At Hook we love to get the opportunity to speak to organisations or people who are leading the way when it comes to inclusivity in Media. Recently we spoke to Olly Pike, an activist, author, illustrator and Youtuber whose mission it is to combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia with his LGBT+ kids media content.
Olly has a YouTube channel (Pop’n’Olly) which he uses as a platform to tackle a range of big questions like ‘What is discrimination?’, ‘What does LGBT stand for?’ or ‘What are gender pronouns?’. He has also written and illustrated a selection of storybooks which he distributes to schools around the U.K.
His resources give families and teachers a way to start the conversation about LGBT+ relationships, history and acceptance. We spoke to him about his experiences in creating his edutainment resources and what others can do when creating inclusive content with kids in mind.
THE NEED FOR LGBT+ REPRESENTATION IN KIDS MEDIA
Hook Research: What inspired you to create Pop’n’Olly?
Olly Pike: I was inspired to create Pop’n’Olly for several reasons. My background is in children’s theatre and television and I loved creating content for kids so it seemed natural that I would create the type of content I needed when I was a child.
By creating this content, I am hopeful that I am paving the way for a more accepting world for future generations.
Having videos and books like mine would have made growing up a lot easier to navigate. I also decided to create Pop’n’Olly because of my own experiences with homophobia, after such incidents I would often think ‘Who has taught this behaviour?… Or who has not taught that it’s not ok?’.
This type of content is crucial and life-saving. So many statistics tell us that LGBT+ young people are far more likely to be bullied, self-harm and make attempts to take their own life.
HR: Your YouTube channel (Pop’n’Olly) is a massive hit, do you hear from the parents, carers or teachers who have watched your content with their children?
OP: Yes I get some really wonderful feedback from children, parents and teachers alike. Probably something that will always stay with me was when I met a young trans boy.
He gave me some wonderful feedback on my storybook ‘Jamie’ which is a re imagining of the Cinderella fairy-tale with a transgender protagonist. He said, ‘Thank you for writing your book ‘Jamie’ because this story is about me and it tells my story.’
HR: You sometimes put a spin on traditional tales that are commonplace in Early years Classrooms such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears or Cinderella. What are the benefits of using familiar stories to discuss equality with children?
OP: Honestly I just love fairy tales. I don’t think we realise how powerful they are. They are usually some of the first stories we ever hear and so many different messages can be woven into them.
Being hundreds of years old it’s natural that the story lines have repeatedly changed as they’ve been passed down. I actually think it’s our duty to adapt them in order to make them more reflective of the society we are in now.
HR: In creating Pop‘n’Olly, have you encountered any challenges or obstacles to getting your LGBT+ kids media materials out there?
OP: There was a time when I was getting an extreme amount of negativity online. Hate messages, abuse even mild death threats. It all seems quite comical to me now, particularly when you look at how innocent my content it. But at the time it was a little scary, I just couldn’t believe so many people would hate my content so much.
That was a few years ago, cut to this year and it seems the negativity has manifested in the form of angry parents outside school gates. While this is disheartening, if anything the negativity around the LGBT+ school protests has raised the profile of my channel and books and I’ve gained a lot of support.
THE FUTURE OF INCLUSIVE KIDS MEDIA
HR: Do you have any exciting projects or resources in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
OP: In September I launched my latest book ‘Kenny Lives with Erica and Martina’. I also launched the #KennyLives campaign which aims to send a copy of this book to every single primary school in the UK.
So far I’ve managed to distribute this book to about 2000 schools which is great. But there are approximately 23,000 primary schools in the U.K so I still have a little way to go yet!
I’m focusing on reaching this goal, ideally before September 2020 – when relationship education becomes mandatory for primary schools. I’m encouraging people to send a copy of the book to their old primary school via popnolly.com/kennylives.
HR: We are hopeful that children’s content will become increasingly diverse and inclusive, who else out there is leading the way in terms of LGBT+ kids media?
OP: I personally really like Cartoon Network. They have some really progressive shows on that channel like ‘Stephen Universe’ which I think explores so many LGBT+ themes. It’s also nice to see other channels like Nickelodeon and Disney starting to incorporate queer characters into some of their shows.
I feel like queer representation is slowly being introduced into children’s content. At the moment it might be minimal, but it is certainly starting to grow.
There are also a lot of independent companies producing content for various platforms. A production house which I just think is fantastic in its approach to equality and inclusivity is a Canada and NYC based company called ‘Big Bad Boo Studios’ who make some wonderful animations.
HR: What steps do you think kids content creators can take to make their brand more inclusive?
OP: I think the same goes for any minority group. Just think, when you are designing the characters or casting the actors,
‘Are we being inclusive here?’
‘Are we representing as many people as we can?‘
‘Does this person have to look like this or can we explore other options?’
I understand that it can seem like companies/channels/brands are just ticking boxes – but we kind of need them to because sometimes minorities will get, albeit innocently, overlooked or forgotten.
HR: What are your predictions about the future of LGBT+ children’s media?
OP: I think we will see more and more inclusivity. I’m still hoping they #GiveElsaAGirlfriend – but I’m not sure they will… In any case I did (kind of) in one of the Pop’n’Olly videos on our YouTube channel.
But who knows, it seems to me that the world is growing ever progressive, but it’s always swings and roundabouts. Whatever happens, I will continue to create my content.
Enjoyed reading this interview? Check out our discussion about diversity in children’s publishing or our piece on the importance of kids media in representing children’s identities .You can keep the blogs coming by signing up to our monthly newsletter!