Over the Hills and Far Away
My Life as a Teletubby
by Nikky Smedley
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Pub Date 11 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 11 Aug 2022
Say 'Eh-Oh' to the performer behind the beloved Teletubby Laa-Laa in this candid and entertaining book.
Lifting the curtain on what it was like to be Laa-Laa and experience the astonishing success of the Teletubbies phenomenon, Nikky Smedley's enchanting story is warm, affectionate and as lively and funny as the Teletubbies themselves.
Unique in its use of educational theory, child psychology and revolutionary linguistics, Teletubbies achieved global viewing figures of three billion a year. Airing in 120 countries in 45 languages, it was one of the most internationally successful television programmes ever.
‘Putting us right inside those hellishly uncomfortable costumes, without trashing the magic or betraying the innocent children who gave Laa-Laa their love.’ -Michel Faber
‘Charming, funny and insightful.’ -Kathy Brodie
‘Top notch insight into the woman within the puppet.’ –Vic Reeves
'This brilliant self-portrait of artist as Teletubby is: fascinating, funny, poignant and heartwarming, in equal measure.' -Murray Lachlan Young
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 7 members
Nikky Smedley is the soul of a character that most people can name and recognise, even if they don't know who the human is. She was the voice and body of Laa-Laa from the children's television program Teletubbies.
With insight and warmth, she details the experience of creating the show, from seeing the initial advertisement seeking energetic performers to the end of filming six years later, and the subsequent events leading to the present day. Her humour and affection for the time are paired well with the honest descriptions of the difficulties of being eight feet tall and running around a field covered in fur.
As someone who was a child watching the show, I never did, and only from reading this book do I now, understand the extent and engagement of the Teletubbies. Aired in 120 countries in 45 languages, filmed in a hidden field and rich with education theory (which Smedley shares and explains), this program was a massive undertaking and a gamble that paid off. It's heartening to read Smedley's obvious fondness and sheer joy from her time as Laa-Laa, then to follow this with how she's incorporated this into her career.
I am glad about the timing of this book. As with the initial reluctance for anyone to see the Tubbies outside of Teletubbyland because it jars with the perception, for the children that watched it and their adults, having a distance from that time helps. It made for a thoroughly entertaining experience to delve back into this world, with each of Smedley's memories bringing back ones in the reader. It has been a long time since I've thought about Tubby Toast.
Smedley discusses the controversy that the program garnered, especially in the early days, regarding the appropriateness for young children, with many voicing concerns as to the impact on their development. As one such child, I can confidently assure you that it did nothing but good.
As a brief comment on this as it is an uncorrected proof, throughout, the word 'learned' needs to be replaced with the English spelling- this being 'learnt'. Please note that this did not impact my rating.
Famous, and yet not famous?
Absorbing, honest and entertaining account of the years spent inside that yellow fluffy suit
This book was just the tonic that I didn't know I needed.
I was too old for Teletubbies but my young brother watched it, so I saw and knew about it at the time
I cannot believe its now on its 25th anniversary.
This book is the perfect backstage pass to life in the teletubbies. From the set, to the huge costumes, to the newspapers hounding them for information. It was a fascinating read to catch a glimpse of this world. I can't say until this read that I thought much/at all about the people behind the characters. Now I've read the book I can see that Nikky absolutely is LaaLaa and I adore her passion to this character.
This has some heartfelt moments too and has a great blend of some early comedy, sheer hard work, and life after the show.
For anyone interested in TV, or the teletubbies, or just fancies reading something like you've never read before, look no further. This is an absolute unique gem.
Once upon a time well over 25 years ago, Nikki Smedley was given the opportunity of a lifeline. Having been unemployed or certainly underemployed as a dancer up until that point, Smedley won the role of La La in an ingenious new children's series called Teletubbies. She could have little dreamed quite what a phenomena the show would turn out to be or for that matter just how gruelling the production process would prove.
Nikki Smedley turns out to be both a good-natured and funny writer and tells the story of her life as a Teletubby (the yellow one) very well. The process of filming - in large suits specifically designed to create the illusion that they were in reality both small and toddler-like sounds hellish: Smedley was initially tormented by recurring fears tat she might die at any moment. But she remains justifiably proud of her role in a major (if undeniably weird) part of our cultural history.
It was such a treat to get an advanced review copy of this, my inner child thanks you very much. I absolutely loved it. I like most children adored the Teletubbies, even though by the time I watched it at age 7, when it first started in 1997, I was probably too old, but I was absolutely hooked. It was very interesting as an adult to learn all the behind-the-scenes stuff. PS, I still love the Teletubbies, the old series of course.
A marvellous memoir from Laa-Laa the Teletubby, aka Nikki Smedley, who is a dancer, choreographer, producer and teacher. One of the more unusual memoirs I’ve read, it’s a funny, insightful book which I very much enjoyed.
I was a little too old for the Teletubbies programme when it was first broadcast in 1997 but I remember seeing it at my childminder’s house. I’ve been exposed to it since then as my kids like watching it. In fact, while I was finishing this book, they made their Teletubby toys fight each other (Po was a policeman and Tinky Winky was the bad guy). What’s interesting about the TV programme is how popular and long-lived it is – this year is the 25th anniversary – which proves that Anne Wood and Andrew Davenport (the creators) were on to a winner, although as Nikki Smedley recounts, what they were doing was quite new and no one could predict how successful it would be.
The memoir focuses on what it was like to be in the Laa-Laa suit, channel the character and work with everyone involved in the programme. It’s packed full of production secrets and amusing anecdotes. I was super impressed with how considered every detail was and that, far from the dumbing down of children’s TV that the media had latched on to, Teletubbies was designed to support children’s early development in several ways. After finishing work on the show, Nikki was involved with the next Ragdoll productions Boobah (no, I haven’t heard of it either) and the phenomenally successful In the Night Garden, before doing various Teletubbies events and being a consultant on the rebooted Darrall Macqueen series.
In summary, a recommended read, unless you’ve never heard of the Teletubbies (unlikely) or you have a phobia of them (apparently some people do).
[Review will appear on my blog, 31st July]
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