Bernard the Ferret set to become TV star - with help from Martham students

Eve Stebbing who has written a book called Bernard the Ferret.
She has involved students on a BTEC Information and Creative Technology course at Flegg High School to produce short animations of her character.

Picture: James Bass Eve Stebbing who has written a book called Bernard the Ferret. She has involved students on a BTEC Information and Creative Technology course at Flegg High School to produce short animations of her character. Picture: James Bass

Sunday, June 29, 2014
8:04 AM

With his cute face, soft black coat and helpful nature Bernard the ferret has quickly become a favourite with youngsters across Norfolk.

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Eve Stebbing's 2012 book Bernard the FerrettEve Stebbing's 2012 book Bernard the Ferrett

And now the lovable mammal is set to reach a national audience as his entertaining adventures are in line to be turned into a TV show - thanks to a link up between his creator and a group of Martham students.

Author Eve Stebbing penned successful children’s tale Bernard the Ferret, Happy to be Himself two years ago and after a library tour, his adventures caught the attention of the BBC.

Bosses approached Eve about animating the book but as she did not have the right expertise, or time, to make them a pilot she could see Bernard’s chance for TV stardom slipping away.

But information technology BTEC students from Flegg High School have helped put him back in the spotlight, after they teamed up with Eve to create a series of short films for her to take to production companies.

And the mum-of-one is confident their efforts will pave Bernard’s way to the small screen.

Eve, who also pens stage shows as the artistic director of Norwich-based Spin Off Theatre, said: “The films are amazing. The great strength the kids had was their spontaneity. They solve the problems very quickly and as a result all the ideas were just so personal.

“I definitely think Bernard is going to be on our TV screens, he’s got legs.”

The partnership was the brainchild of William Burford, head of IT at Flegg, who was a big fan of the Bernard books and wanted to help them find a wider audience.

He said: “I think Eve and the illustrator Cate Agnew have done a cracking job, and I love the fact the ferrets come from Norfolk – in the story they live in Acle, not too far from our school.”

Eve, 38, has now whittled down the films to a handful, which she will be taking to TV bosses, and the eventual pilot is also hoped to launch the career of the young filmmaker chosen.

She added: “The whole point of the BTEC is that they’re supposed to make links into the industry, and this is just the perfect way of doing it.

“Certainly if the project goes forward the student will be involved in the next stage of the process.”

The friendly ferret’s first tale was borne out of a performance Eve staged with Spin Off, which included a Bernard puppet.

His character went down so well with audiences she took him to the Edinburgh Festival as part of a stand up show where he gained more popularity.

This gave Eve the inspiration for the book, aimed at three - six year olds, which has been selling steadily on Amazon and led to library tours in Norfolk and Edinburgh.

And as she and Bernard prepare for a tour of Bristol libraries, Eve has revealed more books are in the pipeline.

She added: “He’s just an adorable character so I’m really pleased to see the way this has taken off, and it’s really great to see the way it’s grabbed the imaginations of the children at Flegg as well.”

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