Being interviewed recently by the children’s author Lawrence Prestidge on his podcast, The Shapes of Stories, was a good experience. The podcast’s theme is to talk to people who have stories that have shaped their lives in one way or another.
Lawrence is an easy guy to talk to and has such a lovely caring manner. I first met him last year when he reached out to me via social media to talk about my work as he, too, visits schools to speak to children. Lawrence is passionate about our work and what we do to help keep young people safer online, and since he has many followers who are parents it seemed like a proactive thing to do to share our messages with them.
It is always tricky for me when I am scheduled to meet with someone face to face that I have only met online, as I remember our charity’s motto, Play Virtual/Live Real; a reminder to never meet up in a private place when you have only met online! This makes for difficult decisions for me. Just recently I had to meet with the Panorama filming crew at a randomly rented flat in London, for an interview regarding the dangers children face on TikTok. It all went well and the programme reached quite a few people, but I am always wary and acutely aware that I could be tricked.
Last year Lawrence had invited me to the opening of the pilot for the musical from his book Terror at the Sweet Shop, aimed at 5-10 year olds. I was delighted to be there to support this huge endeavour. It was a fantastic production about some friends who are unhappy to discover that the lovely owner of the sweet shop they visit daily has disappeared and been replaced by a mean old lady (who may just be a witch!) selling some truly horrific sweets.
Being a former primary school teacher helps Lawrence to relate to his audience and fill them with wonder at his clever and creative stories. His first creation was Rolo in 2016, for children aged 5-7, about a boy named Max who runs away to the forest to escape a horrid family where he befriends a giant who helps and protects him. Lawrence is said to be a fan of Roald Dahl and you can see this from his writing and choice of illustrators. I have ordered all his books. I miss the happy times reading books to my kids (who are all grown up now) as well as reading with pupils when I worked at the local primary school before Breck died. It brings a warm, fuzzy feeling, and I love to just dive into a book and lose track of time; a useful panacea for this strange era we live in.
If you get a chance to listen to the podcast please do, as it is an easy, natural conversation to listen to, as well as covering the worrying issues children face online today.