TV

CBeebies star George Webster: 'If we were all the same the world would be very boring'

The CBeebies presenter always wanted to be on the screen, but with time he has realised just how important representation is

George Webster. Image: Andy Parsons

George Webster was born in January 2001 in Toronto, Cananda. In 2021, he became the first presenter on CBeebies with Down’s Syndrome and the following year won the BAFTA for Best Children’s Presenter. He has also appeared on Strictly Come Dancing’s 2022 Christmas Special, Casualty, The Railway Children Return, World on Fire and short films Bebe A.I. and S.A.M – the latter won him the Best Actor Award at Oska Bright Festival.

In March 2023, George released his autobiography, This Is Me, and has recently followed it up with his second book, Why Not?

He is a member of the Separate Doors theatre company’s National Ensemble; and in the four year programme for the Performance Academy at Mind The Gap company in Bradford. He is also the founding officer of the National Down Syndrome Policy Group and an ambassador for Parkrun, Yorkshire Dance and Mencap, where he is a MythBuster.

Speaking to the Big Issue for his Letter to My Younger Self, George looks back on a musical youth, emphasises the importance of representation and embracing differences.

Get the latest news and insight into how the Big Issue magazine is made by signing up for the Inside Big Issue newsletter

I always wanted to perform, dance, act and sing on stage and screen. When I was a lot younger, I loved putting on mini performances with my sister Lauren in front of my parents, Rob and Jane.  

I joined a local musical theatre and music school called Stage Door at the age of eight. I did musical theatre, drama and singing. I always enjoyed singing and still do. I always say that I’m a great singer, but according to my family, my singing voice is so painful it’s like hearing a cat being strangled.  

Lauren and George in 2005. Image: courtesy of George Webster

I would dance along in front of the TV watching Strictly Come Dancing. When I was younger, Lauren and I joined a dance class on a Saturday afternoon. We’d do different styles of dance.  

When I was 11, I joined an inclusive contemporary dance company in Leeds called MeshDance with dancers that have Down’s syndrome and other disabilities. In 2017, we were picked as the first inclusive dance company to represent Yorkshire to perform at the National Finals of U.Dance in Birmingham. It was so much fun.  

When I was younger there wasn’t anyone with Down’s syndrome in the media, like books, films and television shows. This was one of the reasons I wanted to become an actor and dancer – to represent people with Down’s syndrome and other disabilities too.  

Guitar hero, 2020. Image: courtesty of George Webster

Before I spoke with words, I used a language called Makaton which uses signs and symbols to help communicate with people. My TV role models were Justin Fletcher (aka Mr Tumble) and Dave Benson Phillips. They really inspired me. They also inspired my sister Lauren, who doesn’t have Down’s syndrome, but she would join in doing Makaton with me and her favourite phrase was the same as mine: “more food please”.  

I would say to my younger self to keep going. You might be a role model for everyone with Down’s syndrome and other disabilities when you grow up. Representation will be important to you, and you’ll want more improvement for people with disabilities being represented. 

My professional career started when I joined a professional dance troupe called The Talent Hub with dancers that have Down’s syndrome and/or autism. We went on five residencies to create a dance piece to tour nationally around the UK. The tour got cut short due to the Covid outbreak. 

Because I do a lot of parkruns, Sky Sports Mix approached to ask if I wanted to make a documentary. I filmed at home, my Friday night class at MeshDance and my local parkrun, which is Woodhouse Moor at Hyde Park in Leeds. I had my friends involved as well: Jaz, Rowan, Alys, Tom, Bev, Francis, Pritti, Emily Kinghorn and Emily Kent. Also, my dance teachers Karen and Mia. 

After filming with Sky Sports, Mencap watched it and thought I would be a great ambassador. The first job I did was to lead the planning on the London Marathon as Virgin chose us as the main sponsor that year, but then it went virtual due to Covid.  

The big campaign now is Myth Busters. Mencap Myth Busters are all people with a learning disability representing the amazing things that can be achieved, and campaigning for change. Just after that was announced, a Mencap key worker called Neil Ely – who is in a filmmaking duo with Lloyd
Eyre-Morgan – asked if I wanted to be in a short film that they were writing. The film is called SAM and it’s about having a learning disability and sexuality. I worked with an actor called Sam Retford, of Ackley Bridge fame, and David Tag from Hollyoaks

2024: On the set of CBeebies with Evie Pickerill (left) and Emma-Jane Mansfield.
Image: courtesy of George Webster

From that, I got an agent and since then I’ve been super busy. I filmed a video with BBC Bitesize busting the myths on Down’s syndrome and it went viral. Claire Taylor, a producer on CBeebies, saw the video and thought I had the perfect attributes for a CBeebies presenter. I went to Salford, Media City and did a screen test, which is an audition. It was so much fun!  

A month later, I got a phone call from Claire saying I’d got the job as a CBeebies presenter. I was so excited that I squealed down the phone. The video of the phone call went viral worldwide.  

I’ve been having amazing feedback from parents and grandparents saying, “How inspiring and what an amazing role model for our kids.” I got a Bafta award for Best Presenter at the Bafta Children and Young Person’s Awards. I feel very honoured, privileged and super proud of this incredible achievement. 

With Amy Dowden on Strictly in 2022. Image: courtesy of George Webster

In 2022, I was asked if I wanted to be a contestant on the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special and I said, “YES, PLEASE!” I absolutely loved the whole experience, and it was a massive dream come true. Dancing with Amy Dowden was so much fun. Amy is a lovely and gorgeous human being inside and out, an incredibly talented dancer and I’m so glad that she has come through her cancer treatment. We became good friends, and still are now. 

I would tell my younger self to not ever change and to keep asking ‘why not?’ Being different isn’t a negative or scary thing. Being different is positive and a great thing to be. If we were all the same, the world would be very boring. 

this is me by george webster

George Webster’s books This Is Me! and Why Not? are out now (Scholastic, £7.99 each). They are available to buy or preorder from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.  

Find out more about Mencap MythBusters


Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? 
Get in touch and tell us moreBig Issue exists to give homeless and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy of the magazine or get the app from the App Store or Google Play.

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Jenna Coleman on policing the town that MeToo forgot in The Jetty
TV

Jenna Coleman on policing the town that MeToo forgot in The Jetty

Spent star Michelle de Swarte: 'Someone had to tell me I was homeless – I was in such denial'
Michelle de Swarte
TV

Spent star Michelle de Swarte: 'Someone had to tell me I was homeless – I was in such denial'

Karen Gillan: 'It's better to tell the story of Douglas is Cancelled than not tell the story'
TV

Karen Gillan: 'It's better to tell the story of Douglas is Cancelled than not tell the story'

Supacell star Calvin Demba on race, male bravado and breaking the modern superhero formula
Calvin Demba, star of Netflix's Supacell
TV

Supacell star Calvin Demba on race, male bravado and breaking the modern superhero formula

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know

Support our vendors with a subscription

For each subscription to the magazine, we’ll provide a vendor with a reusable water bottle, making it easier for them to access cold water on hot days.