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Oliver Postgate: Seeing Things

Thursday, 05 November 2009 10:56

Published a year to the day after Oliver Postgate’s death, this wonderful autobiography details his childhood and early life and tells how, with Peter Firmin, he came to create some of the most memorable and loved children’s television shows of all time. Working over a period of 40 years, with little more than a garden shed and an unlimited imagination, he gave us such shows as Bagpuss, The Clangers, Noggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine.

As you read this book you can almost hear Oliver’s instantly recognisable voice – full of warmth, charm and a gentle authority - Oliver wrote and narrated the stories, while Peter Firmin illustrated the characters and made the puppets.

Seeing Things by Oliver PostgatePostgate’s path to film-making was far from conventional, or even planned. He was the grandson of George Lansbury, leader of the Labour Party in the 1920s, and his father was Raymond Postgate, who became famous as the founder and author of “The Good Food Guide”. Before his first TV production, Alexander the Mouse in 1958, he had already been a war evacuee; a conscientious objector; a farm labourer; a relief worker in post-war Germany; an artist; an actor; and an inventor.

In this involving autobiography Postgate describes how he came to create his stories and characters, developing innovative techniques of animation and puppetry alongside his friend and co-producer Peter Firmin (Smallfilms was the company they founded together in 1957). Strange but true, almost all of Oliver’s films were made in a cowshed in Kent on a budget of next to nothing.

Postgate’s legacy saw a huge number of fond obituaries in the press; one by Charlie Brooker (of BBC4 Screenwipe fame) was in fact read out at his funeral, and this extract epitomises the spirit of the celebration: “Oliver Postage was, for my money, the greatest children's storyteller of the last 100 years. Together, the team of Postgate and Peter Firmin were apparently incapable of creating anything less than timelessly wonderful whenever they sat down to work”.

This newly updated publication in hardback has a great “old fashioned” look to it, just the sort of thing you would find in Emily’s shop, in fact. Complete with an introduction by Stephen Fry and an afterword by Postgate’s son Daniel, this would make a great gift for anyone old enough to remember Blue String Pudding and floppy cloth cats. “Seeing Things” is out now, with a RRP of £16.99, or less through www.culttvstore.com

Thanks to Canongate Books, we had three copies of “Seeing Things” to give away in a prize competition.  All you had to do was answer the following question by clicking on the link to our competition entry form below: What was Oliver Postgate’s first TV production in 1958? The answer was Alexander The Mouse, and the winners were Lynda Mansell of Greasby, Frances Hopkins of Woking, and Pamela Gossage of Leeds - well done them, and thanks to everyone who took part!

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