We chat with Essex-raised CBeebies stalwart Andy Day
PUBLISHED: 10:50 18 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:16 18 September 2018
Essex-raised TV personality Andy Day has been a favourite on BBC children's channel CBeebies for over 12 years. Now he's branched into music, touring nationwide with his family-friendly band, Andy and the Odd Socks. Here he tells Denise Marshall about his Glastonbury debut, fighting bullying and becoming a father
Those with young children or grandchildren will be incredibly familiar with CBeebies presenter Andy Day, and also likely a little grateful for the power he wields – mesmerising small people with his trademark educational twist.
Andy has five children’s programmes to his name, including time-travelling series Andy’s Prehistoric Adventures set in the Natural History Museum and factual show Andy’s Baby Animals, plus a dedicated activity magazine for his followers, part of what he describes as the burgeoning Andy ‘brand’.
With such a rapidly expanding profile, a year ago he formed five-piece music group, Andy and the Odd Socks, encouraging children to embrace individuality. Releasing their first album, Who Invited This Lot?, the infectious lyrics soon widened his celebrity fanbase. Along with several September festival appearances, the group start a new UK tour in October.
“I’ve always wanted to start a band and I’ve always wanted a kids’ album,” explains Andy, with all the enthusiasm of his award-winning screen persona. “Every year I performed at Glastonbury’s Kidzfield for fun, but Emily Eavis, (Micheal Eavis’ daughter) has children and listened to our album.
“She loved it and invited us to perform at one of the adult stages on the Sunday morning in 2017. We had just 150 hardcore followers in a big tent, but then it rained and everyone came in. People loved it and it was such a buzz.”
Andy is used to the likes of Simon Pegg in the audience for CBeebies productions and word has spread fast.
“If someone is entertaining your kids you like that person, because they’re the ones you most adore,” laughs Andy. “Fearne Cotton has come to see us with her son and daughter, Rex and Honey. She’s really lovely. And a couple of times Tom Hardy’s wife, Charlotte Riley, has brought their kid along to gigs.”
As patron of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, Andy was honoured to speak in the House of Lords last year about his work for the charity. He helped launch Odd Socks Day, to raise vital funds and promote positive messages for primary school children. Even Harper Beckham was one of the thousands to don odd socks, and on November 12 this year, Andy hopes the awareness day will have a bigger impact.
“We’ve written a new song, Respect. Last year it was Unique, and the message of the whole album is that everyone’s different, so just accept it and try and be nice. Someone once said, ‘the more you get the more you should give back’. I’m in a privileged position where kids look up to me and I do believe you’ve got a responsibility to give something back. It’s quite easy for me to do.”
After being a role model for so long, the 37-year-old has recently become a parent to four-month-old Ruby Sienna with producer fiancé Cat. Despite his abilities to connect with little ones, he admits this step was never in the plan.
“I never wanted to get married and I never wanted to have kids,” reveals Andy. “A part of me feels that is because society doesn’t really promote that these days, but I’m completely the opposite now. I really value marriage to the point where I proposed to my partner in January.
“It’s really important for marriage to be prominent if you can. Everyone’s situation is different, but if you can, I’m all for it. Cat and I knew each other for years but didn’t get together until two years back. At our age we thought it was a no brainer having a baby. It was a whirlwind, but felt completely right.”
Rather than the bewilderment that can descend with a newborn, Andy and Cat, who already had seven nieces between them, have eased into parenthood with Andy scaling back his workload to be a hands-on dad.
“I’ve got an amazing fiancé, a brilliant mum who the baby has to feed from, and she sleeps as well, so it’s not that bad! Ruby was at her first festival at six weeks old. You don’t have kids every day, so for her first year I’m fortunate to not take on as much. I definitely want one more if we can. It would be nice to have a boy next.”
Born in Luton, Andy moved to Essex when he was five, the youngest of three brothers, and has wasted no time in introducing his daughter to the delights of the county’s coast.
“My parents still live in Gidea Park and most of my closest mates are in Leigh on Sea, so we’ve taken Ruby for a walk at Southend seafront. I’ve had so many happy days out there, and in Maldon and South Weald. I often played tennis at Raphael’s Park in Romford, so I remember that very fondly. There’s a great restaurant there now where my family went to on Mother’s Day last year.”
One of Andy’s most vivid memories is at the notoriously haunted spot of Hangman’s Hill in Epping Forest. “I went with my brothers to find the hill. When you drive there the car is supposed to roll up and I swear it happened, but I think it’s some kind of optical illusion.”
After leaving school, Andy studied A Level performing arts at Havering Sixth Form College in Hornchurch before discovering his vocation for TV.
“I did drama for fun, but mainly because I went to an all-boys school and wanted to mix with girls. My parents were very traditional, dad was a diamond cutter in Hatton Garden and thought you should get a reliable job. I didn’t listen, but I always paid my way, so they didn’t worry.
“And acting is in the blood. In the 1940s there was a gangster actor in America with the same sort of popularity as James Cagney, called Edward G Robinson.
“Not many people know he was my mum’s second cousin. Her family emigrated from Belgium and Romania, but he disowned the family and went into acting. When he died he was one of the first actors to receive an Oscar posthumously.”
After the national furore that followed Tom Hardy reading the CBeebies’ evening Bedtime Story, Andy confirms he too would like to see Liam Gallagher in the slot after the former Oasis singer was reported to have expressed interest.
“I’d definitely love to see Liam, but the one person I’d love more than anything is Dave Grohl from the Foofighters. We’ve had Dolly Parton and Elton John, so you never know.”
Now a dad, the happiness in Andy’s personal life only strengthens how fulfilled he feels at this stage in his career, three years shy of 40 and proud to be a king of kids TV.
“Opportunity breeds opportunity, so if I can do more, I don’t know why I would change it,” he continues. “I would love to do film, a bit more acting, but I certainly don’t crave it. I want to film more adventures and build Andy and the Odd Socks for the band to be bigger than the Wiggles (the Australian children’s music group). They were absolutely massive, but we’re completely different.”
It’s certainly endearing to meet a household name so happy with his lot and clearly a huge asset to the beloved Beeb.
Find out more
To see Andy and The Odd Socks perform, visit www.andyday.tv.
Youngsters can also catch Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures and Andy’s Baby Animals on CBeebies and on the BBC iPlayer.