**a few of you may remember this blog post from nearly a year ago, I had to take it down as it broke my contract with Channel 4 (at the time) I have reposted this with some changes due to the sheer amount of questions I get about Noah being on TV*
I can’t really remember how long the whole process was, because once things started happening, it all seemed to have started and finished so quickly.
I knew that thousands of parents were going to be applying so once sending off the application, and the video of Noah, I decided not to think about it much more.
A month or so after, we received a call and they wanted to speak about Noah’s interests – prehistoric creatures, sharks and his fear of bats 🦇 (thanks My Little Pony for that one)
They were very impressed with his confidence – as he overtook the phone call, and begun to speak to the woman himself. They invited us for a casting in Leeds.
The casting was quite an experience. There were 30 odd children and parents all in one big conference room.
So many impeccably well behaved children, smartly dressed and smiling.
Noah put his pants on backwards, and spent the whole time digging out a wedgie. And I mean, the whole time.
Half way through I intervened and took him to the toilets to readjust the pants. Pants on the right way, we were back in action.
All parents were told at the beginning to not get involved during the session, so I profusely apologised to those holding the casting.
Anyone who has seen the programme knows that Noah doesn’t take to losing very well, a year on it’s still something we’re working on. It was evident in the casting how much of a sore loser he was!
In a separate room, he was interviewed and I was there to chaperone.
He was asked about why he doesn’t like losing.
“Because it’s rubbish. I hate losing. I want to win win win win win”
I heard another parent say to their partner, “I bet that Noah kid gets it” screwing up his face whilst he said it.
When we left the casting we were told to wait to hear if we had been successful, and I felt a bit deflated. I felt like he hadn’t shown how wonderful he could be – because yes, he can be a handful, but he is also a joy to be around.
So naturally, I was over the moon when they said Noah had been shortlisted.
We proceeded with the legal stuff – this is a pointer for anyone who is looking to enter their child. You have to declare everything.
Any skeletons in the closet have to be told, this is to protect you once the show is aired.
You will be phoned or emailed about twice a day for the next couple of months, by various different people – asking you to sign this, questioned about that, so on. It can get quite tedious, and at moments I was getting a little fed up with it.
If you have home filming, you also have to dedicate a whole day to that. This means tidy your house, find fun activities for your children and then for the parental interview, have someone ready to babysit the children.
Even after all of that, your children might not make the cut as a feature child and have their home filming used.
A psychologist visits, she speaks to every (verbal) member of the family. Your hopes for the show, your worries etc.
Papa No + Ro was happy for everything to take place. Myself, I’m a little more anxious and worried about the implications that it may cause Noah/us.
If Noah was portrayed badly, would this affect him in life? Could he be a target for bullying? Resentment? Will the parents in the playground be funny towards me about it?
I also told the psychologist about my history of PND, and that if this wasn’t to go well for us – would this trigger something?
The Secret Life team are wonderful (less so the one I butt heads with about my blog) but they are making an entertaining documentary at the end of the day. Their priority is the programme, not your emotions towards it.
We received our dates for filming and Roman, Noah and I, skipped off to Essex to stay with the other Secret Life children and parents, in (a really low budget, crusty, middle of nowhere) Premier Inn (no I won’t remove that bit, because it’s true, sorry!)
As it turns out, we were sent home after the first week. And I was gutted. I thought it meant that Noah wasn’t going to have much to do with the programme, and that all of our time and efforts had been in vain. But, he had a wonderful week. I met some great people and some right bitchy characters too. I also ended up being bullied by one of the mums too, but that’s a story for another day!
As much as I was sad, the prospect that we could go home – eat something other than take away, and see more than the Secret Life school and the hotel room was wonderful.
It turns out, that my anxieties were all for nothing.
We have since watched the programme, and all 4 of us appear – which was a shock, I didn’t know Romey, Papa and I made the cut!
I have made a list below of things to remember when applying for the process, as I would have found this helpful.
• being sent home after a week does NOT mean your child will not be featured.
• staying for 2 weeks does NOT mean your child has a bigger role.
• it is not paid – you are given money for food and travel though and a donation towards 3 (of the same) outfits they need for the filming.
• you will not hear of everything that goes on during filming, you get updated by a crew member everyday – they give you an outline of what has happened, but that is pretty much it.
• even with home filming and 20+ hours of filming, your child may barely feature
• do voice your concerns, it is important to remember that you are not ‘doing them a favour’ and if you want something altered or removed, the worst that can happen is that they say ‘no’. I struggled with this at the time and wish I had been more vocal.
• it is weirdly tiring. Don’t underestimate how hard going the week(s) can be!
• tutoring your child for the programme will not work. It will be flagged up.
• the children have chaperones during filming. The chaperones are there to ensure that the children do not do too many hours, and if they have had enough they are removed. Noah spent a good part of one day doing a puzzle with one of the lovely assistants.
• you will not see the preview, adverts or press shots until very near release. The adverts and press shots we have seen the same time as the rest of the population.
It really is wonderful seeing your child and their friends on the telly, and I was not expecting to feel so immensely proud of all of them!
Nearly a year on:
In hindsight, I can’t deny the amazing feeling I had seeing Noah on telly, the excitement and buzz of him being in TV guides and adverts. However, it is not a decision I made lightly and I don’t think I would make this decision again. Some of the tweets about him were heart wrenching, you are warned of trolls and told not to react but it’s difficult when someone is calling your child names, you never expect people to actually sink that low! Noah was also the subject of an ethical debate, started by my favourite children’s author, that was incredibly hard as I was told specifically not to respond, but I felt like no one was defending my little boy or our family (my friend Cecilia did send him a kick ass email though!) I found some of the parents very difficult to deal with also, this will change year to year obviously, but some had agendas and it felt like being back at school – to the point I had to block peoples numbers and on Facebook! So, it was an incredible experience that I am really glad we did (as is Noah – he loves watching it back now) but yeah, it was tough in the moment.