Alumnus & TV star publishes first children’s book

A BAFTA-nominated University of Bedfordshire alumnus has released a new children’s book that focuses on a mixed-race retelling of Bible stories.

Gemma Hunt graduated with a degree in BA (Hons) Media Performance back in 2003 and has since gone on to carve out a successful career on screen, presenting TV shows including CBeebies favourite, Swashbuckle.

Gemma’s book – her first authored children’s work – is entitled ‘A Good Friend’ and is a diverse, modern day reimagining of the stories of Jesus, featuring a mixed-race family as the main characters.

She was inspired to produce the stories after being unable to find any children’s books which featured a mixed-race family like her own, and so decided to write the book for her daughter – who has a mixed-race mother, a white father, a Black grandmother and a white grandfather – so that she could see a family like her own reflected in the books she read. 

As a Christian, Gemma aims for her book to promote a diverse image of Jesus – one that makes mixed-race children and children of colour feel part of the conversation around religion.

Gemma said: “We couldn’t find any children’s books which represented a family like ours. While there is more diversity in kids’ stories these days, there was nothing which truly reflected my own child’s experience of home life. I wrote these stories because it is so important for children to see themselves represented in the literature and media they consume – I want my daughter to look at this book and feel like she’s looking in a mirror.”

Gemma also credits her time studying at Bedfordshire with helping her to launch her successful career.

She commented: “I absolutely loved my time at the University, it gave me such confidence in my performance ability and knowledge of working in a real TV and radio studio. Apart from the obvious nerves on starting a new job, I felt confident stepping into the CBBC studios for the first time as I’d learnt so much about production and studio etiquette from my course in Media Performance.

“And if it wasn’t for one of my lecturers inviting in an agent to tell us about how to put together a show reel, I wouldn’t have met Sara Cameron, who is still my agent to this day!”

Rachel Clark, Senior Lecturer with the School of Arts & Creative Industries, was one of Gemma’s Media Performance tutors during her time studying and the pair have kept in touch since she graduated.

Rachel said: “Gemma was a wonderful, talented student and truly deserves her success as a TV presenter. As a student, she was bright, bubbly and always boasted a wonderful smile. This is her key to her success, I believe, in that she is the same person face to face as she is on screen, full of smiles and bursting with warmth and energy.

“Gemma’s latest venture as a children’s author is such a lovely idea to reflect on diversity and families from mixed race backgrounds. As a parent myself, I would have loved to read such stories to my child when younger and hopefully she can retell the stories of Jesus through her modern retelling, embrace the acceptance of diversity and promote a sense of belonging no matter where your parents or family are from.”

Published by SPCK Publishing, ‘A Good Friend’ is available to purchase from high street book retailers and online.

For more information about studying Media Performance for Film, TV and Theatre at the University of Bedfordshire, click here.

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