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Home   Kent   News   Article

See you later Oliver: Peter Firmin's personal memories of Postgate

05 January 2009
  • A slightly more colourful version of the same characters

    A slightly more colourful version of the same characters

  • Ivor the Engine

    Ivor the Engine

  • Noggin the Nog

    Noggin the Nog

  • Oliver Postgate (left) and Peter Firmin with a Pogles display in the Museum of Canterbury

    Oliver Postgate (left) and Peter Firmin with a Pogles display in the Museum of Canterbury

  • Oliver Postgate (right) and Peter Firmin at work on The Clangers in 1969

    Oliver Postgate (right) and Peter Firmin at work on The Clangers in 1969

  • The much-loved Bagpuss on display at the Museum of Canterbury

    The much-loved Bagpuss on display at the Museum of Canterbury

  • The Pogles - Mr Pogle, Mrs Pogle, Pippin and his playmate, a rabbit-type creature called Tog

    The Pogles - Mr Pogle, Mrs Pogle, Pippin and his playmate, a rabbit-type creature called Tog

Postgate characters

Peter Firmin (left) and Oliver Postgate with Mr Firmin's daughter Emily and Bagpuss

Peter Firmin (left) and Oliver Postgate with Mr Firmin's daughter Emily and Bagpuss

The death of Oliver Postgate last month left Bagpuss and Clangers fans around the world in mourning.

Here Mr Postgate’s former working partner Peter Firmin, who lives at Blean, recalls some personal memories.


There have been many kind tributes to my late working partner, Oliver Postgate, his life and work.

As working with Oliver was such an important part of my career and my family’s experience, I would like to record a few memories of my own.

It was in the spring of 1958, more than 50 years ago, that Oliver and I first met.

Sometimes life brings surprises, sometimes things seem to be destined to happen.

It seemed to have been destined that Oliver and I would one day meet and work together.

For as I discovered later, we very nearly did meet twice before.

The first time was during the Festival of Britain in 1951.

As usual preparations were running late. Oliver was doing some last minute fiddling with some sort of bubble machine and I was helping to make a model of atoms with fish hooks and ping pong balls.

We’d worked all through the night and King George V1 was being given a preview before the opening.

So Oliver was hiding under one table and I was hiding another as his Majesty passed by. But we didn’t meet then!

Then, at London’s Watergate Theatre a year later in a production of Desire Caught by the Tail, by Picasso, we were both involved again.

Oliver had made a model sun which rattled down along a sort of washing line across the audience to crash onto the stage, narrowly missing the group of art students performing abstract light patterns.

I was one of those students....but we didn’t meet then!

Six years later Oliver came to the flat in Battersea where Joan and I were living.

He was looking for someone to draw a lot of mice for very little money and he found me.

We were a bit in awe of this gentleman from the television – but then Joan noticed that he wore a black suit with brown shoes so that was all right! So third time lucky!

Joan and I had three daughters, but we didn’t have a television set. So it was a new world of television that Oliver introduced me to and inspried me with his wonderful words and stories.

First of all it was live television then in his usual inventive way Oliver adapted a 16mm camera and confidently started to teach himself to make stop-frame animated films for children’s TV.

He asked me to work with him in his new company, Smallfilms, and I tried to bring his writing to life with pictures and puppets.

Together we created a few worlds. We spurred each other on....bouncing ideas of each other....noses to the grindstone....finding ideas from everywhere.

A bit of Dylan Thomas in Ivor, where Oliver found the vouice of Jones from my Welsh friend Idris.

At the British Museum I looked at a set of Ivory chessmen and saw Noggin peeping out from behind a shield.

Oliver looked at the same set and discovered a terrified Thor Nogson sitting on a pony.

They obviously had a story to tell so I wrote my Longship love story and Oliver developed it – lacing it with dragons and Eastern magic, and delighting in the Badness of Nogbad. Oliver loved doing that voice!

When Joan and I with our three little girls moved out of London to Blean it seemed a risk.

I had a few weeks left of a live show called The Musical Box with a young Rolf Harris and Oliver was busy with Noggin and Ivor films.

Oliver and his family moved to Whitstable and we carried on workign together. We had no idea what the future would bring but Oliver, like Nogign, was full of confident optimism and I, like Thor Nogson, worried and grumbled but we worked well togther in a relationship of trust that needed no contracts or formal agreements.

Using the local Kentish landscape as background, Oliver told his Grimm tale of the Pogles where the witch frightened the BBC and we took a moonmouse from a Noggin book and the Clangers were created using yoghurt pots, Meccano and Joan’s knitting skills.

The viewers thought it strange and said: “What is he on?” but Oliver always said it was Joan’s tea and ginger biscuits.

After a hard day at the animation table, Oliver would come in from his pig sty for tea with the Firmins before going home to supper with the Postgates.

We became almost like his second family and although he has said what hard work it was I’m sure he enjoyed it as much as I did.

We certainly had fun. When he wanted to animate a dance for Mr and Mrs Pogle he dragged me away from my drawing board to dance with him in the farmyard – and with the school bus passing by!

And I’m sure all my girls remember with what excitement we all gathered in the pig sty to watch the rushes, especially when the films were the Pingwings or Pogles with shots of the young Postgates or Firmins, our friends and our animals.

These filmes which Loaf of The Dragons' Friendly Society has restored on to DVD have become our family memories.

Everyone who knew Oliver or watched our programmes has his own memories of Oliver, his life, his work, and especially his voice....and we all have our own goodbyes to say to him....but Oliver rarely said “Goodbye.”

About a year ago, when Joan and I were last able to see Oliver, I took about 100 Bagpuss books to Broadstairs for him to sign and as we left it was not “Goodbye” that Oliver said to us.

Oliver’s last words to me were: “See you later.” So my last words here will be just that: “Oliver....see you later.”

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