Ten-year-old Charlie Kristensen, from Wokingham in Berkshire, won over the hearts of the West End theatre industry and the British public last year when he launched his #CheerUpCharlie campaign, channelling his own traumatic experiences of being bullied, and the support he received afterwards, to help others. Charlie has now taken a step towards his dream of being a television presenter by launching a series of lockdown interviews with high-profile entertainment industry guests on his YouTube channel – Musical Chairs with #CheerUpCharlie!. The chat show is supported by The Theatre Café, and it is hoped that most interviews will be recorded there when it becomes possible.
As well as chatting to his guests about their own experiences of being bullied, in Charlie’s own words he also asks a mix of “fun, interesting and serious questions” about their life and work. He has set up a steady stream of interviews with actors, musicians and visual artists from the UK and USA, and his recent chat with actress Amanda Henderson (star of Casualty) has already hit nearly 6,000 views. Others in the Musical Chairs line-up include Iain Armitage, Luke Bayer, Daniel Boys, Kerry Ellis, Dominic Ferris, Jacqueline Hughes, Irvine Iqbal, Nathaniel Morrison, Nadim Naaman, Will Poulter, Sam Retford, Gaby Roslin, Nina West, Nathan Wyburn and Michael Xavier, with many more planned. Actor Matt Lucas not only recorded a Musical Chairs interview but also, to Charlie’s delight, invited him to duet together singing The Baked Potato Song in support of NHS workers, in a video which has also received 100k views on Twitter.
Sam Retford, star of television show Ackley Bridge, said: “I first met Charlie last year when the campaign was just starting after his bullying came to light. It was such an honour to be Charlie’s interview guinea pig. Not only did we laugh and get to know each other better, but I was also able to get a better perspective and see just how far this incredible young man has already gone. His Cheer Up chats are going to be something very special and have grown with such enormity already. I truly cannot wait to see what 2020 has in store for this special young man and feel truly grateful to be watching it unfold. He is one of the most intelligent, charismatic and talented people I have ever met.”
Charlie said: “I love speaking to people and I know that by sharing their experiences of bullying and how they overcome it we can start to make a change. I want everyone to associate #CheerUpCharlie with acceptance and feel confident in just being themselves. The world is full of different people, with different talents and in my eyes that is what makes the world an exciting place. If me talking to people helps just one person then we are doing the right thing. I want to talk to everybody as talking makes it all okay.”
Charlie has come a long way since this time last year. Then, having been mentally and physically bullied severely for over 18 months, in part due to his love of performing, Charlie couldn’t take any more and for a long time his parents ‘lost’ the cheerful boy they recognised. Charlie continued with his singing lessons, and when he opened up to his singing teacher West End actress Jacqueline Hughes and broke down, she comforted him but also rallied support from performers in the theatre industry. She put out a Tweet about the heart-breaking situation and straight away West End performers inundated Charlie with video messages of support, love and solidarity including exciting backstage invitations. This led to national media interviews including live chats on the BBC Breakfast sofa and Michael Ball’s BBC Radio 2 show. It took months for the smile to return to Charlie’s eyes but he is now fighting for others, and keen to see where his presenting talents might lead along the way.
Charlie’s mother, Kat Kristensen, said: “Charlie is the most selfless, kind, caring and funny boy you will ever meet, and this kid can certainly talk! When The Diana Award invited him to write and deliver a five-minute speech for Anti-Bullying Week last November, he reduced a room of 5,000 to absolute silence and tears. It is something we did not know Charlie could do and he continues to amaze us daily, including now with his chat shows! We have been blown away by the entertainment industry and public support, and would like to thank them for helping him achieve his dreams.”
Future plans which are currently in the pipeline for Charlie and his #CheerUpCharlie campaign, with the support of his West End friends, include a special fundraising show and a musical theatre video – watch this space!