Visitors to The Bowes Museum this summer can wallow in a trip down memory lane at the major Toy Tales exhibition.

The exhibition, is a celebration of 60 years of BBC children’s television programmes, guaranteed to inject a dose of rose-tinted nostalgia for those carefree days of childhood.

Whether you’re two or seventy-two, there’s bound to be a favourite among the wide range of puppets, props and stage sets on show, which fires the imagination. Younger audiences are sure to have fun comparing the baby boomers’ preferences from yesteryear - with their shaky sets and visible puppet strings - to their modern counterparts reinvented for today’s generation.

Remember the days before daytime TV, when Watch with Mother was a post-lunch treat before an afternoon nap? Then come along and renew your acquaintance with Andy Pandy, Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men and Rag, Tag and Bobtail. Reminisce about memories of grainy black and white TV images of puppets such as Muffin the Mule and Pinky and Perky, compared to the hi-definition colour of today’s favourites like Charlie and Lola and 64 Zoo Lane.

Or how about that much-loved favourite Paddington Bear, with his luggage label and his marmalade sandwiches, Sooty and Sweep, Basil Brush, The Magic Roundabout, Teletubbies, Postman Pat and current favourite In the Night Garden?

All these and more are represented in various forms, including puppets, videos, original scripts, story boards, props and drawings.

The exhibition will also pay tribute to the animator, puppeteer and author Oliver Postgate, who died in December 2008. Postgate, together with Peter Firmin, set up the company Smallfilms in a disused cowshed at Firmin’s home in Kent, producing animated footage on a shoestring budget to great acclaim. Their successes include Bagpuss, once voted the most popular children’s TV programme of all time. Peter Firmin is kindly lending the Museum his collection of The Clangers, Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog, for this unique exhibition.

Artist Linda Birch, whose popular painting workshops at the Museum always have a waiting list, is loaning some original Bagpuss story boards relating to her time as an illustrator of the famous feline.


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