You know Mr Tumble. The spotty bag, the oversized bow tie, the red nose and baggy trousers…
I first came across Mr Tumble 4 or 5 years ago through my work with adults with Autism, but more recently have been receiving a daily dose of him as my 1 year old is really into Something Special.
Many of my friends with small children have a real dislike of Mr Tumble. The reasons seem to be something to do with him being a bit creepy and disconcerting. I get that clowns aren’t everyone’s cup of tea- in fact I’m really not a fan of traditional circus clowns because I don’t like not being able to see a person’s face. But I think Mr Tumble is different and I think that what Justin Fletcher has created (he’s the man behind Mr Tumble) really is something special and here’s why:
- I have seen first hand how people with Autism really connect with the character of Mr Tumble and the concept of the programme. It’s so touching to see an individual who for most of their life seems so withdrawn and disconnected become so animated and excited while watching Mr Tumble. There is something about the over exaggerated movements and facial expressions of a clown that can get through the Autism and the repetitiveness and predictability of the programme enable these individuals to feel comfortable with knowing what’s coming next.
- Since watching the programme with my little baby, I have seen a new dimension to Mr Tumble. Through the same largeness of the character and the lovely bright colours and shapes, she is learning about herself and her world. She recognises parts of the programme with specific sounds and music and she is responding to the words that are being said. When I ask her each morning if she wants to watch Mr Tumble she turns immediately and points at the TV smiling and waving her little arms. It’s exciting to see how this programme is supporting her development of words, sounds and associations.
- And finally I think I have a soft spot for Mr Tumble and Justin in Something Special (not in that way!) because there’s something that seems so genuine about him. He really enjoys being with the children and he interacts and responds to their special needs in such an open and accepting way. He’s not patronising, or performing for ulterior motives; he genuinely loves being with children. He’s described in an article here as having an ‘innate ability to communicate with children’ and I think that’s the nail on the head.
So I get it why grown ups might not be so keen, but when I watch people ranging from small babies through to adults with severe disabilities gaining so much pleasure from Justin’s creation, I can’t help but love him too.
Here are some more articles about Mr Tumble if you’re interested:
Interview with The Mirror
Interview with the BBC
Interview with the Guardian