ARE YOU SIT­TING COM­FORT­ABLY?

Jack­anory launched a new chap­ter in chil­dren’s tele­vi­sion when it launched in the 1960s. We look at the pop­u­lar­ity of the sto­ry­telling series

Bristol Post - - TV REPEAT -

THE tra­di­tional 18th cen­tury English nurs­ery rhyme be­gins “I’ll tell you a story about Jack-a-Nory ...” It was adopted as the name of the BBC’s chil­dren’s sto­ry­telling series which be­gan on De­cem­ber 13, 1965, and saw ac­tors and writ­ers read­ing a tale to young­sters re­turn­ing home from school.

It was cre­ated for tele­vi­sion by a pro­ducer named Joy Whitby and ac­tor Lee Mon­tague read the pro­gramme’s first story, Cap-O’-Rushes.

It was il­lus­trated with dance se­quences from Mar­ion Di­a­mond and Lee even dressed up as Lord Mayor later in the week to tell the story of Dick Whit­ting­ton.

The sto­ry­telling ses­sions quickly found an au­di­ence and the series at­tracted many ma­jor names over the years in­clud­ing Carry On star Ken­neth Wil­liams, leg­endary co­me­di­ans Rik May­all, Tony Robin­son, Vic­to­ria Wood and Pe­ter Sell­ers, plus ac­tors Alan Rick­man and John Hurt. There were also no less than six Doc­tor Who ac­tors – Patrick Troughton, Jon Per­twee, Tom Baker, Pe­ter Dav­i­son, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann. Co­me­dian Spike Mil­li­gan read Un­cle The Ele­phant by J B Mar­tin in De­cem­ber, 1970, and Prince Charles read his own story The Old Man Of Lochna­gar in 1984. Ac­tor Bernard Crib­bins holds the record for the most sto­ry­telling ses­sions – pre­sent­ing a record 111 episodes.

He said in his re­cent au­to­bi­og­ra­phy Bernard Who? “Things were never the same for me af­ter Jack­anory had found its feet, and I mean that in a pos­i­tive way. “Be­fore that, I was just a char­ac­ter who’d sung a few songs and the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple who’s ei­ther seen or heard me or who recog­nised me were adults.

“Af­ter Jack­anory, this changed and all of a sud­den I be­came Un­cle Bernard. It makes your heart leap be­ing ap­pre­ci­ated by a child and I never, ever tire of it. It’s the per­fect tonic.”

Some of the 15-minute shows from the 1960s and 1970s have been lost over the years and the orig­i­nal series ended in 1996 af­ter around 3,500 episodes. The fi­nal story was A A Milne’s The House on Pooh Cor­ner read by writer Alan Ben­nett in 1996.

It makes your heart leap be­ing ap­pre­ci­ated by a child and I never, ever tire of it. It’s the per­fect tonic Bernard Crib­bins, right, who pre­sented a record 111 Jack­anory episodes

Spike Mil­li­gan read­ing Un­cle the Ele­phant by JB Mar­tin on Jack­anory in De­cem­ber 1970

Ken­neth Wil­liams

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