Are These the Most Precocious 11-Year-Olds in Britain? Benefits Cheats. Gay Marriage. Absent Fathers. the Astonishing Young Stars of a New TV Show with an Opinion on EVERYTHING

Daily Mail (London), June 2, 2014 | Go to article overview

Are These the Most Precocious 11-Year-Olds in Britain? Benefits Cheats. Gay Marriage. Absent Fathers. the Astonishing Young Stars of a New TV Show with an Opinion on EVERYTHING


Byline: Jenny Johnston

KAIN McBARRON obviously didn't get the memo that says every little boy wants to be David Beckham when he grows up. Ask him what his dream job is and he says 'an ichthyologist'.

A what? 'It's a marine biologist who studies fish, and diseases in fish,' he says. 'There's a disease that only fish can get called swim bladder, which affects their buoyancy, making them swim upside down. I'd like to find a cure for that.

'I like anything to do with fish and fishing, but fishing is a hobby more than a job. Icthyologists are quite well paid.'

Blimey. If Kain is the future -- as is being suggested by a new Channel 4 programme featuring some of the most precocious children in Britain -- then at least our fish stocks will be safe.

The teenager is one of eight British youngsters selected from hundreds who applied to take part in an unusual TV show called Dinner At 11. Basically a televised dinner party, but for children aged 11 to 13, it's a kind of Britain's Got (Intellectual) Talent.

Along with Kain, 13, from Great Yarmouth, five 11-year-olds and two 12-year-olds are filmed putting the world to rights over a formal dinner.

Some of it's quite endearing, especially at the end when they all end up singing When I'm Cleaning Windows (as well as knowing about fish, Kain turns out to be a George Formby fan).

But be warned. Parents who are dealing with grunting teenagers or children throwing fish fingers may want to weep at the sight of this collection of miniature Melvyn Braggs and Salman Rushdies discussing Syria.

Marina Parker, the Bafta-winning film-maker behind the show, insists those selected weren't simply swotty child prodigies, but those with compelling minds who will challenge our view of what it is to be a youngster in Britain today.

Oh, and she reckons she could well have found some of our future political and industry leaders in the eight children she's selected.

Step forward Jamie Stewart, a 12-year-old from Rochdale who has eye-wateringly stern views on benefits payments. He thinks they should all be stopped after just two months.

That's a very strong opinion you have there, Jamie, I say. 'Yes,' he retorts. 'But strong opinions are important. You can have everything taken away from you in life, but no one can take away your opinions.'

Politics features heavily in the programme. If he's feeling delicate, the Prime Minister should not watch.

'I think David Cameron is going to be the death of this country,' says one 11-year-old.

Another says his hero is Winston Churchill, and they all bemoan the fact that there are few Nelson Mandelas around these days.

Meanwhile, Amaria, 11, from East London, has crammed a lot of Margaret Thatcher-hating into her short life, describing the late Prime Minister as an 'old hag' who deserves to be 'pushing up the daisies in her cold dead grave'.

This leads 11-year-old Joshua, from Ealing, who's desperate to become a physicist, angrily to retort: 'You can't just say that Margaret Thatcher was a very bad woman. She got back the Falklands for us.'

As in the best tradition of Channel 4 reality programmes, there is an element of 'Where do they find these people?'.

One 11-year-old, Grace, who comes across as something of a mini Kirstie Allsopp crossed with Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, says she goes to bed with her 'free Tibet rabbit, which was sewn by my auntie'.

Grace, from West London, describes herself as an 'atheist Buddhist'. She confesses to spending frequent sleepless nights worrying about Finland and Russia 'because they have a gay marriage ban'.

If she was Prime Minister for a day, Grace would ban homophobia, and her ambition is to work for the UN.

'Do you want to know a secret?' she says conspiratorially. 'I've always hated Barbie.' In another profound moment, Grace tells her fellow diners that 'Death is just a lucid dream that goes on for ever'. …

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