My girl tells people: ‘My mum is Miss Rabbit and Nanny Plum’ quite proudly

Miss Rabbit
Miss Rabbit
Have your say

There can be few more impressive claims than creating the character of feisty soap matriarch Peggy Mitchell but it is just one of the feats Sarah Kennedy has achieved during her remarkable career.

Add to the mix becoming the first woman in the UK and America to have her own adults’ animated series on a mainstream channel and having various acting and voiceover roles and Sarah’s accomplishments are even more awe-inspiring.

Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy

However, reel off Sarah’s achievements to any youngster and the triumphs that are most likely to prompt the word “Wow!” are on hearing the fact she provides the voices of both Miss Rabbit and Nanny Plum in the popular pre-school programmes Peppa Pig and Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom.

Any parent of little ones will be struck by the mesmerising familiarity of Sarah’s voice as soon as they hear its dulcet tones.

Throwing her head back with laughter, Sarah, 48, who lives in Ashton, Preston, with her fiance Rob and their six-year-old daughter, says: “When my daughter was a bit younger, she did ballet for a while and one week, the ballet teacher came up to me and said: ‘I have to say this, you sound ever so much like Nanny Plum from Ben and Holly’.

“I told her that was because I was Nanny Plum. But at first, she didn’t believe me! It took a bit of convincing before she realised I was telling the truth.

Nanny Plum from Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom

Nanny Plum from Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom

“I think it’s because people think if you are doing something like that, you must have a glamourous lifestyle.

“But I am just a normal mum.”

Although Sarah still does the voice work for Miss Rabbit and Nanny Plum as well as being course leader of animation at the University of Central Lancashire, voiceover work was something she almost fell into by accident.

Sarah who was born in London and grew up in Stratford-Upon-Avon, achieved a degree in Fine Art and Fine Art Filmmaking in Newcastle and then went to the Royal College of Art to study animation and then returned to London where she lived for the next 20 years.

It was when making animations at college that Sarah first started doing voices. She explains: “It was just easier for me to write the stories, come up with the ideas, animate them, do the voices and animate them all myself.

“I preferred doing it all myself as it was easier than getting a crew in.”

Sarah made a short animation called “Honestly: It’s the Story of my Life” which was a quick film about someone coming to London and she sold it to Channel 4 who liked it a lot.

Sarah then did a short commission for Channel 4 called Family Favourites about a disastrous Christmas before spending some time working as a researcher.

Sarah became a researcher on Eastenders for a while researching storylines and her claim to fame is creating the character of Peggy Mitchell.

Sarah explains: “I based Peggy very loosely on my own mother, but also on the Kray’s mother who was a very domineering character.

“Phil and Grant Mitchell were loosely based on The Krays and at that point Eastenders did not have that element to it.

“There is a lot of scope for drama with those types of characters.

“My vision for Peggy was a tough but very loyal woman whose sons, despite being hard men, are frightened of her.

“I envisaged her as a bit tarty wearing lots of make-up and very salt-of-the-earth and the type of woman who is very certain she is always right.

“When I wrote my vision for the character of Peggy, I had Barbara Windsor in my mind as the perfect actress to play her.

“However, the show producers either didn’t ask Barbara Windsor at first or they asked her and she said no but at first, they cast another actress in the role for a few episodes.

“But they later resurrected the role with Barbara Windsor as Peggy and she was perfect and exactly how I had written the character to be.”

Sarah did a few more animation films and she first got into voices by doing the voice for Dolly in Pond Life, the animated series created by Candy Guard who Sarah met at Newcastle.

Sarah then aspired to create her own animated soap and created cult adult animation Crapston Villas for Channel 4 which can still be seen on 4 Demand.

After Crapston Villas, Sarah won a number of awards and began sharing a studio with Mark Baker and Neville Astley, the creators of Peppa Pig.

They told Sarah they loved Dolly in Pond Life and asked her to do the voice of Miss Rabbit.

Sarah recalls: “I am up for trying anything and it just sort of happened. I also did some writing for the earlier episodes of Peppa Pig.

“Then I started doing voices on other pre-school series, including Nanny Plum.”

Sarah then decided to try something different and decided she wanted to do teaching and after years of living in London, she was ready for a change and thought she would go wherever a teaching job took her.

She came to Preston in 2005 after doing a part-time teacher training course in London and she admits when she first came here, it was just like being on holiday.

She explains: “In London, I was only getting home at 7pm or 8pm in the evenings and then I had to get up early the next morning.

“You were always sat in a traffic jam or stuck on a tube and were forever commuting.

“Even though I loved London, I had become tired of that lifestyle and was ready for a change.

“Being in Preston seemed like a holiday and everything seemed so quick in comparison.

“I used to go to activities such as salsa and tennis - all the things I didn’t have time for in London.”

Sarah had never met the right man to settle down with and though marriage and children had passed her by and had accepted that and was willing to follow a different path in life.

But while living in Preston, she met partner Rob and they are now engaged and have a six-year-old daughter.

With her voice brimming with enthusiasm, Sarah says: “Being a mum is the best thing that has ever happened to me. My daughter is brilliant, lively and fun.

“She knows I do the voices for Nanny Plum and Miss Rabbit and she loves Peppa Pig and Ben and Holly. Now she is six, she feels she is too grown-up for them - although she secretly still watches them!

“She has actually done a voice in an episode of Peppa Pig herself when she was only three. She did the voice for Baby Alexander who is one of the cousin pigs and she had to say: ‘Gaga goo’!

“She actually got her first pay check at the age of three and the bank was a bit baffled to get a payment from The Elf Factory as it sounded made up. But I assured them it was real!

“My daughter often tells people: ‘My mummy is Miss Rabbit and Nanny Plum’ quite proudly.

“It is the things children come out with that make you laugh so much.

“One day, I was messing around reading palms and I told her she would have two children when she was older.

“She became really excited and told me she was going to be a brilliant mum.

“I told her that yes, she would be a brilliant mum and that I would be a brilliant grandma too and spoil her children.

“She just gave me this look of pure scorn and said: ‘Mummy, you won’t even be able to walk by then!’”

As well as working at the University of Central Lancashire and carrying on with her voice work, Sarah also does some acting and will presenting a paper in Chicago later this week about women and animation.

Sarah says: “I am the first woman ever to have an adult animated series on a mainstream channel in the UK or America and there are so few series created by women.

“The Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy and American Dad are all created by men.

“I do not really know why this is. Maybe it is because animation is quite time consuming and the hours are long.

“I teach animation to just as many women as men and I don’t understand why women do not carry on and pursue it as a career.

“I want women to feel they can have a career in animation too.”

Sarah has now been in Preston for 10 years and has no plans to leave.

She explains: “I love the relaxing lifestyle and the fact I don’t have to travel or work long hours.

“The sense of community is fantastic. You do get that in London but it is harder to forge there.

“Preston is such a central location and we can get to the countryside in no time. It is a lovely place for a child to grow up.

“Preston is one of those cities where you think you will not stay long but then you become so relaxed and feel so comfortable and safe, you can’t help but stay.”