Pipkins is the latest in a series of nostalgic reunions.
Peter Tomlinson, ATV continuity announcer for the Midlands region in the 70s.
“Lew Grade always said I was his biggest star. Noele Gordon handbagged me over that more than once.” – Hartley Hare speaking in 2012
Distinct Nostalgia has brought together some of the cast and creative team behind Children’s series Pipkins. Presenter Jonathan Kydd, who played Tom, and puppeteer Nigel Plaskitt are reunited along with writer Gail Renard to look back on the production that started life as Inigo Pipkin. The podcast also is introduced by ATV Midlands continuity announcer Peter Tomlinson as an extra treat for classic telly fans.
The series was launched following ITV Daytime’s hours being extended in October of 1972. This saw a raft of new programming for the network from across the UK including Emmerdale Farm from Yorkshire Television and ATV’s attempt at recreating the success they’d previously had with Emergency Ward 10 with General Hospital.
In 1973 attention turned to children’s programming, notably programmes that would be entertaining but also informative and educational following on from the success of stateside format Sesame Street. ITV companies submitted their ideas and the best went to air – with Granada Television in Manchester bringing viewers Hickory House, Yorkshire Television in Leeds gave us Mr Trimble and famously Thames Television from London introduced us to the world of Rainbow.
Topov the Monkey, Jonathan Kydd as Tom and Hartley Hare.
ATV, before Sesame Street, had produced Tingha and Tucker devised by Australian producer Reg Watson (Crossroads, Neighbours). Presented by ‘Aunty’ Jean Morton and ‘Uncle’ Pat Astley, the series ran for nearly a decade and mixed fun with educational elements and even spun-off a religious weekend version. Tingha and Tucker had a mix of puppets – from the two koala leads to Willie Wombat and Kiki Kangaroo. The Birmingham produced series was a massive success with a fan club boasting 750,000 members. It came as no surprise Inigo Pipkin would feature a similar mix of animal creatures. Created by Michael Jeans and developed with writer and actress Susan Pleat, the series was produced at the ATV Elstree studios in North London.
Launching on January 1st 1973 Mr Inigo Pipkin welcomed viewers to his puppet making shop, where he would use old clothes and unwanted items to create his fabric creatures – this is why some of the regulars looked a little worn and ragged. Played by George Woodbridge, who was best known prior to the show for a series of horror movies, he was joined by snob Hartley Hare, an introvert monkey called Topov and wise tortoise called George. Other regulars over the years included Pig and Octavia the ostrich. Human friends across the series included Jonathan Kydd as Tom, Wayne Laryea as Johnny and Sue Nicholls as Mrs Muddle.
Behind the scenes of Pipkins in 1978 at ATV Elstree Studios, now the home of Holby City and EastEnders.
In March 1973 George Woodbridge died suddenly in the middle of recording the second series. While his death wasn’t dealt with in this series, with Inigo having a fishing holiday for the episodes he was missing from, George was written out at the start of the third series in 1974. In a first for children’s television, the death of Inigo was worked into the programme, predating the Mr Hooper episode on Sesame Street by nine years.
Rebranded as Pipkins, the show would run until December 1981 when ATV Network handed over to Central Television. With Central having to buy rights and programme copyrights from ATV, for any programmes they wished to continue, it was deemed an un-needed expense to buy up the children’s formats and so Hartley Hare waved goodbye for the last time after ten series and over 300 episodes.
Produced by Made In Manchester, host Ashley Byrne meets Pipkins presenter Jonathan Kydd, puppeteer Nigel Plaskitt and writer Gail Renard who reminisce about the programme content, the puppets and the production as well as ATV boss Lord Lew Grade among many other memories from a much loved series.
You can hear the special edition here. Other programmes included in the series are Hickory House, Sesame Street and Rainbow.
“He’s back! And he wants you all to listen now to the DistinctNostalgia Great Pipkins Reunion Podcast. Hartley Hare always demands attention!” – Made In Manchester
Hartley Hare goes west country in a scene from Pipkins.