Bagpuss: Remembering the golden age of children's TV as old, saggy cloth cat turns 50
He charmed generations of children with his gentle, sleepy ways.
Now, Bagpuss is turning 50, although some might think he was far older than that given his slow-moving style of doing things.
The show began on February 12, 1974 with Bagpuss surrounded by a enchanting cast of characters in the toy shop for lost and broken objects.
The ‘most important, the most, most magical, saggy old cloth cat in the world’ was joined by his owner Emily, the mouse organ mice, the rag doll Madeleine and a wise old wooden woodpecker called Professor Yaffle.
As the golden anniversary of the show is celebrated, the son of animator Oliver Postgate, who died in 2008 and created the with artist and puppeteer Peter Firmin, has spoken of the magic of the programme which has been re-broadcast multiple times and voted as the all-time favourite children’s programme in a BBC poll in 1999.
Daniel Postgate told the PA news agency that the story of “the big, cuddly cat” meant “packing a lot into one episode”.
The writer, who helped bring back the Clangers to TV screens in 2015 when the show was revived on CBeebies, also said: "My dad always said it was the most demanding of the (shows that) they did because they had to have new characters each time, and that demanded a lot of imagination and work.”
Mr Postgate, said he thinks the show was axed as the BBC thought it was “sort of, out of date”, even though he thinks that the creators were “quite keen to carry on” for another series.
“They (the BBC) were moving into new sort of zoomy sugary (children’s) programmes,” he said.
“So the BBC kind of moved on, seems to me that they probably weren’t correct about what children wanted.
“I think as the programmes have endured so long, it seems to be (that) the BBC might be mistaken about the lack of appeal.”
He said his father also wanted to make a series called The Babushkas, about women secretly being in charge of Soviet Russia, which did not get made.
Mr Postgate hopes that a radio play, which he is working on and focuses on a grown-up Emily, the little girl who owns the shop in Bagpuss, will be made.
He said: “I’ve got a few people, who are actors who are interested in being involved, so Stephen Fry was interested and Simon Callow, so hopefully, touch wood, that might come off in one form or another, if not on the radio, there may be as a podcast, but time will tell on that one.”
The real-life girl, Emily Firmin, whose father died at the age of 89 in July 2018, told PA she is “used” to being seen as the inspiration for the character now.
She said: “I think the mistake that Oliver and my father Peter made was giving Emily my name… I would have had a different life if they had named her something else.
“But always obviously (being) linked to it, which is an honour. I mean, what a fantastic memory to have done something like that.”
Ms Firmin, a papier-mache artist, says she does not think either her or Mr Postgate “have used the fact that we come from that background to promote our own work”.
“Me and Dan have grown up with a very strange upbringing and that goes hand in hand with being a little bit famous,” she also said.
She said she would want to say yes “straight away” for a revival of Bagpuss and agreed with Mr Postgate this would go ahead if it “kept the charm and the flavour of the original programmes”.
Bagpuss products, such as 50ps, stamps, plush toys and crafts, have been released for the 50th anniversary with information via coolabi.com.
The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury, Kent, which houses Smallfilms characters, has also been celebrating the cat since the weekend.
House of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury, Kent, which houses Smallfilms characters, has also been celebrating the cat since the weekend.