Aífe: The Golden Age of Children’s TV

Sgathaich is taking time off this week to take part in a glorious battle where she will no doubt remain undefeated. In her absence we have drafted in another reviewer, Aífe , she’s none too friendly toward Sgathaich but who would dare tell.

AifeMy review is looking back in time to what many consider the Golden Age of children’s television. The sixties and early seventies. When programmes for wee kiddies were inventive and story driven.

Before the Golden Age we had the String Age. Who can forget those wonderful Woodentops with their faithful mutt Spotty dog. Strings all clearly visible because it was for kids and kids still believe in the magic of the story (well they used to).

Pinky and Perky often on late at night because they could bridge the world of the adult and the child. You could even buy their records. (Known as 45s bairns, nothing to do with referendums)

Bill and Ben the Flowerpot men took us into a linguistic hell but every kid knew what they were saying. Even that bossy Weed. And we can only guess what Andy Pandy was doing with Teddy in the confines of that basket as he innocently waved goodnight.

But these were not the Golden Years, important as they were in introducing the minds of the young to a world of puppetry. By the Golden Years I am meaning the fabulous productions of:

  • Pogles Wood (Smallfilms 1965…..)
  • Camberwick Green ( Gordon Murray Picture 1966…)
  • The Herb Garden (Filmfair 1968…)
  • Bagpuss (Smallfilms 1974….)

Watch:  The Herbs, Parsley’s Tail

Not the fast paced, zingy animation or actors costumed up that 21st Century kids have their senses assaulted with. No these programmes had great wee stories, a few songs and were at a leisured paced. And great characters with plenty of humour thrown in.

Many an adult of a certain age owes their whole knowledge of the world of herbs to ‘The Herb Garden’. Yes, they were educational too.

In 1999 Bagpuss topped a poll as the UKs most favourite children’s TV programme.

Watch: Bagpuss Episode 1 Ship In A Bottle

The stop-frame animation in all these excellent programmes which were a delight to both the children and the adults watching with them was a precursor to a style typifying British animators. In the Bagpuss episode above we learn how ships get in glass bottles. Programmes which were educational without being preachy about it.

In  POGLES WOOD Honey Bees from 21 April 1966 we learn about honey bees and home made bread. It’s a wee bit scarey being set in a wood and some of the earlier episodes were deemed too frightening for the children of the sixties. Not like today’s youngsters who are taken to see X-Men and Batman 12A films by parents. The children of the sixties were protected from the horrors of stop-frame animated witches and woodland creatures by BBC overseers.

All of the series mentioned have strong characters and story lines. Camberwick Green spawned the offshoots Trumpton and Chigley. Delightful communities where people were caught in a timewarp where everyday was essentially the same except for one problem that they would have to solve.

In Camberwick – Peter The Postman we learn about Peter’s work and how important he is to the community. People wrote letters in the sixties. Although rather concerning that he carries such a heavy sack on his back.

In all of the programmes the friendly  voice of the storyteller reassures the child viewer that no one will come to any harm and soon all will be as it always was. No need for upbeat presenters or the marketing of toys to go with the series. No need for a string of programmes or several channels to deliver them. One programme a day was served up.

Just good stories, well told and beautifully animated.


Bagpuss credit: Ben Sutherland



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2 replies »

  1. Camberwick Green…and Trumpton….were wonderful. People raved about The Magic Roundabout, but Parsley and The Herbs were the true psychedelic products of that age

  2. And….Mr. Ben. What a world of adventure lay through the back door of that shop!
    And Captain Pugwash.
    Well Aife, you’ve got me remembering. The earliest children’s television programmes from when I was young, then watching different ones, with my nieces and nevvies. Sometimes being asked to explain the inexplicable!
    Flobalob weeeeeed!

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