Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Through The Round Window
Readers of a certain age will remember this from the popular children's program Play School, immediately you will be now thinking of Big & Little Ted, Humpty, Jemima and the rather peculiar and strangely spooky Hamble accompanied by many various presenters including Brian Cant, Floella Benjamin, Derek Griffiths, Toni Arthur and of course Johnny Ball. What prompted today's entry was reading how the BBC had junked many 2 inch Quadruplex videotape master copies of this program in the assumption that they were no longer of use and the few remaining episodes was sufficient to retain. I can't help feeling that by doing this we are chucking away more than just a roll of TV sentimentality, we have irretrievably chucked away a way of life that will never return.
Now one can say that I'm looking through rose tinted glasses at the past and really the programs were awful products made by adults to give kids what adults thought they wanted. In reality it was actually a burgeoning time for children's TV, production costs were limited and most programming although produced on a shoe string budget were fashioned with great skill, consideration and above all a passion. None more so than programs created by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate who even today are remembered for Bagpuss, The Clangers and Ivor The Engine and probably summed it up in an interview I read many years ago about what made making all these programs worth it. In his reply he talked about a letter he received from a girl, now an adult, who thanked him for Bagpuss with it's gentle nature and make believe world as it had been her only escape from child abuse for fifteen minutes each week.
The destruction of Play School marks a watershed of changing attitudes to the way children's television has evolved, gradually we have moved away from the gentle nurturing of childhood and promotion of certain values and into a more, should I say, aggressive style of nurturing. Gone is the 'Watch with Mother', a special time set aside on television for mother and child to share, gone also is real after school children's programming, even the stalwart Blue Peter has had a dramatic makeover to appeal to hip children. The TV schedule today has no special format to allow a more progressive children's programming and the multitude of 24 hour children's channels nullifies any special aspect of a program.
Not a criticism just an observation, time as they say moves on, society cannot live in the past but sometimes the greatest things are gone before we have a chance to save them. Wasn't it more beautiful when you believed in everything?
On paper it shouldn't work on television though under the creative guidance of David McKee it became a gentle classic.
"Yoffy lifts a finger, and a mouse is there / Puts his hands together, and a seagull takes the air / Yoffy lifts a finger, and a scampi darts about / Yoffy bends another, and a tortoise head peeps out / These hands were made for making, and making they must do."
When it's gone, it's gone. Losing these programs and memories would be such a mistake. The creators of these programs believed with an unbridled passion in what they were doing and in turn created something very special for most people, a childhood.