favourite programme so far because I’ve seen the impact of it. We filmed the whole series on location, so we met a lot of parents and carers of children. The Makaton charity has been running for 30 years now, and I’ve got to know all the people who work there as well.
“I’m very lucky because I get people in supermarkets and on the street telling me their stories. I’ve heard from parents who’ve said that, after watching Something Special, their children have spoken or communicated with them for the first time. The programme is one of a kind.”
Who is your favourite Cbeebies character?
That’s really hard to say, although I have worked a lot with the Tweenies and they go down a storm at the live shows. They are very engaging and get the kids going. It’s like a rock concert when they are on stage.