Gemma Hunt is our Fairy Bowbells in Crawley

Gemma Hunt will be our Fairy Bowbells as Dick Whittington takes to the stage at the Hawth in Crawley this Christmas (December 6-January 5).

Gemma Hunt - Fairy Bowbells
Gemma Hunt - Fairy Bowbells

She is thrilled that David Ribi will be playing Dick. For the past two Christmases, she was Tiger Lily to his Peter Pan.

“I think this must be my eighth or ninth panto and my third for Evolution, the last two with David.

“It is great to be with him again. He is so fresh and passionate and very, very talented.

“You don’t see a lot of people that come through as TV presenters who can act and sing and dance.

“Most of us are just blagging it a little bit! But he really can do it. He is properly trained. I just went to a regular school and a regular uni.”

Gemma grew up in Trowbridge, Wiltshire and then went to the University of Bedfordshire where she gained a first class degree in media performance. Within a couple of weeks of graduating in 2003, she was lucky enough to join the CBBC team.

Her time at CBBC was action-packed and saw Gemma travel all over the world filming in the oceans around Australia, the rainforests of South America and plains of Africa.

She hosted the magazine shows Xchange and Smile for two years, and co-presented Best of Friends; Barney’s Barrier Reef; Bamzooki; Barney’s Latin America; and All Over the Place. She has reported from Ghana for the Africa Lives season, presented live from Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s 80th birthday, and at The Royal Albert Hall for the Blue Peter Proms and Evolution Prom alongside Sir David Attenborough.

She currently presents the pirate game-show Swashbuckle, a huge hit on CBeebies.

It’s a show which comes with a live audience, which is, of course, one of the great things about panto.

“Panto is such a great community, to be working together at Christmas doing something together while everyone else is going off to Christmas parties and you are missing out on that, but you are actually in your own pantomime bubble and you become great friends.

“You do things like Secret Santa and you go out for meals together, and we become our own little family. I just love doing it.

“And panto is just such a great British tradition. A big family tradition.

“If it didn’t happen, there would be a lot of people who would be really sad.

“You get people who book the same seats on the same night in the same theatre year after year after year for panto. It is something that is so special to so many people.

“I remember being taken to panto as a child and it is something that is so inspiring.

“I love the fact that a lot of children look up to what I am doing as a TV presenter and aspire to be a performer themselves and will know that they can do it.

“It is all very much part of the show.

“ The audience really are part of it. They participate in the show.

“And actually I do think panto has changed.

“People think that panto is very cheesy, but actually it is very sophisticated now.

“We are using pyrotechnics and 3D animation and you use flying and you are using fire… You have got everything in it to make it very much a proper big 4D experience.”

Tickets for Dick Whittington at the Hawth are available on