I was disappointed to discover that the actor Bill Maynard didn't have a brother, because when I turned up yesterday at the Henry Maynard Primary School and Nursery, I was convinced it was named after him.
I was outside the school gate at 9 o'clock along with disgustingly young teachers and parents. Having been let into the reception area I explained to the school administor that I was a Dragon. One of a number of Dragons who were to interrogate groups of 9 year olds in "Junior Dragons' Den". I and my fellow dragons, 6 fiery characters, were greeted by the class teacher who'd recruited us and taken to the staff room - something that hadn't happened to me for well over 50 years. There we were given details of the competition.
There would be two dens with 3 dragons: each den would evaluate inventions created by teams of kids. In my den there was a lecturer in Drama Studies from Birmingham University and a recently retired teacher. The other den was made up of two parents and a local Councillor. The kids had produced inventions based on a dishwasher, microwave oven, phone, camera and the electric toothbrush. Each team had five minutes to pitch their ideas. They had to produce a mock up of their invention, detailed specification, a national advertising campaign, packaging and a radio advert. We were told all this had been done in a week - in between their other class work.
From the moment the first team entered our den to sell us their improved version of a microwave oven we were enthralled. All the teams came up with great radio ads. Some were jingles and others mini-plays. The mock ups were extremely impressive: a special mention to the team that produced a dishwasher - it was so detailed, and the new improved camera. The care that went into their advertising - and the really creative names they came up with for the products was brilliant.
But it was the children themselves that impressed us the most. They came in all shapes and sizes and colours. Some were adults in miniature, some so delicious you had to stop yourselves from staring at them. And their enthusiasm: with one team we thought we were in danger of being blown out of the Dragon's Den such was the energy and excitement generated in selling us their product.
It was exhausting, even though we had a 20 minute break. Almost 3 hours of creativity, inventiveness and sheer delight. We were asked to write something good about each team. That was so difficult. There was so much to say about these brilliant kids. We reluctantly chose a winner.
We were all winners. I was impressed not only with the kids - they were astounding - but also with the teachers involved who must have worked their socks off to pull off such a well organised and enjoyable event.
It was a privilege to be involved. I so hope all that energy, creativity, and sheer fun is not dissipated as the kids grow older.