Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Lingstrom, Freda (1893-1989)

Writer, Producer, Executive

Main image of Lingstrom, Freda (1893-1989)

While Mary Adams may have defined the theoretical template of a children's television service, it was Freda Lingstrom who first put that theory into practice to become the godmother of children's television in Britain.

Lingstrom was an artist, illustrator and author. She provided artwork for On The Line, a guide to LNER Trains, in 1928, and maps for Norwegian travel guide This Is Norway in 1933. Her first novel The Seventh Sister was published in 1938.

Between 1945 and 1949 Lingstrom enjoyed a formative spell on the editorial team of 'improving' children's periodical Junior, a miscellaneous "collection of stories, articles and pictures for the junior members of the family". George Orwell and Maria Bird were among its contributors.

This posting led her to become Assistant Head of BBC Schools Broadcasting, and while at BBC Radio she created storytelling slot Listen With Mother in 1950. It was not long before she received her first television commission - in July 1950 she created Andy Pandy (BBC 1950-59; 1970) at the behest of Mary Adams, working with Maria Bird under the name Westerham Arts Films. The programme was an experimental offshoot of Women's Programmes that proved popular with mums and toddlers.

Lingstrom was appointed Head of BBC Children's Television in May 1951, succeeding two interim figures responsible for a framework of sorts, Richmond Postgate (early 1950) and Cecil Madden (September 1950 - April 1951). On her appointment she oversaw seven department Producers - Dorothea Brooking, Pamela Brown, Naomi Capon, Joy Harington, Peter Thompson, Rex Tucker and Michael Westmore.

Her most visible contribution was the Watch With Mother schedule for pre-school children, built around Andy Pandy and another Lingstrom/Bird production The Flower Pot Men (BBC 1952-54). By 1955, five programmes aired Monday to Friday.

She may have seemed a matriarchal, slightly stern, intellectual figure compared with the more 'theatrical', light entertainment leanings of her immediate predecessor Madden (rumour was that she was known as 'the old cough drop' among the department, but never to her face). Nonetheless, Lingstrom fought hard to make BBC executives see Children's as a valid department deserving time, money and personnel, and had several frank exchanges with Cecil McGivern, Controller of TV Programmes. She despised Americanised fare, refused to screen imported Western series and even disliked Enid Blyton stories. Her programmes were cosy and slightly over-protective in tone, and followed the old Reithian edict of inform, educate and entertain, with emphasis on the first two tenets. Nevertheless, she saw the potential of Harry Corbett's Sooty, signing him up for SS Saturday Special (BBC 1952-54) and, at the second time of asking, greenlit Crackerjack (BBC 1955-84). For her efforts Lingstrom was awarded the OBE in 1955.

The launch of ITV in September 1955 saw BBC ratings decline rapidly through 1956 and that Summer Lingstrom was succeeded as Head of Children's by Owen Reed. She continued to write children's books based on her television series and also art criticism, with The Seeing Eye published in 1960. Westerham produced another string puppet series for Watch With Mother, Bizzy Lizzy (BBC 1967) about a girl whose dress featured a magic wishing flower, but being made in black and white as colour television approached, it wasn't repeated as much as its predecessors. Westerham made 13 new Andy Pandy episodes in colour in 1970, shown repeatedly for the rest of the decade.

Lingstrom died in 1989. Her estate oversees the considerable interests of her revived characters, Andy Pandy and Bill and Ben.

Alistair McGown

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Andy Pandy (1950-1959)Andy Pandy (1950-1959)

Songs and games with puppet toddler Andy Pandy, Teddy and Looby Loo

Thumbnail image of Flowerpot Men, The (1952-54)Flowerpot Men, The (1952-54)

Stories about Bill & Ben, who live in flowerpots and say "flobbadob"

Thumbnail image of Rag, Tag and Bobtail (1953-54)Rag, Tag and Bobtail (1953-54)

Simple but charming puppet adventures for 1950s tots

Related collections

Thumbnail image of Children's TelevisionChildren's Television

Broadcasting for children of all ages

Thumbnail image of Watch With MotherWatch With Mother

Pioneering programming for 1950s tots

Related people and organisations