Cerrie Burnell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Cerrie Burnell
Claire Burnell

(1979-08-30) 30 August 1979 (age 43)
Petts Wood, London, England
OccupationActress, singer, playwright, television presenter, children's author
Known forPresenting CBeebies (2009–2017)
Doctors (2018)

Claire "Cerrie" Burnell (born 30 August 1979)[1][2][3][4] is an English actress, singer, playwright, children's author, and former television presenter for the BBC children's channel CBeebies. In 2018, she portrayed the role of Penny Stevenson in the BBC soap opera Doctors.

Burnell was born with a right arm that ends just below the elbow. Her initial appearance on CBeebies sparked a controversy about children's television presenters with physical disabilities and the apparent prejudice of complainants.[5]

Early and personal life[edit]

Burnell's mother is a dance teacher, and her father is a telecoms manager.[1] She has one younger brother, John.[2][6] She was originally named "Claire" but started asking people to call her "Cerrie" at the age of 10.[1] Burnell grew up in the south-east London suburb of Petts Wood.[7]

Burnell was born with her right arm ending slightly below the elbow.[3] Her parents encouraged her to wear a prosthetic arm, but she resisted from the start and stopped wearing one entirely when she was nine.[8] Burnell also had dyslexia, which left her unable to read until the age of 10. She learned with extra tuition and the Letterland system.[9]

Burnell has a daughter, Amelie, born in 2008.[8][10][11] She lives in Hackney, East London.[6]

Acting career[edit]

Burnell graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University, where she studied acting.[4][12] She has performed in theatre in the UK,[13] where she received favourable reviews,[14][15] and in Brazil with the CTORio Political Theatre Company.[4] Burnell was also a member of National Youth Theatre. She has appeared in UK television parts in Holby City, EastEnders,[16] Grange Hill,[17] The Bill, and Comedy Lab.[4] She is the author of Winged – A Fairytale, a play about Violet, a one-winged fairy in a London inner city fairy community, which she also starred in when it was staged at the Tristan Bates Theatre, London in 2007.[18][19] She starred in The First to Go by Nabil Shaban, about the "Disabled Holocaust" in Nazi Germany, playing the part of Brunhilde, at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh in 2008.[20] Besides acting, she has worked as a teaching assistant in a special needs school.[4]


Burnell joined CBeebies' presentation department on 26 January 2009, as a continuity presenter for Discover and Do and The Bedtime Hour, alongside Alex Winters.[4][10]

Within a month of her beginning co-presenting, the BBC faced controversy as parents claimed in complaints that the one-armed presenter was scaring children, and that this prompted difficult conversations to explain her disability.[11][21] She, the BBC, and multiple disability groups stated that the problem was actually the prejudices of the parents projected onto the children.[3][21] Burnell left CBeebies in April 2017.


In 2018, Burnell played the role of Penny Stevenson for a short stint in the Birmingham-based soap opera Doctors.[22]


Burnell's children's book, Snowflakes (ISBN 978-1407135045), was published by Scholastic Corporation in September 2013. It is about a mixed-race girl from the city sent to live with her grandmother in a magical village and was inspired by Burnell's daughter, who is also mixed-race.[23][24][25]

In 2016, Burnell wrote another children's book titled Harper and the Sea of Secrets for World Book Day which was sold at bookshops and supermarkets for £1 or free with a Book Day token from the end of February that year. This book was aimed at Key Stage 2 pupils (ages 7–11). Once again, this book was published by Scholastic.

I Am Not a Label: 34 disabled artists, thinkers, athletes and activists from past and present, an illustrated anthology of biographies for children, illustrated by Lauren Baldo, was published by Wide Eyed Editions in 2020.[26]


  1. ^ a b c "Disabled TV presenter Cerrie Burnell beats the bigots", by Susan Swarbrick, 31 August 2009, The Herald. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
  2. ^ a b "CBeebies Presenters – Cerrie". Cbeebies. 24 February 2009. Archived from the original on 5 March 2009.
  3. ^ a b c "How do you explain a missing hand to a child?", by Tom Geoghegan, BBC News Magazine, 24 February 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "CBeebies names its two new presenters", BBC Press Office, 20 January 2009
  5. ^ Emma Tracey (19 November 2013). "Cerrie Burnell: Disability is not a negative label". BBC News. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  6. ^ a b "My family values: Cerrie Burnell | Family | The Guardian". amp.theguardian.com. Retrieved 3 May 2022.
  7. ^ "Children's TV presenter Cerrie Burnell: Some attitudes to disability are based on fear". The Metro. 11 June 2013. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  8. ^ a b "TV presenter's calm take on prejudice", by Ben Dowell, The Guardian, 28 February 2009
  9. ^ "I couldn't read until I was 10, says CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell" Archived 6 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Tom Harper, London Evening Standard, 26 September 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
  10. ^ a b "Winters and Burnell named new Cbeebies presenters". How-Do. 21 January 2009. Archived from the original on 17 February 2011.
  11. ^ a b "Parents complain that disabled TV presenter is 'scaring children'" , Ellen Widdup, 23 February 2009, London Evening Standard.
  12. ^ "MMU animator's short film to be screened at Cornerhouse", Manchester Metropolitan University, 1 October 2007.
  13. ^ "Cerrie Burnell". London Theatre Database. 24 February 2009. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 4 November 2014.
  14. ^ "Mother Courage and her Children", The Stage, reviewed 2 November 2006 by Thom Dibdin
  15. ^ "The First to Go at Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh"(subscription required), The Times, 31 May 2008, by Robert Dawson Scott.
  16. ^ "Cerrie Burnell". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 20 June 2010.
  17. ^ "Series 31 Cast and Crew". Grange Hill Online. Archived from the original on 3 March 2009. Retrieved 24 February 2009. Miss Greene CERRIE BURNELL
  18. ^ "Cerrie Burnell" Archived 3 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Doollee playwrights database. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
  19. ^ Winged, photos of the theatrical performance, May 2007, Neil E. Hobbs, Flickr. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
  20. ^ Dawson Scott, Robert (31 May 2008). "The First to Go at Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh". The Times. Retrieved 8 June 2021.
  21. ^ a b "One-Armed CBeebies Host 'Scaring' Children" Archived 24 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Sky News, 23 February 2009.
  22. ^ "Doctors – From the Heart". BBC. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  23. ^ Williams, Andrew (11 June 2013). "Children's TV presenter Cerrie Burnell: Some attitudes to disability are based on fear". Metro.
  24. ^ "Q&A with Cerrie Burnell". Scholastic Corporation. September 2013.
  25. ^ Jones, Pip (1 March 2012). "CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell: 'Reading to children is magical'". ParentDish. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  26. ^ "I Am Not a Label by Cerrie Burnell, illustrated by Lauren Mark Baldo". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 3 June 2021.

External links[edit]