Saturday, 8 March 2014

13 Questions with...Cel Spellman

In 2005 he was awarded The Stage Scholarship to attend The Sylvia Young Theatre School in London (school to stars such as Samantha Womack, Emma Bunton, Amy Winehouse and Rita cool is that?) where he left in 2011. He first appeared on our TV screens in 2003 when he starred as Tom Lewis in ITV Blue Murder. He also appeared as Malky McConnell in BBC The Cup before he moved on to Waterloo Road, playing the role of Harry Fisher. Recently, he's appeared in ITV Homefront, and as a presenter on CBBC's Friday Download, with several other CBBC projects, including the live links on their evening and weekend schedules. Other television credits include Casualty, Holby City, Coronation Street, This is Jinsy, Jedward's Big Adventure and All Over The Place. He's also a supporter of Once Upon A Smile - an organisation which works closely with hospitals, hospices, schools and charities offering their support by way of financial support or respite breaks. Oh, and he likes shepherd's pie. I was lucky enough to get the chance to speak with him and discuss Once Upon A Smile further. Here are 13 Questions with...Cel Spellman!

1. Hello Cel! You’re a patron of ‘Once Upon A Smile Charity’. Please tell us about the charity and its aims.
Cel: Once Upon A Smile is all about helping families in bereavement - that's families who have had a loss in the family. So that's if they've lost a child or maybe a child who's lost a parent. We aim to kinda step in and help them in any way possible of getting over the loss. Whether that might be a respite break away for the family to spend time together and try and get that bond back, or literally as simple as paying a bill for them to try and, you know, save them some stress. Or if they can't afford a funeral - the gravestone, we'll pay for the stone. So, just in any way we can try and make that loss and that pain a bit easier and a bit more comfortable for them. That's kind of our main aim, really. 

2. What made you want to get involved and support this charity in particular?
Cel: Erm, to be honest, while I was doing Waterloo Road there was a few of my co-stars - they were already a part of the charity. So I kind of heard of them and it was when I was introduced to Daniel Jillings - he kind of told me more about it and explained about the charity football matches that we play (and I'm a big fan of football) and then also just about what the cause is about. I've had losses, and I'm sure yourself has [had losses], and it's never easy but it must be even harder, you know, for people that aren't as fortunate as myself or yourself. It was an eye-opener for me as well because I never really thought about it so I think because of that reason it had never really crossed my mind, I thought this is definitely something I'd like to spread the word about because I don't think it's that known and people don't think about it. Also, if I can play a football match and try and raise money as well, I'm then happy to help. So that's kind of how I jumped on board. 

3. How can people sign up to get the support they need from Once Upon A Smile?
Cel: So, to get the support, basically the charity itself, they have connections with different hospices and different companies that also help families. They refer families on to us. So, there's that way of doing it. So that's where an external company will say 'right, we've got a family here, their mum has passed away, is there any way you can help them?'. We'll then look at them and what's happened to them - their history, and we'll go about it that way. Or you can also just email. If you go on the website, you can get in touch there and all the emails are checked by Jillings or anyone who works there and we do it through there. So yeah, through referrals and just getting in touch online, you'll find everything on the website. 

4. Have you come across any inspiring stories of during your time with Once Upon A Smile?
Cel: Yeah! In fact, there was a little boy whose name I can't remember but basically, he had cancer. He had it really bad, actually, and we weren't kinda sure where he was at and how long he had left to live. Jills [Daniel Jillings] said to me 'do you know, he's a big fan of CBBC and Friday Download, he said he'd love to meet you' so I was like 'Brilliant'! But, when I went round and saw this boy, and having heard everything - what he's been through and what had happened to him - to see him...I'd never seen a happier boy in all my life! You would not know this boy had anything wrong with him! He was smiling, everything was so positive around him, like he had no negative outlook and everything. Just to see a kid constantly smiling, for me was just amazing and just to see that he had no worries - he wasn't worrying and to see how strong he was being. I think he was maybe six or seven - and to see that in a child, I was like 'here I am complaining that I might not, you know, that I'm not having pasta tonight or I can't go and get a McDonald's'. What this boy has been through, to actually see him and just know that his outlook was so different. I think a lot of people can learn from him. From such a young age to have that positive outlook, it was just inspiring and kinda made me think 'do you know what - life will knock you down but just get back up and fight harder'. So, meeting him was a particular great moment for me and it's always nice to be able to meet someone who genuinely loves your show as well and actually try and bring a bit of happiness in their lives. 

5. You’ve kindly fundraised for Once Upon A Smile. Please tell us about the ways in which you did this.
Cel: We have a Sidley Ball once a year which is a big charity dinner, there's entertainment, there's an auction going on. So, that's kind of a big fundraiser event for us, personally. And also, through the year, we play charity football matches which is where we'll either go to maybe some of the lower league clubs or we play against ex-pros. It's kind of a team of so called 'celebrities' (familiar faces from telly!) and then maybe we play against a team of ex-professionals of just a small club. We put on this day, we sell tickets to come and watch the match. There's always entertainment, music, drinks and food. It's a great day out when the weather's brilliant. So, we try and play charity matches most weekends - usually every other weekend - and go all over the country with it. It's also great for us because we're spreading the word about the charity and it's a great day out. So, we have our big Sidley Ball and we also play charity matches throughout the year. 

6. What influenced you to join the charity football team?
Cel: What influenced me? Well, from a young age I've loved playing football - it's always been a big part of my family's life. I'm actually a Manchester City fan. I've always loved football, and even when I was on Waterloo Road we used to go and play a bit of 5-aside and have a kick around with some mates. So, it's been a big influence and it's always kind of a strong anchor in my life, football. It's always been there...and I can play a bit so that's how I kinda worked my way into it. The charity was like 'can you play football?' and I was like 'football! Definitely mate, yes!' And I played it at school as well. So, football: keeps you fit and there's nothing better than kicking a ball around with your mates. 

7. How would you encourage people to get involved with this charity?
Cel: We're always looking for helpers at our different events as well to come down and help out, and we're always there helping out. You can find that online, if you're interested in just being a volunteer. You could email in and say 'look, I'd really like to help' and you know - the more the merrier. It's always good. 

8. Do you have any top tips on how people can get involved and fundraise for this charity?
Cel: Literally, any little helps. Honestly, you can put on events at your school. You can talk to your teachers if it's something that you are definitely passionate about (and we'd be very grateful) - you could do 'your own clothes day' or come up with ideas on how you could raise money at school. Yeah, just fundraising yourself and if you get in touch with Jills saying that you've done that then we can meet up and start the relationship building and keep it going. We're always looking for people to come aboard here at the Once Upon A Smile umbrella. 

9. Friday Download will be back this year! What can we expect to see from the new series?
Cel: Yes! So from the new series of Friday Download we're hopefully gonna get some great guests, we're gonna have some cracking new guests this year . We're hopefully going to introduce some new up and coming artists in the year as well that we can look out to see. Hopefully gonna get some more movie junkets going for what films are coming out. I think all in all we're just trying to push the show, making it that little bit better. It's still early days at the moment, we've still kinda all got to sit down together. But yeah, I think we're just going to try and take a look at everything. Bigger, better and just, you know, in any way we can improve it. Maybe try and look at getting the kids involved more as well. Always, the videos they send in are great so we're just aiming to look at what we did last year - what can we improve? And do it that way. But we're early stages yet. 

10. If you could be in any present or past CBBC show, which would it be and why?
Cel: Erm...OK. Right, I will probably say (just because it was my favourite show growing up) The Story of Tracy Beaker. It's just a classic. That was literally THE biggest show on telly for kids when I was growing up and that was the one to be like 'yeah, that's the coolest show' - Dani Harmer, Tracy Beaker. So, probably have to go with that just because that was the biggest programme I grew up with and that was what you wanted to get on...The Story of Tracy Beaker! (Laughs).
Me: Yeah - I think I would go for the same. I'm a huge fan of Dani!
Cel: Yeah, it's good isn't it? Everyone was like that! (Laughs)

11. From 2010 – 2011 you played the role of Harry Fisher in BBC Waterloo Road. Harry was bullied in the series – do you have any advice for people who are being bullied?
Cel: Yeah! My biggest advice would be - and I know it's the hardest thing, I think, to try and get across to someone - just literally speak to someone. Like - I'm not telling you to go and speak to a teacher straight away 'cause you'd be like 'that's the worst thing, to speak to an adult'. It is literally just telling your closest friend that you're not happy that 'this is happening to me'. Just as long as you're sharing your problem with someone. Someone who you trust. Because everyone's like 'you should always come to a teacher' and for kids that's not what you wanna do because you don't feel your point is listened to whereas, with what what I think is best, if you talk to a friend (a close friend, someone who's got your best interests at heart), they will then maybe help give you a solution for the problem. They might say 'look, what we need to do is go and talk to a teacher, I'll come with you'. Then at least you're not going to sit and face the teacher alone and you're there with a friend. But, my biggest advice would be to talk to someone. Anyone - just try and tell someone. The second bit would be: anyone who picks on you just is jealous of you. So, if you can be the bigger person and walk away (I know sometimes you wanna retaliate and then you get into trouble). Be the bigger person, walk away, tell someone, let someone else deal with it. You don't need to - you're a lot better than that. 

12. If you could invite any three famous people/celebrities to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
Cel: I'd go with Johnny Depp. Just 'cause he is my idol, he's my acting idol. Erm...I'd love to have Darren Brown there. Just because I think he'd make great entertainment for the evening and I'd love just to get to know more about him. Er, and my third this moment in time if I could have it tomorrow I'd have Russell Brand. Just because I think he's an interesting person. I think he'd have a lot to talk about and I'd just love to get into his mind and hear what his his thoughts are and just to hear him speak. His vocabulary is amazing! 

13. Finally, do you have a message for all your fans?
Cel: I do. I just want to say that I do love you all and I know sometimes it might look like (if you follow me on Twitter or anything) that I don't but I see everybody and just from the bottom of my heart thank you for just supporting me and being there. I hope that I can continue to entertain you, meet up with as many of you that I can and hopefully I'll see you all soon. A big kiss from me to you.  

I had a great time talking to Cel! Catch the new series of Friday Download on CBBC later this year (apply for tickets here). You can also watch Cel in action in Virgin Media's short film 'MUG' (2012) which is available to watch online. Don't forget to follow Cel on Twitter and like him on Facebook

Sidley the Bear!

Learn more about Once Upon A Smile and how you can donate by clicking here. As Cel suggested, you could help make a change and get involved by organising a fundraising event! Once Upon A Smile has a lot of upcoming events. If you think you could run for 'Team Smiles', learn more about which areas they're visiting and how you can sign up.

CBBC FANS: Don't forget to check out my interview with Montanna Thompson, The Story of Tracy Beaker's Justine Littlewood!

Thank you for reading my interview!
- ADAM!   

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

13 Questions with...Pam St. Clement

After appearing in various theatre productions as well as playing many television roles, she wast cast for British soap, BBC EastEnders, in 1986. She played the part of the well-loved Pat Butcher for 25 years until her emotional departure from the soap on 1 January 2012. At the British Soap Awards 2012 she was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award for her portrayal of Pat and it was later announced that she was to appear on ITV This Morning as an 'animal expert', Throughout her whole career, she has kindly lent her support to various different charities with one of them being Pets As Therapy. Pets As Therapy is a national charity founded in 1983. It is unique in that it provides therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and a variety of other venues by volunteers with their own friendly, temperament tested and vaccinated dogs and cats. I got the chance to talk to the lovely woman herself (and she made a huge announcement!). Here are 13 Questions with...Pam St. Clement!

1. Hello Pam. You’re a huge supporter of Pets As Therapy, which was founded in 1983. Can you please tell us a bit about the charity and its aims?
Pam: Well the charity is, and most important of all, it's community based rather than national based [many communities support the charity across the nation] and it provides therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices nursing and care homes, special needs schools for volunteers to go in with their dogs and cats. Basically, these visits are to give comfort and companionship. The animals can be stroked, held and even talked to! More recent since I joined the charity, a project is 'read to dogs'. To increase confidence and enjoyment in reading for other children in the classroom. Particularly children who, you know, have got a bit of a block about reading. I mean an enormous amount of dogs have been registered over the years (but they come and go because they have shorter lives than we do). What's so nice about it is that the charity's moved with the times. Again, since I got on board, it's (if you'd like to call it) animal-assisted therapy to help people on an individual basis with such things as dog phobias and more particularly (and I think importantly) the Stroke & PAT project, which is something which is more recent and on-going. It's a therapy for stroke survivors which is a collaborative adventure. That's really, basically what the charity's about! 

2. When did you first begin supporting this charity?
Pam: Oh God! Do you know, Adam, I can't give you an exact date but it must've been late 80s/early 90s I should think! So, not that long after the charity had started. 

3. What made you want to get involved with this charity in particular?
Pam: Well as you know, I'm involved with a lot of companion animal charities but I particularly...well, what particularly appeals to me is charities that benefit the animal and the human. I'm a great believer in animals' loving stimulus. Working animals, a classic example is, I don't think the animals lie on a cushion and be so cryptic. They love working and so the appeal works both ways. The several charities I'm involved in work both ways for the animal and the human. I'd actually heard of the charity, somebody had mentioned to me a charity that worked with dogs assisting the elderly and sick people and also I knew at that point that it wasn't only an enjoyable calming experience but it was medically acknowledged, if you like, that the companionship of animals reduced the blood pressure and heart rate - another medical benefit. 

4. Since you've started supporting Pets As Therapy, is there anything you have seen or learnt which has surprised you?
Pam: Erm, do you know, I'm never surprised at the goodness of many people. A desired help to do good things - to put back into society. Which is nice, because I was brought up with the maxim that - you know, it sounds a bit strange now - 'do as you will be done by'. 'Do as you would be done by' is a wonderful sort of maxim to lead your life on. In other words; give and you get back. I mean you don't's not a given! Actually, strangely enough - I don't know if you find - it's like sort of a minor thing, like giving up your seat for somebody in the bus or opening a door. You feel better! As well as they feel better. It's a way of connection with other people. And if that can be linked with animals as well, which is is my passion, it's a no-brainer. I think you've got it made, really. 

5. How would you encourage other people to get involved and to volunteer their pets to be assessed? 
Pam: Well, that's something that I think (it's probably because it's community-based) I can't actually say to anybody. I've actually had people come up to me and say: 'how do I get involved with it?'. Well, first and foremost you have to be really sure in your own mind that your animals, whether it be a dog or cat, is a suitable temperament (and you know that [about] your animal) for that sort for work. But secondly, as I say, because it's community-based [in different communities in the UK], I don't know every area where one would get in touch at a local centre or a person who runs that volunteer group for that area. So, I would always say to people contact Pets As Therapy and I can look up those details for you if you want me to. Because, obviously you can phone them or you can get onto their website (I would assume by that, I'm not sure what listing...they can't do all the area listings so one would probably have to get in touch with Pets As Therapy). And, I would encourage people to get involved because if you've got the time and you've got the pet - it's most rewarding, it really is. 

6. You have fundraised in various different ways for several different charities. For anyone who would like to fundraise for Pets As Therapy, do you have any top tips or advice on ways to raise money?
Pat: Oh Adam! Fortunately, I'm not the one who has to be that imaginative. (Laughs) I can do my bit by giving my time and commitment and do you know that's a wonderful thing in the sense that I'm a known face because you can help by giving a charity a profile. It's a relatively small charity in the scheme of things. I presume because it is community-based and not national [the charity works works with different area co-ordinators]. So, we need all the funds we can get. We've all got to be out there doing things. As I say, because it's community-based, it's not all that easy to have a high profile. It's difficult to say what [top tips] would work for them best. It's best left to the specialists! And I will come on board when I can. 

7. Where did your love for animals first begin?
Pat: Ooh, golly. Well, I was brought up on a farm. Smallholding, where we had hands-on with animals. Milking things...etc and I knew I had an immediate affinity. We had a very caring environment for our animals but also sentimental. There's something sentimental about it. I'm a great pragmatist about the cycle of nature. I suppose that's where it started...and it wasn't just a 'love of' it was a 'knowledge of' as well which obviously my background helped me with.

8. In 2012 (it feels like yesterday!) You were announced to be ITV This Morning’s ‘animal expert’. How did it feel being able to promote animals on this show?
Pam: It does, doesn't it?! Well I thought it was an absolutely super idea and I jumped at it. Erm, it was a great gig. But, the one thing we had to be weary about - it didn't become a predictable slot which paraded animals in need of rehoming. It needed, as well, information and entertainment and so I think that's possibly why [the team had to be weary about the slot] (perhaps quite a lot in the beginning). To a certain extent, I found it difficult to retain the sort of momentum from the beginning, unless there was a specific thing we had to deal with which wouldn've been something probably hanging off a news item or something like that. Do you know what, I think the most incredible thing about that whole gig was that we never ever had a miscreant four-legged or a runaway reptile (laughs). Every time I did one at the studio, live, I always thought: 'something's gonna happen today'...a bit like the Blue Peter episode where the elephant downed all over the studio floor! I always anticipated that and it never happened! It was absolutely incredible how calm they were. It was great. Although those slots were studio-based, I also thought we should also extend the programme - if it were an exploration of various working dogs, and we show films about medical army and rescue dogs which I love doing but it took us out [of the studio].

9. Have you ever met anyone who has had their animals assessed or anyone who has been in need of the company of animal with Pets As Therapy?
Pat: Oh, gosh, Adam, naturally I've met many volunteers because I've had a lot to do with the charity personally as much as I've put my name to it, as it were. They're all dedicated with a great commitment to the aims of the charity. Actually, taking about those films I did, it was interesting that I did have some fabulous feedback from parents as staff when we were filming for one of the dog films at a children's care respite centre when we actually had a PAT dog visiting. It was lovely to get a sharp end feedback, it really was. 

10. Do you have any pets? I don't, Adam. To be honest with you, I've said frequently that as much as I love animals, I've got a sense of responsibly about pet ownership. Basically, I'm not prepared to have an animal while I'm far away from home for a proportion of the year. I think I was away for about four months of last year! So, you know, it's not something that one should take on lightly and again, that brings me back to the idea of sentimentality - 'oh, I'd love a dog' like 'oh, I'd love a baby'. If you can't see it through, then don't take it on. 

11. If you could invite 3 famous people/celebrities to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
Pam: Oh, Peter Ustinov! He was a brilliant raconteur who gave us these wonderful stories and impressions. (If you've ever heard of Peter Ustinov!)
Me: I have now!
Pam: I don't know how old you maybe you haven't! (Laughs) I love the Tudor and Stuart period so it's a difficult pop-up for me whether Charles II - because he's wonderful - or Elizabeth I because I could eeat find out what the Tudor period was like. And lastly...David Attenborough. To share wonderful experiences and his passion for wildlife. 

12. You've had some amazing opportunities! Would you ever consider putting your life into words and writing an autobiography? 
Pam: It's strange you should ask this one...because things are moving, at the moment, in that direction. So, watch this space!
Me: I'm really excited for that! 
Pam: (Laughs) Yeah, you know how the wheels of print take long to turn! But, you know, when we've decided a date it's probably best know. It will happen. So as I say, watch this space!

13. Do you have a message for all your fans and supporters? 
Pam: Oh golly. What can I say to all those wonderful people? Do you know what, I'm really bawled over by how much people think about Pat. They come up and say lovely things that she may have gone but is not forgotten which I think is fabulous! And I would really, really thank all those dear people for their support over the years. And continuing support! Basically, an apology for not being 'out there', as it were, so much recently and being seen on the screens. I've been doing other things...!

You heard it here first - Pam is currently in the process of writing an autobiography! Thank you to Pam for taking the time to discuss her career and Pets As Therapy. Please take a look at the charity's official website by clicking here! You can also donate to the charity or you could even volunteer to get your pets assessed! Maybe your pet could be the key to somebody's smile. Visit the Pets As Therapy online shop for the chance to buy some great products for an amazing cause. Pam also wanted to thank her everyone for their kind support on Twitter and for remembering Pat.

Thank you reading my interview with the lovely Pam.
- Adam!