New CBeebies drama for pre-schoolers set on inner city council estate

Apple Tree House follows the adventures of young friends Mali and Sam and features a wealth of diverse supporting characters

A new drama for preschoolers set on an inner city council estate is premiering on the BBC’s channel for young children, CBeebies, in an attempt to offer a “more authentic” view of life for many children.

Apple Tree House follows Mali, played by nine-year-old Aamir Tai, who has just moved to “an extraordinary estate” and makes a new best friend in Sam, played by Miranda Sarfo Peprah.

The friends go on adventures within the fictitious Apple Tree House estate, solving daily problems and overcoming childhood dilemmas.

The diversity of the cast and its setting is markedly different from the channel’s other real-life dramas, Topsy and Tim and Katie Morag. The former, based on the 1960s books by Jean and Gareth Adamson, is set in middle-class suburbia, while Katie Morag takes place on a fictional Scottish island. Both feature a mainly white cast.

In Apple Tree House, the audience will be introduced to a wealth of diverse and supportive characters, including Mali’s grandmother Zainab and Sam’s father Kobi, plus a host of other family members, friends and neighbours with very different backgrounds who help the main characters.

In the first episode, Mali and Sam go in search of mangoes from the neighbours so that Mali’s grandma can make her “Magnificent Mango Pudding”. Further episodes see the two best friends and another girl, Bella, played by Summer Jenkins, embark on adventures such as finding out how buses work and celebrating Ramadan.

The show was commissioned by Kay Benbow, controller of CBeebies. She told the Telegraph: “Apple Tree House embodies all that CBeebies stands for – a sense of fun, curiosity and adventure, as well as sharing valuable life lessons in responsibility, kindness and being a good friend.

“The urban setting is important for a lot of children. When you’re a child you do read stories and they are a bit idealistic - this will be more real and more authentic.”

Apple Tree House was initially pitched as an animated series by award winning Rastamouse producers Eugenio Perez and Gregory Boardman. It was created by William Vanderpuye, Maria Timotheou and Akindele Akinsiku, . It is inspired by reflections on their own childhoods growing up in positive communities.

The first of 30 episodes will go out on 22 May and a second series has been commissioned. Benbow said: “Even before it has been transmitted I recommissioned the series, which I hardly ever do, because I felt it was so different and doing something absolutely lovely.”

It was filmed in a real housing estate and community centre in Tower Hamlets, east London, one of the capital’s most deprived boroughs, where about a third of the population is of Bangladeshi origin.

The children who play Mali and Sam had no prior acting experience and were found after the production team did callouts and auditions via local schools, community groups and social media.

Aamir said: “I hadn’t done any acting before but I really enjoyed playing Mali and making new friends. I especially liked the adventures with Grandma Zainab as it reminded me of my own grandma at home, who can’t wait to see me on TV!”

• This article was amended on 15 May 2017 to correctly set out the individuals who pitched and created the drama respectively.


Nicola Slawson

The GuardianTramp

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