Dreamers show kids the way
Cate McQuillen and Hewey Eustace hope the songs from their new children’s TV show dirtgirlworld will be the Hot Potatoes of the future.
The Whiporie couple, who gigged for many years locally as the Two Pot Screamers, are gearing up for the Australian screening of dirtgirlworld, a project that began its life seven years ago with a guitar on their verandah.
The TV series, about a gumboot-wearing girl who rides an orange tractor and loves to garden, recently went to air on CBC in Canada and CBeebies in the UK, and will begin this Friday on ABC1 and ABC2.
Dirtgirlworld is a blend of live action and animation with photomontage and illustration. It’s a kids show with an environmental message, boasting the motto “from viewing to doing” with plenty of ideas for playing in the garden and catchy tunes teaching kids about living sustainably.
“When you start with a vision and it goes through 171 different creative people, you’re not always sure how it’s going to end up. But for us, it’s so much more than we ever thought it could be,” Cate said.
Cate said the project began in 2002 when “we spent nine months in our pyjamas making an album of 20 songs”. The dirtgirlworld CD won the 2002 Dolphin Award Album of the Year and was nominated for an ARIA in 2003.
Cate and Hewey’s dream of turning it into a television show suddenly became a reality a few years later after they won a local pitching competition through Screenworks, which took Cate to conferences around the world. After establishing themselves in the industry they pitched the pilot at Kidscreen in New York, its immediate appeal scoring them their first broadcaster, BBC, which soon became three with CBC and ABC quickly getting behind the show.
Cate said the program is all about living simply and sustainably but without being “too worthy or too preachy”.
“When we went out to sell the show An Inconvenient Truth and the Stern report had just been released so there was this change in consciousness,” Cate said. “We believe people make change, not governments, and this is about giving people simple, grassroots ideas to start creating change. It’s basically about a girl and the adventures she has with her friends – in the garden, in the chicken yard, in the compost heap, up the tree.”
Cate said the message was that children don’t need a toy store full of stuff to have a good time.
“I think we’ve been sold up the river with this concept that plastic is good fun when there’s good fun to be had just outside the front door,” she said. “The show is all about the fact the world is an amazing place and that what you love you protect, and that making simple choices can be good fun.”
The dirtgirlworld team is so committed to their environmental message that they have even reserved a percentage of production costs to establish the dirtgirlworld foundation, which will fund local projects that support children to live more environmentally sustainable lives.
After years of filming, recording, producing and generally working their butts off with a team of local people to get the show finished, Cate said it felt “surreal” to finally have it being beamed into children’s homes right around Australia.
“Really we have to wait and see how kids feel about it, but there’s a great sense of satisfaction of moving from a dream to a reality,” Cate said. “I love the fact it’s possible to live in the middle of nowhere in Australia and create something that has far-reaching fingers.
“But I think we’re great dreamers on the Northern Rivers – we come up with ideas and see them through. We dream big and we can make a difference.”
Dirtgirlworld is aimed at four to seven year olds and from this Friday, December 4, will screen Monday to Friday at 3.45pm on ABC1 and every day at 11.45am on ABC2.