TO any family with children under the age of seven, Chris Jarvis is a very famous man.
The CBeebies star is the presenter of the hit pre-school programme Show Me Show Me and has appeared in a host of other shows designed for the very youngest viewers.
Unusually, in an industry dominated by fresh-faced drama school graduates, Jarvis will also be recognised by teenagers and young adults, as he has been doing the job for more than 20 years.
He started in the children’s BBC Broom Cupboard, presenting links between the programmes, and he also appeared in kids’ shows including Fully Booked, Step Inside and The Demon Headmaster.
But, as a former variety show performer and Butlins Redcoat, theatre was always his first love, and now he is going back on the road with his Show Me Show Me co-star Pui Fan Lee.
The Chris and Pui Roadshow is coming to Salisbury City Hall on April 7 and is sure to be a big outing for hundreds of little fans.
“Not everything from Show Me Show Me would work on the stage and we don’t want to mislead anyone so we call it the Chris and Pui Roadshow, but lots of the toys from the show come along too,” explained Jarvis.
“It’s a bit of a pantomime – Old MacDonald has lost his sheep and we go on a journey to find them, meeting lots of nursery rhyme characters along the way.
“There are lots of songs and comedy for everyone. We keep each half fairly short but it’s fast paced with lots of costume changes and hundreds of props – I’m exhausted by the end of it!”
The appetite for children’s entertainment is so great these days that many of Jarvis’ CBeebies colleagues have performed huge arena tours, but he is happy with smaller venues.
“I just feel something would be lost with the audience sitting that far away,” he says.
“We love the interaction; seeing every smiling face and hearing the laughs. It’s an incredible privilege.”
Jarvis’ mother was a nursery school teacher and he regularly visits schools and nurseries to meet young fans.
“Children are hilarious,” he says. “They are natural comedians, but they also deserve our respect, and if we are making programmes for them then we need to do it well.
“I think the BBC does a great job – Blue Peter now is better than it has ever been. The days of 15 minutes of children’s programmes at lunchtime and after school are long gone.
There are two 13-hour schedules (of children’s programmes on the BBC) to be filled every day, and the shows have to be good.”
This year is the 50th anniversary of Play School and Jarvis, who lives in Bournemouth and often visits family living near Salisbury, is part of the celebrations.
“Show Me Show Me is the great great grandson of Play School,” he says. “Parents like that we have kept lots of the original ideas. People have great affection for the programmes of their childhood, and children become nostalgic very quickly.”
Play School was the first programme to be broadcast in colour, and children’s television is still forging ahead in technological terms, with Jarvis and Fan Lee busy working on the latest CBeebies Smartphone app.
For Jarvis, who is 42 and has been in the business since 1992, there have been many changes over the years. “I know I’ve been incredibly lucky to be working all this time,”
said the presenter, who also directs the pantomime at Bournemouth’s Pavilion Theatre.
“But the sound of children laughing and enjoying themselves is always the same, and it’s simply wonderful.”