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Jackanory (1965-96)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Jackanory (1965-96)
BBC, 13/12/1965 - 24/03/1996
ProducersDavid Coulter
 Anna Home
 Daphne Jones
 Angela Beeching
 Jeremy Swan

Simple storytelling of children's fiction, presented by a huge variety of readers.

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This storytelling series was developed by Joy Whitby (with Anna Home and Molly Cox) as a way of bringing children's fiction to television, at a time when Department budgets made drama productions unaffordable. The title came from an old rhyme, half-remembered by Cox and Home: "I'll tell you a story of Jackanory, And now my story's begun..."

The series aired each weekday from Monday 13 December 1965 - the first story Cap of Rushes read by Lee Montague. Initially Jackanory used the simplest form of television presentation - a talking head reading to camera with cross fades to static illustrations. By the mid-'80s more sophisticated techniques were often used. For The Hundred and One Dalmatians (1986), Sarah Greene read from a set recreating the Dearly family's parlour while accompanied by the occasional Dalmatian puppy.

Readers ranged from Margaret Rutherford to Spike Milligan and Harry H. Corbett in the 1960s, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Alan Bennett and Willie Rushton in the '70s, Prince Charles in 1984 and Paul Merton and Rik Mayall in the series' later years. Most prolific were Kenneth Williams, with 69 appearances, and Bernard Cribbins with 111. Jackanory was popular with actors - a week's episodes involved half a day's rehearsal and, with autocue, no need to memorise lines.

Recurring fiction series either popularised by Jackanory or written specially for the programme included adventures featuring Arabel and pet crow Mortimer (written by Joan Aiken, illustrated by Quentin Blake and read by Bernard Cribbins), Littlenose the Caveboy (written, read and illustrated by John Grant), Jonny Briggs (Joan Eadington's stories told by Bernard Holley) and ace detective Agaton Sax (by Nils-Olof Franzen, read by Kenneth Williams).

Jackanory experimented with live action, silent drama inserts in the mid-'60s, and spawned Jackanory Playhouse, a series of largely studio-bound plays based on traditional folk tales (BBC, 1972-85). Such dramas and the generally increasing pace of television eventually made Jackanory appear slow and outdated, leading to its cancellation in 1996.

Alistair McGown

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
The Dribblesome Teapots - Pt1 (14:41)
Cribbins, Bernard (1928-)
Williams, Kenneth (1926-1988)
Children's TV in the 1960s
Children's Television