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Murray, Gordon (1921-)

Producer, Director, Writer, Animator

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Gordon Murray's puppet company toured theatres and clubs for many years until he shrewdly invited BBC producer Freda Lingstrom to a performance. She was impressed enough to offer him work operating Spotty Dog for The Woodentops (BBC, 1955-57). Murray soon became a producer in the formative years of the BBC Children's Department, overseeing the BBC Puppet Theatre of the 1950s. Lime Grove's 'repertory company' typically comprised string puppeteers Audrey Atterbury, Molly Gibson, Elizabeth Thorndike, Bob Bura and John Hardwick, and voice artists Peter Hawkins, Roy Skelton, Derek Nimmo and Patricia Hayes, with Andrew and Margaret Brownfoot providing settings.

Murray adapted one-off tellings of famous fairy tales such as Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's Nightingale (BBC, 1958). He also scripted and produced 33 episodes of the Rubovia legends (BBC, 1958-63), tales of King Rufus and his courtiers featuring rather grotesque caricature puppets. The Puppet Theatre group also performed stories from Toytown with Larry the Lamb, Murray adapting S.G. Hulme Beaman's books in the mid-50s (Larry and co were revived by Bura and Hardwick for 27 colour stop motion episodes of Toytown (ITV, 1972-74), but Murray was not involved in this project, produced by Hendrik Baker).

Murray left the BBC when the Children's Department and Women's Programmes merged in 1964 and tried to go it alone with his own production company. Puppeteers Bura and Hardwick ran their own animation studio and used the time-consuming stop motion technique to help Murray realise a pilot for Camberwick Green, which became a Watch With Mother series in 1966. Trumptonshire sequels Trumpton and Chigley followed.

Despite the popularity of endless Trumptonshire repeats, it was 1976 before Murray had a new series on television. Six stop motion remakes of the legends of Rubovia aired on BBC1 at lunchtimes. Murray and Roy Skelton narrated, with music by Freddie Phillips.

Murray's next TV outings were aired within Multi-Coloured Swap Shop (BBC, 1976-82), the punning wordplay of boy and girl Skip and Fuffy appearing in 1978. Murray appeared live on Swap Shop in 1979 to introduce his next series, The Gublins, thirteen folktales told in verse starring curious chimpanzee-troll-like creatures. They included the Arabian tale 'The Magic Tree', the Cornish tale 'Mister Dilley's Mermaid' and the supposedy Bohemian 'The Prince Frog', about a prince who was turned back into a frog with a kiss from a princess.

Alastair McGown

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Multi-Coloured Swap Shop (1976-82)Multi-Coloured Swap Shop (1976-82)

Pioneering BBC children's phone-in show, hosted by Noel Edmonds

Thumbnail image of Woodentops, The (1955-57)Woodentops, The (1955-57)

The adventures of a family of wooden dolls who live on a farm

Related collections

Thumbnail image of Trumptonshire Trilogy (1966-1969)Trumptonshire Trilogy (1966-1969)

The animated villages of Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley

Thumbnail image of Watch With MotherWatch With Mother

Pioneering programming for 1950s tots

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