Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Oliver Postgate (1925-2008)

Oliver Postgate, creator of many children's shows for British TV, died yesterday (8 December) at the age of 83. Born in Hendon, Middlesex, on 12 April 1925, Richard Oliver Postgate was educated at Woodstock School and Woodhouse County Secondary before being evacuated to Devon at the outbreak of World War II, where he attended Dartington Hall School. Returning to Finchley in 1942, he joined the home guard and attending Kingston College of Art. Like his father, journalist and novelist Raymond Postgate, had been during the Great War, Oliver was a conscientious objector and was jailed in 1942; he later agreed to become a Red Cross stretcher bearer and served in occupied Germany.

He enrolled at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art on his return to England in 1948 but left before completing the course, drifting through various jobs until being appointed a stage manager at Associated-Rediffusion in 1957. Associated-Rediffusion produced and broadcast television programmes for the London area and Postgate wrote his first children's show, Alexander the Mouse, which was animated using painted backgrounds and magnets to move characters. After a second series, The Journey of Master Ho, Postgate set up Smallfilms with Peter Firmin, a teacher at the Central School of Art who had painted the backgrounds for Alexander.

Amongst the many shows they created were Ivor the Engine (1959-64) Noggin the Nog (1959-65), Pingwings (1961), Pogle's Wood (1966-68), The Clangers (1969-74), Bagpuss (1974), Tottie: The Story of a Dolls' House (1983-85) and Pinny and Victor (1987). With Firmin providing character designs, models and Postgate writing and filming the stories in a cowshed in Blean (near Canterbury), Kent, the stop-motion animated shows are amongst the most fondly remembered of all childrens' shows; although there were only 13 episodes of Bagpuss, it was repeated twice a year for thirteen years and, as Postgate narrated most of the stories, his voice is one of the most recognisable in children's TV. Both Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog were remade in colour in 1976-77 and 1982 respectively, bringing the two shows to new generations.

Postgate's long association with comics and annuals began as early as 1960 when he and Firmin produced a weekly Ivor the Engine comic strip for TV Land. There were dozens of annuals, story books and other related publications, including The Pogles Annual (Polystyle, 1967-74; the Pogles also appeared in Pippin and the Pippin Annual), Clangers Annual (Polystyle, 1971-73), The Bagpuss Annual (BBC, 1974-75; World Internationa, 2001), Ivor the Engine Annual (Stafford Pemberton, 1978) and Ivor the Engine Holiday Special (Polystyle, 1983). He was also the animator of another comics classic, Captain Pugwash.

Postgate was a pacifist and protester against nuclear proliferation and broadcast, spoke and meetings and published booklets on the subject. His autobiography, Seeing Things, was published in 2000.

Obituaries: BBC News (9 December); The Guardian (9 December); The Times (10 December); Daily Telegraph (10 December); The Independent (10 December).
Features: "Oliver Postgate's Inspired Lunacy" by Libby Purves (The Times, 10 December); "Homespun Genius" by Aida Edemariam & Nicole Jackson (The Guardian, 10 December).

Story Books (illustrated by Peter Firmin unless otherwise noted)
Ivor the Engine. London, Abelard-Schuman, 1962; as Ivor the Engine: The First Story, London, Fontana, 1977.
Noggin the King. London, E. Ward (Starting to Read Books 1), 1965.
Noggin and the Whale. London, E. Ward (Starting to Read Books 2), 1965.
Noggin and the Dragon. London, E. Ward (Starting to Read Books 3), 1966.
Nogbad Comes Back. London, E. Ward (Starting to Read Books 4), 1966.
Ivor's Outing. London, Abelard-Schuman, 1967.
Noggin and the Moon Mouse. London, Kaye and Ward (Starting to Read Books 5), 1967.
Nogbad and the Elephants. London, Kaye and Ward (Starting to Read Books 6), 1967.
Pippin Fishing (Pogles' Wood). Feltham, Hamlyn, 1967.
Tog Sees the World (Pogles' Wood). Feltham, Hamlyn, 1967.
Saga of Noggin the Nog:
__1 King of the Nogs. London, Kaye and Ward, 1968.
__2 The Ice Dragon. London, Kaye and Ward, 1968.
__3 The Flying Machine. London, Kaye and Ward, 1968.
__4 The Omruds. London, Kaye and Ward, 1968.
__5 The Island. London, Kaye and Ward, 1969; as Noggin and the Island, London, Fontana, 1980.
__6 The Firecake. London, Kaye and Ward, 1969.
__7 The Pie. London, Kaye and Ward, 1971.
__8 The Flowers. London, Kaye and Ward, 1971; as Noggin and the Flowers, London, Fontana, 1980.
__9 The Game. London, Kaye and Ward, 1972.
__10 The Monster. London, Kaye and Ward, 1972.
__11 The Blackwash. London, Kaye and Ward, 1975.
__12 The Icebergs. London, Kaye and Ward, 1975.
The Magic Milk Cart (Pogles' Wood). Fletham, Hamlyn, 1968.
A Bag of Magic (Pogles' Wood). Feltham, Hamlyn, 1969.
Pogles' Wood Story Book. Feltham, Hamlyn, 1969.
Major Clanger's Rocket (Clangers). Feltham, Hamlyn, 1970.
A Thing for Flying (Clangers). Feltham, Hamlyn, 1970.
Pippin's Castle (Pogles' Wood). Feltham, Hamlyn, 1970.
Tog's Train Trip (Pogles' Wood). Feltham, Hamlyn, 1970.
Noggin and the Money. London, Kaye and Ward (Starting to Read Books 15), 1973.
Noggin and the Storks. London, Kaye and Ward (Starting to Read Books 16), 1973.
Bagpuss in the Sun. London, Collins, 1975.
Bagpuss on a Rainy Day. London, Collins, 1975.
Bagpuss Beginners:
__1 Mr Rumbletum's Gumboot. London, Pelham, 1975.
__2 The Song of the Pongo. London, Pelham, 1975.
__3 Silly Old Uncle Feedle. London, Pelham, 1975.
Ivor the Engine: Snowdrifts. London, Fontana, 1977.
Nogmania. London, Kaye and Ward, 1977.
The Marrow Boat (Pingwings), illus. Babette Cole. London, Kaye and Ward (Starting to Read Books 17), 1978.
A Flying Bird (Pingwings), illus. Babette Cole. London, Kaye and Ward (Starting to Read Books 18), 1978.
Ivor the Engine: The Dragon. London, Collins, 1979.
Ivor the Engine: The Elephant. London, Collins, 1979.
Ivor the Engine: The Foxes. London, Collins, 1982.
Ivor the Engine Storybook (contains: The First Story, Snowdrifts, The Elephant, The Dragon). Glasgow, Richard Drew, 1982.
Ivor the Engine: Ivor's Birthday. London, Collins, 1984.
Ivor the Engine Red Story Book (contains: Ivor's Birthday, The Foxes). Glasgow, Richard Drew, 1986.
Becket. An illumination on the life and death of Thomas Becket, with Naomi Linnell. London, Kingfisher, 1989.
Columbus: The Triumphant Failure, with Naomi Linnell. London, Kingfisher, 1991.
The Saga of Noggin the Nog (contains: King of the Nogs, The Ice Dragon, The Flying Machine, The Omruds). London, HarperCollins, 1992.
__1 The Iron Chicken. London, Little Brown & Co., 1993.
__2 The Music Trees. London, Little Brown & Co., 1992.
__3 The Hoopicopter. London, Little Brown & Co., 1993.
__4 The Sky-Moos. London, Little Brown & Co., 1993.
__5 The Top Hat. London, Little Brown & Co., 1993.
__6 The Tablecloth. London, Little Brown & Co., 1993.
The Little Book of Bagpuss. London, Walker, 2005.
The Big Book of Bagpuss. London, HarperCollins Children's, 2007.

The Plain Man's Guide to the Bomb. Thinking it through. London, Menard, 1982.
The Writing on the Sky. London, Menard Press, 1983.
The Emperor's New Clothes. Hopes for a future for the world. Whitstable, Pogle Press, 1988.
Seeing Things (autobiography). London, Sidgwick & Jackson, 2000.

(* Photo © Kent News)

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