CBeebies' Jojo and Gran Gran praised for celebrating diversity

First British animated TV series about a black family is praised by viewers for celebrating diversity – as the author of the books behind the show reveals they were inspired by her upbringing

  • JoJo & Gran Gran is the first British animated TV show about a black family
  • Tells the story of a four-year-old girl’s adventures with her grandmother  
  • Show is based on books created by London-based author Laura Henry Allain 
  • Said the characters are loosely based on her and her grandmother 

Viewers have praised CBeebies show JoJo & Gran Gran – the first British-made animated TV show centered around the lives of a black family.

The programme, which tells the story of a four-year-old girl’s adventures with her  grandmother, premiered in March and has since won legions of fans, with parents taking to Twitter to applaud the step towards greater diversity

Author Laura Henry Allain, who created the books which inspired the show, said in an interview with FEMAIL that the character of Gran Gran is loosely based upon her own grandmother, Marie Helenac, who came to the UK from St Lucia in the 1950s. 

Viewers have praised CBeebies show JoJo & Gran Gran – the first British-made animated TV show centered around the lives of a black family. Pictured, a scene from the show 

The programme, which tells the story of a four-year-old girl’s adventures with her grandmother, premiered in March and has since won legions of followers, with parents taking to Twitter to applaud the step towards greater diversity

‘I had a very close relationship with Mama, even though she returned to St Lucia when I was little,’ Laura said, using the St Lucian creole name for ‘grandmother’. ‘I have fond memories of her being very kind, caring and loving, not just to her family, but also to the wider community. 

‘When my parents were at work, she would look after us, not just her grandchildren but other children too. I remember her warmth and authentic manner.’ 

She continued: ‘When Mama was 101, my sons and I returned to St Lucia to celebrate her birthday, as we did every year. She told a story to her friends about when I was a little girl, and how she visited my siblings and me every Sunday with treats that she bought from Portobello and Golborne Road Markets. 

Author Laura Henry Allain, who created the books which inspired the show, said in an interview with FEMAIL that the character of Gran Gran is loosely based upon her own grandmother, Marie Helenac

‘I was so lucky to be raised in a great community in North Kensington, not far from Grenfell Tower, where they had the awful fire in 2017.

‘In her story, Mama recalled that I was the only one out of my six siblings who would be at the window watching for her and that I would get excited and jump up and down, saying; “Mama’s coming! Mama’s coming!” 

‘As she was telling it, the tears were rolling down my face and I thought that it was such a magical memory to share with me. It was a few months after this that she passed away.

Laura’s grandmother died in St Lucia in 2009. 

She continued: ‘After my grandmother passed away, although I was grieving for many months, I reflected on the story that she shared about me when I was little. In my role as an international Early Years specialist and as a parent, I felt that I could write a children’s book and that’s what I did.’

The first JoJo & Gran Gran book, All In A Week, was released in September 2016. The second, Twelve And A Half Days of Christmas, was published the following year. 

JoJo & Gran Gran play in the garden in a joyful scene from the CBeebies series 

Jojo & Gran Gran follows a four-year-old child as she completes various activities with her grandmother, who has a proud St Lucian heritage

Laura, who works as a children’s media consultant, has also written two other picture books linked to disability – her eldest son is autistic – and another on blended families. 

She added: ‘JoJo & Gran Gran is a welcome show that is different to other current children’s programmes. 

‘It shows the loving relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter living within a multi-generational community. It links back to St. Lucia, where Great Gran Gran lives.’ 

Many people have taken to social media revealing that they’ve been watching the animated series with their children throughout lockdown 

JoJo & Gran Gran on is available on CBeebies and BBC iPlayer with new episodes starting in the summer. 

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