Cerrie Burnell

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Cerrie Burnell
Born Claire Burnell
(1979-08-30) 30 August 1979 (age 37)
Petts Wood, London, England
Occupation Actress, singer, playwright, Television presenter
Known for Presenting CBeebies (2009-present)
Children 1

Claire "Cerrie" Burnell (born 30 August 1979)[1][2][3][4] is an English actress, singer, playwright, children's author, and television presenter for the BBC children's channel CBeebies.

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]

Personal life[edit]

Burnell was born in Petts Wood, London, and grew up in Eastbourne, Sussex.[6] Her mother is a dance teacher, and her father a telecoms manager.[1] She has one younger brother.[2] She was originally named "Claire", but started asking people to call her "Cerrie" at the age of ten.[1]

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.[6][7] She says her disability did not hinder her from doing what she wanted, including "sports, swimming, windsurfing, singing in the choir or joining the Army cadets."[6] Burnell also suffered from dyslexia, which left her unable to read until the age of ten. She learned with extra tuition and the Letterland system.[8] As a teenager, she worked as a hotel chambermaid during summers, and travelled widely, working in a leprosy clinic in India, and volunteering in Brazil.[6]

Burnell has a daughter, Amelie, born in 2008.[6][7][9][10]

Acting career[edit]

Burnell graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University, where she studied acting.[4][11] She has performed in theatre in the UK,[12] where she received favourable reviews,[13][14] 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,[15] Grange Hill,[16] 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.[17][18]

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][9]

Within a month of her beginning co-presenting, she attracted controversy from parents complaining that the one-armed presenter was scaring children, and prompting difficult conversations to explain her disability.[10][19][20] She and the BBC have been defended by multiple disability groups stating that the problem was with the prejudices of the parents projected on to the children.[3][19][20]


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.[21][22][23]

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


  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 c d e "Why one-armed BBC presenter Cerrie Burnell was proud of the debate her disability provoked", by Helen Weathers, Daily Mail, 2 March 2009.
  7. ^ a b "TV presenter's calm take on prejudice", by Ben Dowell, The Guardian, 28 February 2009
  8. ^ "I couldn't read until I was 10, says CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell", Tom Harper, London Evening Standard, 26 September 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2011.
  9. ^ a b "Winters and Burnell named new Cbeebies presenters". How-Do. 21 January 2009. Archived from the original on 17 February 2011. 
  10. ^ a b "Parents complain that disabled TV presenter is 'scaring children'", Ellen Widdup, 23 February 2009, London Evening Standard.
  11. ^ "MMU animator’s short film to be screened at Cornerhouse", Manchester Metropolitan University, 1 October 2007.
  12. ^ "Cerrie Burnell". London Theatre Database. 24 February 2009. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  13. ^ "Mother Courage and her Children", The Stage, reviewed 2 November 2006 by Thom Dibdin
  14. ^ "The First to Go at Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh"(subscription required), The Times, 31 May 2008, by Robert Dawson Scott.
  15. ^ "Cerrie Burnell". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 20 June 2010. 
  16. ^ "Series 31 Cast and Crew". Grange Hill Online. Archived from the original on 3 March 2009. Retrieved 24 February 2009. Miss Greene CERRIE BURNELL 
  17. ^ "Cerrie Burnell", Doollee playwrights database. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
  18. ^ Winged, photos of the theatrical performance, May 2007, Neil E. Hobbs, Flickr. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
  19. ^ a b "One-armed presenter is scaring children, parents tell BBC", by Liz Thomas, 23 February 2009, Daily Mail.
  20. ^ a b "One-Armed CBeebies Host 'Scaring' Children", Sky News, 23 February 2009.
  21. ^ "Children's TV presenter Cerrie Burnell: Some attitudes to disability are based on fear". Metro. 11 June 2013. 
  22. ^ "Q&A with Cerrie Burnell". Scholastic Corporation. September 2013. 
  23. ^ Jones, Pip (1 March 2012). "CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell: 'Reading to children is magical'". ParentDish. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 

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