So it was date night last week, and we chose to spend it doing something a bit different. We went to see a talk by Peter Firmin, the co-creator of some of the most loved characters that have ever appeared on British television.
Peter drew and/or made the puppets for, and animated all of the following: Ivor the Engine, Noggin the Nog, the Clangers, Bagpuss and Basil Brush. Wow! Isn’t that amazing? And that’s the original Bagpuss in the photo, by the way!
Peter was charming, and he seemed just like Father Christmas’s little brother. He was so inspiring and passionate about his work. As I listened to him, I was struck again and again how DIY his approach was. He made so many things using whatever he had laying around his studio, and I wondered if some of that warm, homemade feeling was what had rubbed off and helped to create the massive charm of his programmes.
I was also chatting to someone beforehand, and he asked me if I was of the school of thought that they don’t make characters like Peter’s any more. It was a great question and it stayed with me. I didn’t really come to a conclusion by the end of the evening. On the one hand, I don’t see anything that feels as charming, and certainly there’s nothing that feels as “physical” and homemade on TV.
But then on the other hand I’m hardly the bullseye target audience am I? And if you think about the gentleness of Waybuloo or In the Night Garden, maybe there is some kind of direct line from Peter’s characters through to those programmes?
What do you think?