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Andy Pandy (1950-1959)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Andy Pandy (1950-1959)
Westerham Arts Films for BBC
13 episodes (Black and white)
Created byFreda Lingstrom
 Maria Bird
WriterFreda Lingstrom
MusicMaria Bird

Narrator: Vera McKechnie; Singers: Gladys Whitred (1950s); Valerie Cardnell (1970); Puppeteers: Audrey Atterbury; Molly Gibson; The Stavordales (1950s); Christopher Leith (1970)

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Songs and games with little puppet boy Andy Pandy, his friend Teddy and the rag doll Looby Loo.

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The BBC's For the Children strand had featured programmes aimed at children since 1946 but it wasn't until 1950 that they specifically targeted very young toddlers.

Freda Lingstrom, who worked on radio's Listen With Mother, was asked to devise "a television equivalent on music and movement lines". With long-time friend Maria Bird, Lingstrom came up with a string puppet three-year-old boy who acted just like the toddler viewers. An old man in Bird and Lingstrom's village crafted the puppet - a toddler in striped clown outfit - which they called Andy Pandy. Bird and Lingstrom formed Westerham Arts Films, named after the Kent village where they and their craftsman friend lived, to produce four experimental episodes.

Andy Pandy first aired on Tuesday 11 July 1950 (with not much more than 150,000 TV sets in the south of England) and became very successful. Further episodes followed and were soon heavily repeated, rounding off programmes for housewives and mothers every Tuesday (and on Thursdays from Summer 1952). The programme became the cornerstone of the Watch With Mother strand which began in 1953. Made on film rather than broadcast live, surviving episodes are therefore now among the earliest relics of British television.

In each episode, the narrator spoke directly to both the audience and Andy, mediating between them: 'Andy Pandy, the children are here' or 'we must sing something for the children first'. Andy and the friends who later joined him, Teddy and the rag doll Looby Loo (who only came to life when Andy and Teddy weren't around), were mute throughout. Episodes were a collection of unrelated songs and games with no ongoing narrative. Viewers were invited to sing or dance along with what was going on on-screen. Each episode ended with a variation on the famous song: "Time to go home / Time to go home / Andy is waving goodbye."

The original black and white episodes - perhaps fewer than 40 in total - are thought to have been made up until 1959. Shown weekly in an almost unbroken run until 1969, the film prints eventually became too damaged to broadcast so Westerham produced another 13 episodes in 1970, now in colour but otherwise virtually unchanged. These would be shown right through the 70s.

In March 2002 Andy, minus his strings, returned to entertain yet another generation of children worldwide, as a modern stop-motion series made by Cosgrove Hall.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
Complete episode (4:16)
Lingstrom, Freda (1893-1989)
Watch With Mother