This is BBC1, and Now it’s Time For…

When ITV decided, back in 1983, to create an ‘umbrella’ and an identity for their afternoon children’s programming, their setup comprised of a hirsute Matthew Kelly doing the presentation links in a futuristic space rocket studio set. This included the installation of spongy buttons and a lever to ‘launch’ each show, which was all very lovely and trailblazing except for the fact it was all pre-recorded and the lever was nothing more than a mere decoration!

You would think then, that when the BBC wanted to create their own afternoon programme links, with a presenter appearing on screen for the first time, they would have prepared an extravaganza… a big studio, lights, music, a famous personality- Noel or even Cheggers…. err no! There was barely any fanfare in ushering in this new ‘BBC Childrens’ era and many viewers were taken by surprise as they switched on the telly after school on the 9th September 1985 to find a young man sitting in a large brown chair with a record player and a beige curtain for company. For the curious, a quick scan of the Radio Times gave no clue, just the usual listings and times of the shows, much the same as the week before and the previous 30 years or so before that.

There were no sponge buttons in view either, but instead a whole control panel of real ones… “is that bloke actually controlling the programmes himself… live??” This brave new format actually divided people, at least for the first few weeks. Disgruntled viewers wrote in to ‘Points of View’ (as they always do) asking who on earth was the chap with the patterned jumpers and a bit of an Aussie twang to his voice. Well, as if you need telling, the man in question was Phillip Schofield, having recently returned to Britain after presenting children’s television programmes in New Zealand.

Phillip was in effect, there to be the weekday afternoon continuity announcer for BBC1, an originally not much more. His job description appeared to be announcing what show was on next, fading himself in and out of vision and making sure his microphone was switched on before talking (it all sounds so straightforward). His new home was the television centre BBC1 continuity suite, the name given to the small room where a person with a stately sounding voice would helpfully tell us the time and the name of the channel behind an rotating globe image.

So no, the new ‘BBC Children’s Presentation’ didn’t have their own cardboard cutout space rocket, in fact, the continuity suite was about as brown, beige and boring looking as could be, at least in those early few weeks. But it had Phillip, and as he entertained us during the links with a likeable enthusiasm, viewers soon started responding by sending letters, photos and lovingly crafted drawings. The walls, the desk and the record player became colourfully covered up and the small continuity suite became an extension of our own living rooms in its familiar, cluttered appearance (more on clutter in yet another blog post). The Corporation itself barely noticed what was going on, proved in point by the fact that poor Phil’s name only reached the print of the Radio Times in 1986 as the presenter of Children’s BBC.

And that was the unique aspect of the Children’s BBC afternoon links… it was considered to be just continuity, the presenters had an important job to do, timing to keep to and responsibility for looking after the tapes of the shows as they were played. It continued in this ‘do-it-yourself’ fashion for the next 9 years….

“Greetings From Barry Island”

Butlins Barry Island holiday camp in Wales closed in 1986. This could well have been the end of my blog post right here if it not for the fact that Barry Island re-opened the following season in 1987. It continued to provide a ‘Butlins-in-all-but-the-name’ holiday in south Wales under the rather optimistic title of ‘Majestic Barry Island’ for another 10 years. So that’s a relief, isn’t it? It means we can continue…

Wayyy back in the exciting year of 1988 my brother was born and a mere 12 weeks after that my Mum, Dad, Grandma and Granddad decided it would be an excellent idea to all go for a fun-filled break to the Barry Island holiday camp. In an effort to get that true holiday experience down on paper for you (ok, a screen) I will write about my week in a ‘postcard’ format. Does anyone remember those images of beaches, castles and thatched cottages that our parents (mostly mums) used to write to family on? A wonderful twitter account exists that daily ‘tweets’ bits of these genuine old postcard messages. I must thank whoever does these tweets because a) they make me laugh and b) they gave me the inspiration to put together this post in the first place.

I’ve decided to write these to my Nana, just so they feel a little more personal and yes, these memories are all real, no ‘artistic licence’ here, thank you very much! Now shhhh! I’ve got my postcards to write….

Dear Nana,

The car journey for Worcester to Barry Island took such a long time, days and days, I think! We are in our chalet now, I like it because the carpet is a nice orange and brown colour and the walls are made of wood!

Dear Nana,

Grandma has had a busy afternoon here already! She has been running around the camp looking for cleaners as we have been given a dusty chalet. The first cleaner she captured and brought back here only had a broom which “Isn’t any good”  according to Grandma, but all is well again as the cleaner reappeared with a hoover. But sadly the hoover has broken wheels, so it doesn’t work very well, either.

Dear Nana,

We are having lots of fun in our chalet still! There is only one chair in here which doesn’t bother me as I like sitting on the bed better anyway. My Granddad doesn’t mind either, he’s set up a garden chair inside, brought from his own back garden at home. Maybe he know about the Barry Island Chair Shortage before coming here. Grandma went to use a payphone ages ago and she’s only just come back. She said there was a queue and the lady in front of her made a very long phone call to somebody to talk about a pair of trousers!!

Dear Nana,

We have enjoyed the evenings here so far, and I have been on the dance floor lots. Mum and Dad are a bit tired, maybe it’s because they have to carry my brother’s pram up loads of steps to reach the ballroom. I like eating crisps and drinking orange juice with little umbrellas in the glass! It’s better than watching television at night, which we can’t do here anyway because we can’t get a television picture in the chalet, mind you they haven’t given us a television either…

Dear Nana,

I have been to the funfair today with Grandma and Granddad. There are loads of rides here, I have been on a yellow ladybird which goes round in a circle, a purple sparkly rocket which goes round in a circle and even a car!! ….which goes round in a circle. There are also models of giant rabbits and cockerels, Barry Island is so exciting!

Dear Nana,

Out and about exploring the camp today. Mum and I found a play park, which you had to go down lots of concrete steps to get to. I like the flowers growing in the park, which mum is calling ‘weeds’ and she says the park is a bit ‘rusty’. I like the rusty swings and the rusty climbing frame and I have a new boyfriend here. I don’t know his name but he is wearing a colourful shirt… we have been on the rusty see-saw together and I am probably in love!

Dear Nana,

We are not in the camp today… we are just below it, by a big wall on the beach! It is lovely and sandy, Dad built me lots of sandcastles, it took him ages and then for some reason he was a bit disappointed when I squashed them all by flinging myself on top of them. I did it really quickly too!

Dear Nana,

Going home tomorrow but I would like to live here forever! I have been on the biggest slide in the world today, it’s lots of red and yellow slides all stuck together and at the top I could see our chalet, or one that looked a lot like ours. Grandma is very happy, she likes the Barry Island washing machines and has had lots of fun using them today. Me, Mum and Dad went on the chairlift. We got a very scenic view of the camp car park and I could see our red Metro down below us! I love it here!

I hope you got a little idea of what the old Butlins camp was like, or at least a glimpse into the mind of my 3 year old self! Since Barry Island’s closure in 1996 and it’s subsequent decay and demolition the camp has gained a kind of cult status. People who holidayed there discuss their memories on message boards, there are touching YouTube videos, with archive photos and footage of the camp in its heyday and redcoats from Barry Island reunite annually. Yes, the accommodation was really no more than a beach hut with beds in (and a chair, if you were lucky) and the dining experience gave teenagers a chance to experience wartime rations. But the camp is remembered by many who worked and holidayed there with warmth and affection and fun, something I have (so far) never heard or seen bestowed on a continental hotel package holiday. Barry Island we love you… and we miss you, and for all sorts of reasons we will never, ever forget you!

 

 

 

A Blog Post About… errr… A Blog Post!

I have been busy this past week…. well, i’m always busy, I have two children! No, I mean I have been more busy than usual. Last Saturday I responded to a tweet from @CuriousUKTelly who were welcoming anyone who enjoyed writing to have a go at submitting blog posts for their excellent website http://www.curiousbritishtelly.co.uk. After a bit of discussion we decided I should write an ode to Andy Crane, Children’s BBC’s often forgotten presenter from the late 1980’s. “Brilliant!” I thaught, this should be easy, the words should come tumbling out of my brain, my blue Bic pen will become a waterfall of clever sentences…. Nah! I’m getting a bit ‘airy fairy’ here!

Anyway, I put pen to paper and promptly went blank… I had lots of thoughts and ideas, but couldn’t find the right words, Andy Crane it seems is my biggest passion (in the professional sense) and yet my biggest nemesis! I have counted up how many attempts I had of writing this post- seven tries and twenty sides of A4 paper. I tried every style possible- a list, an A to Z, a soppy version, a Wikipedia version (boring!). I found the right style and it’s pretty much how I approach doing this blog, by talking to you and you only, as if we had bumped into each other in the street.

The hardest thing, it seemed, was getting a balance right between humour and respect. No gentle funny stuff would mean that the blog would be as dull as a dishcloth and I respect Andy, especially because he is alive and well on Twitter and I would be in fear of getting  a telling of from the man himself if I mucked up the words used! So far Andy has remained quiet (unusual for a radio presenter you might think) save from a recent conversation with me about ‘Past Continuous Verbs’ (honestly!). I await his opinion on the blog post with baited breath and a paper bag to put over my head if it falls flat!

Reading the now published post here http://www.curiousbritishtelly.co.uk/2016/05/andy-crane-childrens-bbc-and-me.html it seems like a simple, straightforward article, barely hinting at the difficulty I had in writing it. But then maybe that’s the secret to a good blog post, I’ll leave you, lovely reader, to be the judge of that! Nonetheless, I am very proud of it.

I have a new problem now though… what the hell do I write about next?? Fun House? Mrs Mangle? Findus Crispy Pancakes? Maybe all three together…..?

 

Happy 30 3/4 years, Children’s BBC….

Back last September, in 2015, Children’s BBC celebrated their milestone 30th Birthday. That’s not 30 years of Children’s programming, we have all heared our parents ramble on at some time or other about Andy Pandy and Muffin the Mule. No, back in 1985 the BBC continuity announcer appeared on the screen for the first time to introduce the Children’s afternoon schedule. The announcer happened to be a young, cool dude called Phillip Schofield, and his grinning face became a lot more entertaining than the BBC 1 globe that had been used previously to introduce the shows.

But, hang on! Why am I writing about this now in 2016? I’m  8 months too late! An hour long celebration show was aired, featuring our favourite presenters and their furry superstar sidekicks. It was shown on the CBBC Channel, aimed at today’s kids, I doubt many 30-somethings were watching as their channel of choice! Furthermore, with a 6pm viewing slot, it would be lost in the family post-teatime whirlwind of washing up, baths, pyjamas etc…

So I missed it… did you miss it too?  I have finally caught up with the 30th celebrations, and it was an excellent hour (especially the Broom Cupboard years, but then it’s pretty obvious I would say that!). I really wanted it to be on BBC 4 though, in a 9pm timeslot with some classic shows repeated before it. I’m thinking Maid Marian, Byker Grove, Willy Fog… a whole night of celebration, ITV managed a whole weekend for their 30th, remember?? So “Happy 30th Birthday” to Children’s BBC! Sorry I’m so fashionably late, hopefully by doing this blog I will be forgiven…

From Zippy to Andi Peters…all held in place with extra strong hairspray??!!

In an effort to write down what I may (or may not) talk about in this blog, I first attempted it in a narrative style, which turned out to be as funny and interesting as a wet weekend in Hunstanton (with apologies to my Hunstanton readers) So…taking inspiration from an English exercise I did in Primary School, here’s my Z to A of thrilling topics that might pop up in my blog…. you will be thrilled if you love jazzy jumpers, that is….

Z…for Zippy (George, Bungle, Geoffrey)

Y…for yellow sweatshirts and Yazz

X…for extra strong hairspray (try and think of anything better!)

W…for Wilson the butler and What’s Up Doc?

V…for Viscount Biscuits and vegetable friends

U…for Ulysses 31 (thank goodness for that show or I would still be thinking here)

T…for Terry Nutkins, Timmy Mallett, Toby Anstis (interesting combination there)

S…for Simon Parkin (a legend, so he can have ‘S’ all to himself)

R…for Rosie and Jim, Right Said Fred and Rod, Jane and Freddy (all musical maestros)

Q…for The Queen and Quack Circles

P…for Phillip Schofield, Pigeon Street and pancakes

O…for Operation, The O Zone and Otis the Aardvark

N…for Noel’s House Party and Neighbours

M…for Mrs Mangle and Mullets (I will research if Mrs Mangle ever had a mullet..)

L…for Live and Kicking! and Lights Alive! (and exclamation marks aplenty…)

K…for Kylie Minogue and Koosh balls

J…for Jason Donovan and jazzy jumpers

I…for Isettas and Idents (for the saddos among us)

H…for Hacker T Dog and Henry (from Neighbours…)

G…for Going Live! Gordon the Gopher and Gladiators

F…for Fashion Wheel, Fizzgog, Fresh Prince of Bel Air

E…for Edd the Duck (the awesome dood can have ‘E’ all to himself)

D…for Debbie Flint and Dogtanian

C…for Challenge Anneka and Cities of Gold

B…for Blockbusters, Bananarama and Byker Grove

A…for the two ‘Andies’ – Peters and Crane (we’re finishing with a BANG! there..)

Now, there is probably lots I haven’t mentioned but it’s the best I could do with limited time and limited brain power, if you have any suggestions for more exciting topics my lovely reader, then do let me know!!!

 

“Bring Back The Broom Cupboard” Er…Maybe?

Ok, I’m at risk of confusing myself here! I recently read about how to create a successful blog with readers aplenty. Apparently you have to be everywhere- in WordPress (tick!), on Facebook (tick!), Twitter (tick!), Instagram (cross! I have a job, a house, two small children…enough is enough!) And the resulting success of my blog? Well, at the moment there is just you, dear reader…but I have my fingers crossed that we’ll get another reader join us soon!

My Facebook page is called ‘Bring Back the Broom Cupboard’. I created it after I had searched Facebook for any CBBC fan pages and found absolutely nothing… standing under a lightbulb at the time I had an “a-ha” flash of inspiration!

The title was a tricky problem to consider as this page is about as unofficial as they get, so I avoided the use of the word ‘BBC’ in the title. But, in doing so I feel I may be misleading folk a bit. It sounds like I am about to set up a protest camp outside the Houses of Parliament and stay there until Simon Parkin is back, linking into Newsround with just his goldfish and a copy of the Radio Times for company!

Although, saying that, it’s not a bad idea… I recently messaged the official CBBC Twitter feed. They have, in their wisdom, started broadcasting the CBBC channel until 9:00pm, an extra two hours a day! But, with a total lack of wisdom, they have ignored my request for one night a week of classic children’s shows to be repeated. Or maybe they have listened to me…. and Simon Parkin is in a pet shop as I write this, choosing a new goldfish co-star. We can only hope!

Get Those Party Poppers Out…

Well? Did you send in your stamped self-addressed envelope to the Broom Cupboard, and more importantly, have you received your ‘Willy Fog’ song lyric sheet? Tomorrow the 28th of April is a big day because it’s (fanfare please…)

‘National Willy Fog Day’

Launched in 1988 to celebrate the end of a Spanish imported animation which had roughly 6000 episodes and had ran on Children’s BBC for at least 5 years. At least, for the Broom Cupboard presenter Andy Crane, it probably felt like that!

To celebrate this exciting occasion, viewers were encouraged to sing along at home to the joyous theme tune with Andy as the enthusiastic choirmaster. We had had plenty of practice by the time the final episode came round as Mr Crane himself had been serenading us for weeks previously, even broadening our horizons by singing the Spanish version of the song! Olé!

So, start blowing up those balloons… And no, I haven’t just made all this up for a blog post, ‘National Willy Fog Day’ really exists. Just ask Andy himself before he starts to warm up his vocal chords again, ready for the big knees-up tomorrow…

Come inside my Broom Cupboard….blog!!

Well hellooooo to you!! Before I well and truly get underway with Broom Cupboard business, I thaught I would list my personal reasons for mucking around with writing stuff about things you may like.

Reason 1– Andy Crane told me to do it (sort of)… I’m a regular tweeter and conundrum solver on Andy’s Saturday breakfast show on BBC Radio Manchester. But all my excitement gets too much for poor Andy, bless him, and he told me a break from his show might do me good! I read that as “go do something more exciting girl!”, so instead of tweeting, I’ll write about him!

Reason 2– gamesyouloved.com told me to do it (sort of)… After a fairly innocent tweet requesting a clip of 1990’s gaming show ‘Bad Influence’, I was invited to write and submit a blog post about it for the fantabulous gaming website. I have not wrote anything since GCSE English but this gave me a massively enjoyable challenge! In fact, I have wrote stuff every day since then.

Reason 3– Andi Peters and Simon Parkin are lovely chaps. Fact. And if I tell you why now, that’s two less blog posts I can write. This needs to be spun out a bit, y’know?

Reason 4– I’m bored… my husband’s TV choices of ‘Wheeler Dealers’ and ‘Police Interceptors’ just don’t keep me riveted to the box! And writing about Bananarama will make a change from listening to Bananarama…

So bear with me while I muddle through WordPress and endlessly scribble words onto paper, keep your fingers and toes crossed that this blog gets better! Well done you for getting to the end, go treat yourself to a Wagon Wheel now!