JOURNEY BACK TO YOUR AND CHILDHOOD DISCOVER SOME OLD FRIENDS
A major new retrospective looking at the some of our favourite children’s TV shows such as The Clangers and Bagpuss opens this weekend. Angela Cole found out more.
Step into Sissinghurst Castle this winter and you’ll be transported back to your childhood. Children’s TV favourites from a generation (or so) ago are going on display in a special exhibition that has its roots firmly planted in Kent. The Clangers, Bagpuss and other well known characters including Noggin the Nog, who were all created in a disused cowshed near Canterbury, are part of the Clangers, Bagpuss & Co. Exhibition, organised by the V&A Museum of Childhood.
The touring retrospective comes
to the National Trust property in Sissinghurst as its only stop in Kent.
Telling the story of much-loved family TV favourites from the 1960s and 1970s, it will feature Bagpuss, the old fat furry cat, the mysterious Soup Dragon from The Clangers and adventurous Noggin the Nog as well as taking visitors behind the scenes to reveal some of the secrets behind such programmes as Ivor the Engine and Pogles’ Wood. The characters came from the creative genius of puppeteers Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate, who worked together on animated children’s TV programmes from 1959 until the 1980s through their company, Smallfilms, in a barn at Blean, shaping the childhood memories of millions. Peter’s connection to Sissinghurst also extends back through the decades, as the illustrator of some of Vita Sackville-west’s poetry too.
As well as the puppets, the exhibition will feature original sets and filming equipment. It will tell the story of the characters’ development, uncovering how the pair established their stopframe animation techniques. From Watch with Mother in the 1960s to 21st century Cbeebies, Smallfilm’s endearing characters and captivating imaginary worlds have been staples of children’s television across the globe. The Clangers even returned to the small screen in 2015 to be enjoyed by a new generation.
The exhibition also features archive footage – some of it not seen for decades – sets and storyboards, photos, scripts and filming equipment, all set in a playful recreation of Oliver and Peter’s film studio.
Curator Alice Sage said: “We all hold a special place in our hearts for one or more of Smallfilms’ creations. Beyond telling marvellous, captivating stories, Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate’s work encouraged children to look at the world with curiosity.
“Oliver’s distinctive voice as narrator never spoke down to the young audience and they weren’t afraid of dealing with complex ideas in a magical way. The stories have stood the test of time.
“As well as looking at how these programmes were made, we also hope to capture the spirit of these timeless gems.”
Visitors can see Oliver’s stop-motion film camera, adapted using a small motor and bits of Meccano, learn why Bagpuss changed from orange to pink, and find out what Major Clanger was really saying from original shooting scripts.
They can also try their hand at animating the characters using current technology.
LOVEABLE BAGPUSS Saggy old clothcat Bagpuss was loved by Emily – and is still loved by many.
This year he was named among the 100 Objects That Made Kent, real objects from the county’s past chosen by museum curators from across the county and local schoolchildren.
He is arguably one of the most famous residents at Canterbury Museums & Galleries where he is on permanent display. Supported by Arts Council England, you can take a look at the objects chosen by visiting 100objectskent.co.uk.
The Clangers and Noggin the Nog will all be featuring in the exhibition
The touring exhibition will be visiting Sissinghurst Castle Picture: The National Trust / David Sellman