Derry fans of BBC hit animation series and children’s book character, Rastamouse are to be treated to “some wicked riddims from Da Easy Crew” when they arrive in Derry as part of March’s Humdinger Children’s Book Festival.
The Rastamouse team of writer, Michael De Souza, and animator, Genevieve Webster, return to Derry after their warm reception at last year’s festival.
Children attending will be entertained by a reading of Rastamouse books and a number of workshops. Michael said the team will offer; “Simple reading and dramatisation workshops developing into character workshops.”
The team also offer classes on illustrations.
The hit CBeebies programme follows the adventures of the crime fighting mouse reggae band, Da Easy Crew, who split their time between making music and solving mysteries for Da President of Mouseland.
It is hard to believe that this incredibly popular character stemmed from Michael De Souza’s desire to teach swimming through rhymes.
He explains: “The character started with a poem I’d written about a mouse in a council house, he had fallen on hard times and eventually uses his wit to get a council house. Genevieve saw my poem and illustrated it. The character looked cute and was so different to anything else we had seen so we wrote a simple story for him.”
The first Rastamouse book was as simple as that: “I had written the character in 1999 and the publisher went for it. The deal was very forthcoming, we were lucky in a way.”
The character was then brought to life in almost 50 animated episodes for BBC.
“It was so well loved we wrote lots of episodes; It was quite a surprise that it became so popular so quickly.”
“Rastamouse really hit a spot in terms of children’s publishing and in particular with Afro-Carribean children in England. There is so little in the mainstream media that they can relate to. I think we identified a hole in the market, filled it with a black character who has universal appeal thanks to his message of making a bad thing good.
“I honestly believe that this strikes a chord with both the younger viewers as well as the older ones.”
Having been born in Trinidad and Tobago, Rastafarian Michael worked in England as a swimming instructor where he began creating characters and rhymes to teach his pupils.
“I made the lessons specific to the children. I always thought terms like the breast stroke, front crawl etc confused children. So I turned the crawl into the crazy crocodile and taught the children with this little rhyme. ‘Bend arms like a boomerang; Stretch like an orangutan; kick a while, turn and smile: That’s the crazy crocodile.’”
From there Michael developed his first character, Professor Splash. “It was all to do with adopting a different approach to swimming.
“The children loved it and so the journey began I suppose.”
With that first toe in the writing pool Rastamouse has developed into a TV show, soon to be a live stage show and a new, third Rastamouse ‘Summer Rasta Mouse and MySpace mystery’ book being launched this summer.
So get ready to dance, sing and “lively up yourself” on Friday March 8 and Saturday March 9 at The Gallery in The Playhouse. In order to book contact www.derryplayhouse.co.uk / 02871 268027