Friday, 12 December 2008

Oliver Postgate

You may have seen on the news last week that Oliver Postgate has passed away. A man who had a gentle but still massive influence on myself and my family. For those readers who’ve never heard of him Oliver Postgate made short animation films for the BBC. His films were for kids. I well remember as a child myself loving Noggin the Nog which was the first one he made with Peter Firmin under the moniker of Smallfilms. These were introduced like an old Norse saga. Oliver Postgate provided the narration as well as the storylines. Last year we went to the British Museum and I sought out the Lewis Chessmen which inspired the look of the characters and set. Actually I love books about Vikings and historical novels, I wonder whether there is some influence there, it wouldn't surprise me.

Later Smallfilms made Ivor the Engine. This was always my personal favourite. Again the animation was homespun and quaint, the storylines gentle and narrated by Oliver. This was the brilliant story of a little steam engine that worked on one of the little railway lines in Wales and his adventures with a host of characters. Brilliant stuff. Some years later my son became an Ivor fan too alongside the Thomas the Tank Engine animation series of the 80s/90s. Whilst it's a bit morribund at the moment my interest in model railways was no doubt shaped by Ivor and the Thomas stories I read as a child myself.

Subsequently Smallfilms made Pogles Wood which I fondly remember from "watch with mother" times. The Clangers was another favourite – this odd series was about a bunch of funny creatures who lived on a moon and talked by whistling at each other. There is a whole generation who can still converse in Clanger whistles. I remember that was one of range of short programmes that used to be on while I had my tea just before the adult programmes started with the news about 5:45 every evening.

For many people Bagpuss was the crowning glory and I believe that once won a pole of the best kids show ever. It was after my childhood and neither of my two ever rediscovered it to be honest so it's not one I recall much. Today you still regularly see cars with a Bagpuss in the back shelf so I think for the generation just beneath me it was a massive favourite.

Finally my personal link to Oliver Postgate runs further since he lived and worked not far from where I live so would often pop up at things and on the local radio/news etc. And more importantly one of his sons is an art teacher at my sons old school, it was his Meccano that was commandeered to make the Iron Chicken in the Clangers. This man had a huge influence on my son, his art and photography skills and his development as a person. Clearly he himself was massively influenced by his father and Peter Firmin so I have directly and indirectly much to thank Oliver Postgate for and he has left his mark in the British consciousness and culture much more than many much more lauded people. Thank you Oliver.


  1. Could it be more polarised - Betty Page and Oliver Postgate

  2. This was a really wonderful tribute. I don't think we ever forget the images and media which shaped our childhood memories.

  3. what a great obit, great stuff. You can't buy memories like those you have of childhood... and Oliver has a lot to do with many of mine. Seems like another world now doesnt it? Could kids be entertained by such 'simple' programmes today?? I mean there's no farting, no explosions, no flashing lights.. but hey, there was a story and everything! now THAT's rare!

    Great post mate.