Children’s TV gems are brought to life as V&A show comes to Bradford

PICS: Tony Johnson
PICS: Tony Johnson
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An exhibition of children’s television characters from the 1960s and 1970s opens in Bradford today, as part of a loan arrangement with London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

Created and filmed in a barn and an adapted pigsty in Kent, the aminated puppets Bagpuss and The Clangers entertained several generations of children, thanks to regular repeats, and are considered cornerstones of 20th century British culture.

The exhibition, at Bradford’s Cartwright Hall, tells the stories of the characters and of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, the animators who gave them life, through a company they called Smallfilms.

Alice Sage, the exhibition’s curator, said: “We all hold a special place in our hearts for one or more of Smallfilms’ creations.

“Beyond telling marvellous, captivating stories, Peter and Oliver’s work encouraged children to look at the world with curiosity.”

Firmin, who was 89, died last month, and Bradford councillor Sarah Ferriby said his passing had made the event even more poignant.

“Anyone who was a child in the 1960s, 70s or 80s will have such fond memories of these delightful characters,” she said.

Smallfilms, made a raft of other children’s shows, including Pogles’ Wood, Noggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine, all of which are represented in the exhibition.

It also includes archive footage, sets and storyboards, and Postgate’s stop-motion film camera which he adapted using a small motor and bits of Meccano.

The exhibits are set in a recreation of the film studio they used.

Postgate also narrated most of the films, and Ms Sage said: “He never spoke down to their 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.”