Former CBeebies Controller Kay Benbow Remembered


Kay Benbow, controller of CBeebies from 2010 to 2018, is being recognized by the children’s content industry in the wake of her passing.

“As controller of CBeebies, she introduced a young audience to Shakespeare, ballet and the joys of the annual live Christmas show,” her family wrote in a statement released on social media. “She commissioned countless titles which continue to delight audiences, and her commitment to diversity shone through as she made CBeebies the channel where everyone is welcome and can feel included. During her time as controller, CBeebies won Children’s Channel of the Year five times and an RTS Channel of the Year award. Kay was awarded an honorary doctorate from Sheffield University in recognition of her services to the industry, and she was loved and respected by everyone who worked with her.”

It continued, “Kay always put other people first, even as her illness progressed rapidly. She was a committed Gooner and a passionate gardener. She contributed so much to our lives.”

A statement from the BBC said: “Everyone in the BBC Children’s & Education department is incredibly sad to hear the news that Kay Benbow has passed away. Our most sincere condolences go to Kay’s husband, Ian, their sons and to the wider family.

“As the controller of CBeebies, Kay was known across the whole kids’ media sector for her passion and commitment to providing young children with the very best content. She was pivotal in taking CBeebies programs into new and original areas, never afraid to stretch preschool minds into unthought-of territory—such as ballet, Shakespeare, mathematics, science and the joys of the annual live Christmas show.

“Kay will be deeply missed by a huge number of current and previous BBC colleagues, a testimony to the many lives she touched in addition to her service to the audience. She was an extraordinary person and did so much for CBeebies and young children across the U.K.”

Michael Carrington, Benbow’s predecessor at CBeebies, wrote in his own tribute: “I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Kay Benbow.

“During my tenure as Controller of CBeebies at the BBC, Kay served as Head of Production, and I had the privilege of witnessing her exceptional talent, dedication, and warmth firsthand. Her passion for children’s programming was evident in every project she undertook, leaving an indelible mark on the industry and audiences.

“Beyond her professional accomplishments, Kay’s kindness and unwavering support left a lasting impression on me. Her leadership and guidance were invaluable, and her presence will be sorely missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing her.

“Although distance may have separated us geographically, the memories of our time together remain cherished. I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked alongside such a remarkable individual and to have shared in her vision for creating engaging and enriching content for young audiences.

“May her legacy continue to inspire and her spirit live on in the hearts of those who knew and loved her.”

Claire Taylor, who has worked at BBC Children’s for 20-plus years across production and presentation, wrote: “Devastated to hear this news. Just the saddest of days.”

“Kay gave me my first job in CBeebies working as a runner on Tikkabilla in 2003. Her kindness, thought, care and passion is irreplaceable. Such a nurturing, inspirational leader. Always supporting from the sidelines. Always taking time to check in—mostly about family.

“My favorite memory of Kay was when she joined me on the very first Bedtime Story shoot with Tom Hardy. She was a big fan but always thinking of the audience, suggested that he smiled more!! Not sure he liked that but…he smiled more!! And little did we know at the time, the impact that one shoot would have on the brand. Kay was such a champion of Bedtime Stories—only a month ago emailing to make suggestions of future readers.

“We will forever make sure everyone is welcome at CBeebies! For Kay! And I bet she will still be supporting us from the sidelines, cheering us all on!”

Louise Bucknole, general manager for kids and family at Paramount UK & Ireland (Milkshake! Channel 5 and Nickelodeon), wrote, “This is such sad news, and Kay will be greatly missed by so many. We’ve lost a true legend of preschool; Kay championed so many talented people and shows, and we’re all the better for it. She set the standard. It was a privilege to be a friend and colleague of Kay—kind, smart, funny and passionate about producing the best for the youngest audience and upholding that quality with great integrity.”

Maddy Darrall, company director at Darrall Macqueen, said: “Heartbreaking news about an industry legend who commissioned shows that shaped my children’s childhoods and shaped our business, especially with her inspired move into live-action scripted on CBeebies. Kay had many firsts.”

Lisa Prime, head of the children and young people’s program at BAFTA, said: “She leaves a legacy of wonderful content and people who she supported and mentored in the industry. I have the happiest memories of her at past Children’s Awards when she would be almost as excited to meet a random football presenter as when collecting BAFTA awards for CBeebies. She was warm, kind, funny and so proud of her family who my heart goes out to.”