THERE can’t be many children – or their parents – who haven’t heard of Mister Maker, the educational and fun arts and crafts TV show that is aired on BBC TV channel CBeebies.
The title character is played by Phil Gallagher whose job it is to encourage and inspire pre-schoolers to explore their creative sides – and with his trademark exuberance and enthusiasm he sprinkles his magic by painting, drawing, sticking, moulding and loads more besides to create art work from everyday items.
Since its first transmission in 2007, Mister Maker has become a worldwide hit and is shown in more than 100 countries around the globe.
Now, after six hugely successful TV series, with the next one due to air next year, the BAFTA-nominated show is heading out of the TV studio and on to the road for the first time.
The nationwide tour, in which Mister Maker will be joined by the Shapes and a whole host of other colourful characters, will take a pit stop at Croydon’s Fairfield Halls on Saturday, October 17.
Speaking to Phil ahead of the visit it’s clear he’s as pleased as punch to be on the road and as keen as mustard to impart his arty ideas to his young audiences.
“I’m really excited about the tour because it’s the first one we’ve done in the UK so it’s going to be fantastic,” he says warmly.
“It will be exciting to be doing the makes live on stage and get an instant reaction - I can't wait.
“And I’m looking forward to Croydon – it’s really good for me as it’s quite close to family so there will be a lot of Gallaghers in the house,” he laughs.
The show will be based on the TV version with all the makes we’ve come to expect but with a few surprises.
“It’s going to be a bit full on,” he laughs. “We’ve got so much in it it’s absolutely packed.
“I wanted it to have the heart of the TV show so there will be lots that children and their parents will recognise, such as the makes but I’ve brought in new things too that perhaps the audience won’t expect.
"It will be presented in a different and theatrical way with lots of singing and dancing and of course the Shapes will be there – when they run out on the stage it’s brilliant.
"They will be doing their traditional dance but there will be new songs for them and you get to see more of their comic side.
“I wanted to give them more of a voice and thought it would be fun if they could speak and have conversations with Mister Maker.
“I love them all but I relate to Rectangle most,” he admits when I ask which one is his favourite.
“He’s a funny character, loves to dance and is constantly bouncing around - just like me. He’s also quite tall, like me – I’m 6ft which sometimes children are surprised about when they see me.”
The core of the show will be the ‘makes’ although ensuring everyone in the audience can see them has been one of the challenges of bringing it to the stage.
“Applying what we do in the TV show to a live show has been a challenge and something I really had to think about,” he says.
“With the small scale makes we have a camera on me so people can see it all on the screen.
“I’m also doing a make against the clock while singing a song – it’ll be quite scary doing that one because I’ve written it so there’s even more time pressure to get it done and so it’s more challenging than the one I do on the TV.
“And I want to make sure that everyone feels part of the show so there will also be opportunities for mini makers to come up and help me with something and I’m doing a big make that everyone contributes to no matter how young or old they are.
“So it’s going to be busy, full of arty adventures and loads of fun!"
Throughout our chat it’s clear Phil is as enthusiastic about getting kids of all ages interested in art as his alter ego. And he says it’s ever been thus.
“I love it,” he says warmly. “As a child making and creating things was one of my favourite things to do. My parents’ house is full of things I made as a kid.
“My favourite is a googlie eyed bug that I did with my grandfather when I was very young. I still do a version on the show – it’s a real classic.”
And he says that he always knew he wanted to be a TV presenter when he grew up.
“When I was very young I used to go behind the sofa and put on puppet shows for family and friends,” he says.
“I used to do lots of impressions and had a real love of performing even then. Making things and performing was a big part of my life so to do it as a job now is a real privilege and I feel really honoured and so fortunate.
“I’m so lucky because I have the best job in the world and that’s why I put everything into it – I’ll write the script and then lock myself away and rehearse and rehearse and rehearse so I get it absolutely right.”
But in an age where technology plays an increasingly prominent part in our lives with the lure of smart phones, tablets and computers to entertain kids, what does the future hold for using paper, pens and paint?
“The Mister Maker TV show is at its heart a traditional arts and crafts show but it’s done in a modern, zany way,” he says.
“We launched a Mister Maker app recently which was a new venture for us but we try to inspire whoever is using it to go and do something real.
“I feel that doing it for real is something that’s important and lovely for children – and for them to do with their parents and grandparents.
“One of my all time favourite makes was one we did in the early days which was dipping a tennis ball in a gloopy mixture and then throwing it against a canvas. It was such a lot of fun, really messy but kids love getting messy.”
So will there be “messy fun” in Croydon I ask.
“You will have to wait and see,” he chuckles. “It will be fun – audience reactions so far have been amazing – but definitely expect the unexpected.”
Mister Maker comes to the Fairfield Halls in Croydon on Saturday, October 17. Tickets cost from £11.50. Visit www.fairfield.co.uk or www.mistermaker.com or call 020 8688 9291 for tickets.