Q&A with Jane Mitchell, creator of Peppa Pig: My First Concert

August 6, 2019

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The flautist and children’s concert specialist tells us about pigs and percussion together in Peppa Pig: My First Concert.

What’s Peppa Pig: My First Concert all about?

It’s a simple idea. Peppa and her family – Peppa, George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig – go to an orchestral concert. The audience gets to live it with them. As the concert goes on, Peppa enjoys experiencing it as an audience member, but her parents also get invited to get involved. There’s all sorts of brilliant Peppa fun and lots of participation.

That feels unusual for a concert. How do the kids get involved?

We do a lot of things with the children in the Peppa concert that match music and movement. That’s the idea that if you move to music you are learning about it, so there’s marching and tapping and copying a leader. There’s often a movement you can do, so you’re really experiencing the music with your body rather than being told to just sit still and listen. For example, I put in a bit of Beethoven’s 6th, which describes a storm and the sun coming out. The children make raindrop sounds and lightning gestures. It’s those kinds of things that kids love to latch onto.

That sounds brilliant. What else can the kids do?

We’ve tried to really make sure that every instrument is showcased during the concert. We have moments when players play from memory, step out and interact with Peppa’s family, so it’s not a lot of people hiding behind music stands not really showing who they are. It’s quite a small orchestra but a big range of instruments, so the children see individual people rather than a big, intimidating mass.

One of the first things the musicians do is chat to the audience as they come in, showing them their instruments. There’s a real emphasis on them being real people. A lot of audience members love that they get to talk to them beforehand.

How did you get involved with the show?

I work with orchestras all the time, particularly children’s concerts. There is obviously a history of Peppa Pig Live shows and there’s always been this thought of bringing in an orchestra. That’s the point I got a phone call. They needed someone with expert music knowledge to start having in-depth conversations.

How much have you shaped the show?

I love the fact I’ve been really involved. The whole team was so open to having someone really come and talk about music with them. One of the first things I did was suggest bringing on board an arranger called Iain Farrington, who is just fantastic. He can interweave a Peppa Pig song into something by Beethoven, which is surprisingly effective.

How much did you know about Peppa before joining the production?

I know a lot about Peppa. I have a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old, so it’s on a lot in my household. I think the team were surprised that someone who came from a classical music background was very up on the world of Peppa Pig. As soon as they realised that we understood what Peppa was about, there was a real openness that was fantastic.

Classical music is sometimes seen as elitist. Is it important to combat that misconception?

Orchestras are sometimes seen as having a few barriers or being inaccessible. Anything that can be done to break that down, especially for a younger audience, I think most musicians are behind that. And having Muddy Puddles alongside Mozart is a great way to do that.

My overwhelming feeling when I was asked to come on board with Peppa Pig, and when I realised this was going to be a show that features core classical music and is very open-minded, was what an amazing opportunity it was, because the potential reach is so big. It is completely vital, for live music itself, to have young people introduced to instruments. It’s not always that easy, as a young person, to find these things. It’s something that often gets cut from school curriculums. Anything that is a popular way of getting people to see all these instruments, anything that can spark that excitement, is exactly what you need at this young age.

The Peppa Pig audience is mostly under 5, so that ‘Wow’ experience is really important. Certainly if you can reach them through a character they know and love, it feels like a golden opportunity for me.

How important is it, then, that the show is touring?

I think it’s massively important. All musical organisations are working hard to tackle this, but there can easily be a London emphasis if you don’t work to avoid it. It’s very easy to put events on in London and get a big audience. But we need as many people as possible to see this show and we want to be fair to everybody.

Quite often venues tell me just getting children walking through buildings that they would see as ‘not for them’ is half the battle. And quite often schoolteachers say ‘Our children would never step inside a building like that because they assume there’s nothing there for them.’ Lots of people are working very hard to break these barriers down, but it doesn’t get helped by cuts to music services. There’s definitely a feeling of music being a lofty, untouchable thing. I hope Peppa Pig: My First Concert will make people think it is much more relevant to them, more easy and less scary than they thought.

Peppa Pig: My First Concert is being performed at Saffron Hall at 12pm, 2pm and 4pm on Friday 16 August. Tickets can be booked on the Saffron Hall website or by ringing 0845 548 7650.