I’ve known and loved Oliver Postgate all of my life. He’s been in my living room since I can remember and, thanks to Nick Jr Classics, his Clangers are still there too, beaming whistles and soup slurps from their little hollow planet. If my mum ever looked for someone to blame for my overtly fertile early imagination, I always pointed her in Mr Postgate’s direction, albeit while urging her to show some respect and affection.
British do-gooders so often wring their hands about what nonsense fills children’s heads from hours spent in front of the TV, to the point of telling them to drastically reduce their viewing. Recent targets have included Teletubbies and In The Night Garden, programmes which came under intense scrutiny, not because children would actually go mad watching them, but because adults don’t understand them. For crying out loud, the TV is the best place to start a child’s imaginative journey. No matter what we think about the wonder of books, nothing gets playground chat going like something wonderful, spellbinding and adventurous on TV. Cheerfully, such do-gooders were in still short supply during the 1950s and 1960s, or we’d never have had series like The Prisoner, Doctor Who or The Magic Roundabout. Or, indeed, anything by Oliver Postgate.
Take The Clangers, for instance; telling the uninitiated about about a planet of pink, whistling, cave-dwelling, knitted mice who recycle interplanetary junk and eat blue string pudding and green soup taken from wells by the Soup Dragon, does sound like the workings of a cheesy Wotsit ‘n’ vimto-inspired hallucinatory dream. Except it wasn’t, it was wonderful; and, here in 2008, it still looks and sounds wonderful.
My first knowing introduction to Postgate was via Noggin The Nog, the cod-Norse mythological saga with the vaguely forbidding voiceover and sinister bassoon music, courtesy of Vernon Elliot, whose music also soundtracked The Clangers. Noggin The Nog still provides food for my imagination; even the idea of watching it as a three-year-old, taking my first exploratory steps into the limitless possibilities of the imagination, is inspiring. I want my own children to experience the same sense of wonder I did in front of Noggin; maybe Santa can track down a DVD for me – not for my own pleasure, you understand.
Newer generations have been charmed by Postgate’s later work, chiefly Bagpuss and the ’70s revival of his first animation from the ’50s, Ivor The Engine; but, for me, Noggin and The Clangers were what my very young childhood was all about. Thanks for the memories, Oliver Postgate. Rest in peace, and assured that some lifelong fans want to pass on your life’s work to the next generation of fertile imaginations.