Peter and Martin make new friends in the Sesame Tree

Martin McGuinness was famously pictured with Muppets Potto and Hilda at the launch of the first series of Sesame Tree, the local co-production with Sesame Workshop. This morning he was accompanied by fellow eejit (his words, not mine) Peter Robinson at the launch of the second series which airs on BBC’s CBeebies from 22 November.

Launch of the second series of Sesame Tree - Darren Kidd/ - Pictured with Hilda, Potto and Archie from Sesame Tree are from left to right: Richard Williams, Chief Executive Northern Ireland Screen; Peter Robinson, First Minister; Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister; and Denis Rooney CBE, Chairman, International Fund for Ireland.

In their speeches, the First and deputy First Ministers were both upbeat about the production and the local creative sector. Continuing the banter started by the International Fund for Ireland’s Denis Rooney who’d enjoyed a smacker on the lips from Hilda at a party in the American Consulate last night, Peter Robinson declared that he was “vying for Hilda’s interest too”. He also reassured the parents in the audience not to worry about their children’s noise or running up the aisles. “Martin and I are used to all of that – we go to the Assembly every week!”

Referring to Sesame Tree – as well as productions being filmed in the Paint Hall – Martin McGuinness was gratified about “the skills that [local] people are learning … that will lead to other projects”. He noted the “key messages of tolerance, acceptance and equality” embedded in each episode.

The show’s executive producer Colin Williams explained that Sesame Tree was the first network children’s television “100% written and produced in Northern Ireland with an entirely local cast and local crew”. The BBC’s Jane Cassidy said that CBeebies were delighted with the localness of the show: “[CBeebies] love us the way we are with our accents and humour”.

Northern Ireland Screen’s chief executive Richard Williams said that Sesame Tree was “an absolutely picture perfect project for NI Screen” and had grown into “a cultural export” as it made the transition from BBC NI to network TV on CBeebies. He singled out production company SixteenSouth’s entrepreneurial spirit and creativity that made them “the most exciting children’s TV producers in the UK”. (SixteenSouth are also responsible for Big City Park, set in Belfast’s Ormeau Park.)

When the adults had finished their speechifying, children from three local schools involved in the show’s production were ushered in to the front seats and sat entranced as they watched the first episode before taking part in a live Q&A with Potto (a big purple recluse), Hilda (a young Irish hare who wears gutties) and their new friend Archie (a next-door neighbour squirrel).

In each episode, a child from across Northern Ireland poses the puppets a question (linked back to the Northern Ireland curriculum) sending it through to Potto’s Big Whizzing Machine. Maybe after the messages of sharing and cooperation are finally exhausted, one day there’ll be a series that asks “How do laws get made up at Stormont?”, “Will John Lewis ever open at Sprucefield?” and “How many councils does Northern Ireland really need?”.

UpdateOver on Alan in Belfast you can see an interview with SixteenSouth’s Colin Williams and Sesame Workshop’s Charlotte Cole over on Alan in Belfast, as well as hear Potto and Archie chatting and the FM and dFM’s full speeches.)

Photo – Darren Kidd/

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  • another

    Suggested Headline: “The Muppet Show.”

  • Rocketeer

    Maybe I am naive but when I read stories like this and read of the banter between Robinson and McGuinness in addition to their hugely improved relationship I feel really happy and excited about the future of Northern Ireland?

  • They were both certainly in good form and relating well to each other this morning.

  • Craig Broon

    Even Securocrat-lovin’ types like me think that MI5 are just taking the p*ss at the point. I mean, c’mon – sticking poor Martin in front of other puppets? He’s cashing his cheque each month, let’s not rub it in.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Proof if ever it were needed that the North is indeed a Puppet State.

  • JAH

    Woe betide any politician smiling. Or sitting amongst the muppets.

    Do you think the jokes on all those sad oiks that become very indignant over this?

    And just where is Sooty?

  • lamhdearg

    sesame street, the greatest tv show ever made.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Fair play to them.
    The picture is a hostage to fortune and will appeal to the more childish political pundits……..Messrs O’Kane, Delamere, McGarry (he will mention it in the taxi……ho ho ho), the unfunny one who does the Harp ad etc.
    Altogether now which one is the Muppet? Laugh? I thought Id never start.
    But the idea of two former enemies actually having a bit of fun with kids at a launch of a BBC Childrens thingy (which is actually awful btw) is actuallya good indicator of the better place we all are.

    But there is a changing of the guard in the Press Office. Dont really know whose idea it was……a parting shot at former bosses from the old one……or an indicator of things to come from the new boy.

  • We appear to finally have the Chuckle Bros II picture we’ve been waiting for.

  • Mr Crowley

    They also announced the unveiling of two new muppet characters: a rabbit called Irish whose always on the go around building sites and a forgetful elephant called Gerry.

  • Anon

    Cue all the Nuala McKeever, “Hole in the Wall”, local “humour” jibes about muppets etc. but who gives a toss what they think?

    Fair play to both of them. Sesame Street is a brilliant programme for kids and Robbo and Marty are right to recognise that….and I have it on good authority that Big Bird is a DUP voter.

  • Cynic

    Is it me or does the big purple one look like Willie Whitelaw?

  • The Treasury and the securocrats are pulling the strings 🙂

  • Anon

    The wee rabbit looks like Hazel Blears.

  • Alias

    I’m looking forward to the episode where Marty shows the others muppets how to make a human bomb. The kiddies will love that one…

  • another

    How far we have come?

    N.Ireland boasts some of the highest poverty levels in Europe and it offers up some of the worst care in the treatment of Cancer, Parkinsons disease and heart problems.

    In the field of Parkinsons, for example, in Scotland, every Parkinsons patient has access to their own specially trained Parkinsons nurse, whilst in N.Ireland you get to see a so called consultant once every six months, and get handed a whole lot of pills. You do not get any nutritional advice.

    N.Ireland continues to have one of the worst survival rates for Cancer in the whole of Europe;

    Heart and circulatory disease (cardiovascular disease or CVD) is the main cause of death in Northern Ireland. Over 50% of the population are deemed to be clinically obese. It has taken 15 years to reduce the waiting time for cardiac surgery to 6 months in Northern Ireland, a figure that was achieved in England 4 years. The waiting time in England is now less than 3 months. Many people die before they make it to the operating table.

    So, to answer my own question we have not come very far.

    When it comes to the things that actually matter to most people, when all is said and done, these smiling muppets have failed to produce any results.

    Cosmetic PR exercises do not wash regardless of how many people are no longer being murdered by their respective tribes.

  • McKavanaghs

    “Cosmetic PR exercises do not wash regardless of how many people are no longer being murdered by their respective tribes.”

    Well said.