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
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