I first spoke to Nigel Clarke a few months ago when TV show The Baby Club was launched. Nigel told me all about the show, which he presents along with Giovanna Fletcher. As he explained, inclusivity was the aim of the show. It was aiming to be inclusive of mums who couldn’t get out of the house, stay at home dads, people in rural areas who couldn’t get to playgroups and so on.
Nigel is someone with a varied TV and performing career, much of it spent presenting children’s programmes. That said, he has a lot going on and not all of it focused on television work.
Series two of the Baby Club has just launched, a live episode is in the pipeline and he’s off to Greece to perform in STOMP later this year. One of his most interesting ventures, however, is called Dadvengers. This is something he was inspired to start after speaking to dads while filming The Baby Club. During these conversations, Nigel, a dad of two himself, found many fathers felt there wasn’t much support for them. Dadvengers aims to address this.
That was a bit of background detail. I’ll let Nigel speak for himself.
Nigel, I really appreciate you agreeing to this. Let’s keep this simple so start. Can you please explain how you got into television work.
I got into TV by chance. I was studying dance and performing arts and wanted to become a dancer. While in my second year, I started to attend auditions. It was really just for the experience and practice and I actually got offered a job presenting a show for CBBC. This was way back in 1999, and the rest is history.
You’ve done so much over the years, from presenting on CBBC, Nickelodeon and even GMTV, not to mention presenting all manner of award ceremonies. Are there any career highlights you’d care to mention?
Well co-hosting the Cbeebies Proms at the Royal Albert Hall earlier this week would definitely be up there. Red carpet and winners’ interviews at the Kids Baftas was also good. But the most fun I ever had was probably on a kids show called ‘No Girls Allowed’ (I know!! A title like that would never make it to sceens now! But it wasn’t like it sounds).
It was a show all about boys and their toys and we would do things like drive a tank through a double decker bus or race a helicopter and an Aston Martin. And to add to that it was all live on a Saturday morning. It must have been good because we won an RTS award for it.
You are a dad yourself. How many kids do you have?
I have 2 kids. My son is 11 and is an avid gymnast, and my daughter is 9 and wants to be a performer. She’s actually rehearsing for her first proper role on the west end stage.
I have to ask, do your children critique what you do? If they’re anything like my daughters I’m sure they don’t hold back on giving you feedback!
All my kids have ever known is me working in the theatre or on TV. It’s so normal to them that they don’t even think to critique it. They are far too busy getting on with their own stuff to worry about whether I’m doing something right.
We first spoke when The Baby Club was launched, a show designed to encourage interactivity between parents and children. Series Two has just started being broadcast. Any changes or anything special you can tell us about the new series?
For the new series we literally took the same structure but did as much as we could to make it even more relaxed and engaging. We’ve spent a lot of time to making it feel like The Baby Club is happening inside your very own living room and I think that comes across in the new episodes. There are also some special episodes to look out for. A Christmas special and an all dads episode.
I believe you’re also going to be broadcasting a live episode from the BBC summer social. If people want to see it live when’s it going to air?
Yes we are doing a live episode on the 4th of August. There are 2 places you can catch this. Firstly, you could come to Liverpool and watch with everyone at the summer social. Or if that’s a little inconvenient, you can just turn on CBeebies.
Aren’t you a bit nervous about doing a live broadcast of The Baby Club? The format of the show means anything could happen!
I’m trying not to think about the fact that it will be broadcast to the nation, because as soon as you think that, nerves can make things harder than they need to be. I’m just going to rehearse well and be natural on the day. Having hiccups when babies are involved is natural, we embrace this at The Baby Club. We want it to be like it would be at any club up or down the country. So little surprises will keep it real. Don’t be surprised if a baby decides to bring up some milk in the middle of the hello song. That’s life!
You’ve also come up with Dadvengers, an idea for dads to support each other online. Can you tell us a bit about this?
Yeah, it’s a little project I came up with while shooting the second series of The Baby Club. I was talking with some of the dads about their experiences within fatherhood and quite a few referenced that if they were looking for support they would look online but they felt there wasn’t much out there. And that’s where my idea for Dadvengers came in. I would like it to be an online community, forum and resource to help the dads out there. To give them a place to get advice, read parenting posts, voice their questions and concerns and hear stories from other dads.
I know it can be very isolating as a dad, especially if you are the main carer for your kids as I am. This is something you have commented upon on your blog. Is this partly what inspired you to come up with the idea of Dadvengers?
Being a parent can be isolating no matter who you are, but there is an old school way of thinking that means SOME dads don’t get fully involved with their kids until they are a little older and some are never really hands on at all. I would like to do my part to dispel this behaviour and encourage more dads to be hands on with their kids from the day they are born. AND for them not to be afraid to ask for help doing this.
Getting back to TV, you must have seen some massive changes in the industry with the arrival of streaming media and so on. What are the main changes you have seen?
The biggest change I’ve seen is growth of on demand TV. Back in the day you knew what time your favourite shows were on, now you just know where they are on and watch whenever you want. I think the competition to have a good on demand service has in turn enhanced the quality of the programming, so I’m all for it.
I’m doing you a bit of a dis-service. You do much more than work as a presenter. If I’m not mistaken you’ve performed in STOMP and other live shows. Can you tell us a bit more about this aspect of your work?
I’ve worked with STOMP for the last 20yrs. At first I was part of the touring cast before then joining the Original London Cast in 2003. It’s in my blood and I still teach workshops for them and on the odd occasion I’ll perform with them for a week or two. I’m actually going to Greece for some shows later this year. For those who don’t know what STOMP is, it’s a theatre show where we make music out of everyday objects. We use anything from a broom or dustbin to the kitchen sink (no really…we use the kitchen sink). Throw in some movement and comedy and you have a 90min show that must be seen to be believed.
Aside from Dadvengers and the next series of The Baby Club, what else are you working on at the moment? Anything juicy can tell us that’s in the pipeline?
I’ve got my fingers crossed for a couple spin off Dadvengers ideas to really grow the community. So I’m thinking about a Podcast, a monthly meet up, and maybe even a book. Watch this space.
Finally, where can people find you online?