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A school report once not-so-politely described him as "marching to the beat of a different drum". Today, pretty much anyone under 10 years old will recognise Dave Benson Phillips as one of the top children's entertainers on stage and TV.

He's the freshest face on children's TV, hot from his slot on BBC's 'Wake Up In The Wild Room'. Now Dave will be presenting Disney Channel's innovative pre-school line-up - over five hours of programming intended for youngsters not yet of school age, who are at home during the middle of the day.

This exciting mix of entertainment and education includes world famous programmes like The Children's Television Workshop's Sesame Street; firm favourites such as Rosie and Jim and Tots TV (the latter widely credited with having introduced many youngsters to their first taste of a second language) as well as much loved characters from Disney series like Winnie the Pooh.

These will be linked by live "learning through play" sequences called Hunny Pot, in which live audiences of children will be encouraged to take part.

"With pre-school TV, the kids don't get much chance to join in - I like them to feel part of the show at home. I'll be getting a group of pre-school kids involved in funny things they can learn from and those at home can get actively involved at the same time."

Although ideal for his chosen profession, Dave often found his personality landed him in trouble as a child - as that school report reflects. "Most people had me down as a bit of an idiot - in fact a lot like I am today," he says. "I was seen as too much of an individual - if that's the word - and always ended up in trouble. It was the discipline I couldn't handle."

His interest in the world of showbusiness developed when a school friend asked him to help out as an usher at the Polkadot Children's Theatre, Wimbledon.

"I started hanging around these actors and actresses and I used to sit there and watch all of these shows happen. I just asked loads and loads of questions and I think some people thought I was a very annoying kid, but it was like the start of an apprenticeship."

Four years of learning the tricks of the trade from the sidelines led to immediate success as a live entertainer at Butlins and Pontins. On television, stints on BBC's Playdays, Cat's Eyes and Go For It were followed by his own series Get Your Own Back, now in its sixth year.

But Dave says he would never give up his stage performances - his one man show and pantomime - to concentrate solely on television.

"The live work is very important because if you don't do that then you don't know what the kids are into - which is always changing - and what they like. It's a finger on the pulse."

Despite his hectic schedule, Dave finds time to help out at special schools for children with difficulties such as autism and has made a Makaton video based on the Playdays programme.

"Makaton is a form of communication based on BSL, British Sign Language," he explains. "It is also being used by people who are profoundly deaf and they come up to me and sign in the street. I sign back as best as I am able. It's making contact like that which is really cool."

And whatever he's doing, it is the reaction of the kids that matters. "You've heard nothing until you've heard a couple of hundred children laugh," he says.

"Even when one child laughs at something you're doing, it's something special. I just get a buzz out of that moment."

SOURCE The Disney Channel

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