Big Strong Girls – Vanessa Jackson

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‘Big Strong Girls’ was commissioned as a series of 20, half hour shows for BBC 1, by Daytime Controller, Liz Barron. It was Liz who came up with the title when the idea was pitched to her by BBC Pebble Mill.   The series was transmitted in 1999.

It is the only series idea that I thought up, developed and actually made.  It was centred around the empowerment of women, in the wake of the Spice Girls – that women ought to get on with their own DIY  projects, without waiting for the men in their lives to lead the way!  The key talent were two sisters, Fiona Quigley, and Siobhan Palmer, who were both on screen team members of the Daytime makeover series ‘Real Rooms’, which I series produced at the time.  Fiona and Siobhan were funny, creative, and yes – both big and strong!  They visited members of the public and got to grips with their DIY jobs.  I think one of the funniest episodes involved a family in Hall Green, Birmingham, who had missing skirting boards, which they’d replaced using tea towels!  Unfortunately that episode was never shown, as it had been originally scheduled for the Opening of Parliament day.

Unfortunately the Daytime Controller changed between commissioning and delivery, and Liz Barron’s taste was not shared by Jane Lush and her team.  When we’d already made and delivered around ten episodes of the series, I received a phone call from the Controller’s office, saying that they really liked the idea of ‘Big Strong Girls’, but that couldn’t we use a couple of fit, attractive young men instead, and rename the series ‘Big Strong Boys’.  I felt that this was somewhat missing the point of the original series, but it’s difficult to argue with Channel Controllers!  We recorded another five episodes that we had already researched and were committed to, and then the girls were replaced by the ‘Big Strong Boys’, which in my opinion was a far more predictable approach to DIY on television.  Focus group research was carried out into a pilot of ‘Big Strong Boys’, whilst ‘Big Strong Girls’ was actually airing, and I was secretly pleased that the audience research said that people preferred the female version – not that it made any difference of course!

‘Big Strong Girls’ had a great production team, Roger Casstles was our executive producer, and was an early experiment in directors self shooting, using the Sony DSR 200 – which produced some very good results.  We did employ a professional recordist – and were very glad we did.

2 comments on “Big Strong Girls – Vanessa Jackson
  1. My mum and dad actually appeared in episode 3 of BSG…(Ian & Joanne Cooper of Nuneaton) my dad sadly passed away a few years ago, and I would love to know if there is any way for me to get hold of a copy of the episode? Back then we probably recorded his 15 minutes of fame on VHS but if we did it has been lost now to a Christmas airing of Star Wars complete with DFS sale adverts! I treasure any video reminders of my wonderful daft Pops, so any help getting a copy of this from the archives would be much appreciated!

  2. Hi Natalie

    Thanks for your comment. You should be able to get hold of a DVD copy of the programme as contributors, through the BBC, but it generally costs around £100, as someone needs to physically find the tape, book machine time and make the DVD copy for you. It’ll help if you can give them a transmission date. In fact, I was the series producer for this series, but I don’t think I have a copy of the programme – although I will check in the loft! I will get in touch with a friend who still works at the BBC, to get a transmission date for you. Here is the link to the BBC site where you can find out about getting copies: I’ll be in touch when I’ve got a transmission date for you.

    Best wishes


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