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The Clangers BBC series by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate marks 50th anniversary

Saturday marked 50 years since The Clangers first aired.

The stop-motion series, created by children’s television pioneer Peter Firmin, first appeared on our screens on November 16, 1969.

Peter Firmin and the Clanger puppets at the Sidney Cooper Centre in Canterbury
Peter Firmin and the Clanger puppets at the Sidney Cooper Centre in Canterbury

Arriving in the same year Man first set foot on the moon, children across the nation were delighted by the show, which depicted a family of shrew-like creatures inhabiting a fictional, cratered planet.

The pink, knitted beings were created by Firmin, who lived in Blean near Canterbury with his family.

He co-founded production company Smallfilms - known for animated favourites such as Bagpuss and Noggin the Nog - along with artist and puppet maker Oliver Postgate.

The Clangers originated in a series of children’s books developed from Noggin the Nog.

In 1969, the BBC asked Smallfilms to produce a new series for colour television, but did not specify a storyline.

Mr Postgate decided that, as space exploration was topical, the set should strongly resemble the moon.

The creatures themselves - namely Granny, Major, Mother, Small and Tiny - were designed by Firmin.

But it was his wife Joan, an expert crafter, who knitted them into being and created their armour-like clothing.

The first two series of the show, narrated by Postgate, aired on BBC1 between 1969 and 1972.

Peter Firmin (left) and Oliver Postgate at work on The Clangers in their Blean studio in 1969
Peter Firmin (left) and Oliver Postgate at work on The Clangers in their Blean studio in 1969

Inhabiting a phantasmagorical world, the creatures conversed in whoops and whistles and lived on a diet of green soup - supplied by the Soup Dragon - and blue string pudding.

Early episodes saw The Clangers build a flying machine, find a television set, discover music, and go “space fishing” in a flying musical boat.

The show later entered the political fray with a final, four-minute special named Vote for Froglet broadcast on the day of the 1974 General Election, aired outside of the usual children’s television slot.

More than 40 years then passed, during which time youngsters continued to enjoy the original episodes.

But since 2015, two new series of the show have been aired on CBeebies, with many episodes written by Oliver Postgate’s son Daniel.

Other classic children’s shows such as Fireman Sam and The Wombles, originally made using stop-motion animation, are now created with computer technology.

But The Clangers has remained true to form, and is still made using the original, albeit time-consuming stop-motion technique.

The new series - narrated in the UK by Monty Python actor Michael Palin, with an American version voiced by William Shatner - has proven a huge success, and cemented the timelessness of Firmin and Postgate’s creation.

Peter Firmin receiving an honorary degree from Canterbury Christ Church University. Pic: Jeanette Earl
Peter Firmin receiving an honorary degree from Canterbury Christ Church University. Pic: Jeanette Earl

The Firmins' daughter Emily, who appeared in the opening sequence of Bagpuss as a girl and now lives in Whitstable, said: "I remember The Clangers being made in my parents' barn.

"It's brilliant it is still carrying on under the management of Dan Postgate."

Oliver Postgate sadly died in Broadstairs in 2008, at the age of 83. Firmin died on July 1 last year, aged 89, leaving behind six children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Space exploration has come on leaps and bounds in the half-a-century since their show first aired - with 12 people having walked on the moon, and billionaires now setting their sights on colonising Mars.

Yet despite wild advances in technology, the pair’s legacy lives on.

The appeal of The Clangers remains timeless, and the humble knitted creatures continue to entertain new generations of young minds.

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