For a man who inspires millions of children worldwide to put down their devices and get crafty each day, Phil Gallagher is the first to admit he does not have a natural flair for scissors, paper and glue.
But he’s a fast learner.
Gallagher is better known as the larger-than-life Mister Maker, who has been encouraging children to use their imaginations in fun and creative ways since he made his television debut in 2007. Screened in more than 100 countries and dubbed in several different languages, Mister Maker’s fan base ranges from toddlers to adults.
And he loves his Australian fans so much that he is returning for the fourth time in four years with a brand new interactive stage show that is coming to Newcastle next month.
“I can’t give too much away about our new live show because it’s a surprise, but everything we do on stage – the crafts, music and songs – has never been seen anywhere before in the world,” he tells Weekender from London.
“It’s a really amazing and exciting show. I do tend to sing quite a bit in the live shows, which isn’t something I usually do on the TV shows.
“We’re going to get the audience even more involved in the show, too, getting kids up on stage to help do the crafts. I can tell you that one lucky audience member will even be invited to become one of The Shapes.
“Other than that there is one new craft we’ll be making that might have you leaving the theatre feeling rather hungry.”
Gallagher writes the scripts for the live shows himself, and designs the stage layout and props. For the television show, though, he works with “a small team of amazing people who help me put everything together”.
The same team has worked together on the series for more than 10 years and have, he says, “become really close”.
“I talk to my Mister Maker colleagues about crafts and like to keep abreast of new stuff via the internet. Then I just muck about a lot on my own,” Gallagher explains.
“So much of my home is covered in crafts, art material, glitter, pom poms, pots, paint and mess.
“I have always loved the idea of crafting and giving stuff a go, but it’s true that I really have to practice quite a bit to get the makes just right.
“Once I had to make a really tricky craft for the Minute Make segment. I practiced and practiced it beforehand. It was so hard but I managed to make it in 59 seconds with one second to spare – now that’s pressure.”
Gallagher spends so much time being Mister Maker that he finds it difficult, at times, to get out of character. Time to himself is a rarity but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“No, I don’t get a lot of time to spare. When I do, I love soccer and like to go to local games with my Dad and nephew,” he says.
“I also love food. I’ll often do the grocery shopping with my Mum and we have a hoot, spending ages looking at things. Dad gets really annoyed because we take so long.
“It is quite hard sometimes separating myself from Mister Maker because it’s been such a massive part of my life for so long.”
Gallagher is a showman from way back. As a child he loved “putting on a show” for his parents in the lounge room. Pushing the sofa forward, he would puppeteer cuddly toys from his makeshift stage. He was also fond of writing sketches that involved singing and dancing.
Not much has changed, really, however these days Gallagher gets paid to do it.
He is a huge hit with parents because he can command children’s attention and educate them in an entertaining way without them being any the wiser.
So, what is about Australia that keeps him coming back for more?
“It’s just such a beautiful, friendly country and the audience reaction is so wonderful,” Gallagher replies.
“So many kids are so enthusiastic and always want to come up on stage. We’ve done huge UK tours, but sometimes the English kids aren’t as confident to come up and join us.
“In Australia we don’t have that problem.”
Mister Maker Returns comes to Newcastle’s Civic Theatre on Thursday, July 12. The fun begins at 11am. Tickets are on sale now through Ticketek or at the venue’s box office.