A couple got so fed up with the mindless drivel that passed for children’s entertainment on television that they created their very own TV channel. Jezz Wright, 44, and Julianne Martin, 35, found that they were having to switch off their television on a regular basis because they found the quality of children’s programmes on offer was ‘numbing’ their two young children’s brains. Now their own channel – www.jackandholly.com – has become so popular that it is an internet hit.
The married couple called programmes such as Power Rangers and In The Night Garden ‘virtual e-numbers’ and believed that all they did was made children hyperactive, so they decided to create their own, which included animations and aimed to educate children, rather than rot their brains.
The animations featured characters called Jack and Holly, who are best friends and through a series of short films, learn something of educational value through their adventures. The stories are designed for pre-school children and can be downloaded via the internet. The 15-minute episodes have to be started by children’s parents, which means that the children cannot simply sit in front of a television or computer screen all day, as Mr Wright and Miss Martin both believe this gets youngsters to interact with their parents and discuss the show.
The new television channel has proved to be such a success that the site is now receiving more than 500,000 monthly hits worldwide on the animated tales, and apparently US visitors are most frequent. Experts reckon the venture could now become a multi-million-pound business with the right investment.
Mr Wright, who works as a freelance media lecturer and lives in Norwich with his wife and their two children Cillian, eight, and Beth, five, said: ‘We’re delighted with the success we have had. That was never the aim, so it has been a terrific bonus. We were just fed up with all the unnecessary nonsense children’s heads are filled with. We wanted to make something we felt happy about our son and daughter sitting down to watch. When we were young, there would be a short spell after school when you could watch children’s TV. Now there are entire channels dedicated to it. The massive problem with TV for pre-schoolers in the UK is that you are either sending them to la-la land with the Tele-tubbies, or making them hyper watching programmes like the Power Rangers. TV effectively becomes virtual e-numbers for children with nothing remotely stimulating for them.’
The television channel is a real family affair as both Cillian and Beth contribute to the show by doing the voices of Jack and Holly. Miss Martin added: ‘Jack And Holly isn’t filling children’s heads with rubbish but it still captures the imagination enough for them to be entertained. It harks back to old-school, traditional values in terms of children’s TV, fulfilling genuine educational material. At least that’s what we’ve aimed for.’
The inspiration behind the television channel began when Cillian was four and began asking questions about Christmas. The couple looked for suitable programmes to help explain the meaning of Christmas, but could not find anything suitable. So instead they decided to create Jack And Holly’s Christmas Countdown, a 70-minute animated film about the friends discovering the true meaning of Christmas. It proved so popular with their children and friends’ children that they decided to continue.
Mr Wright produces and writes each episode, Cillian performs the voice of Jack and Miss Martin performs the voice of Holly. Family friend Graham Jones draws the animations, which have been expanded to a whole series of stories. Last month, Mr Wright and Miss Martin launched their own online channel, so if you have a Roku TV Box or a smart TV, you can stream their programmes via the internet, like BBC iPlayer.
The programmes can currently be downloaded for free but the couple also sell DVDs via their website, www.jackandholly.com. The channel was set up on a ‘shoestring budget’ and currently operate on a not-for-profit basis, instead any profits are donated to children’s hospices across the UK.
Industry experts however, have told them their creation has the potential to make them millionaires. Mr Wright said: ‘With the right investment we certainly believe the business could potentially be worth more than £500,000 within just a year or so. From there who knows? We’ve been told the sky’s the limit. The response has been so terrific – it shows parents are looking for quality programming for their children. And at least we finally have something for our two to watch.’