Saturday, 22 November 2014

Bagpuss and Clangers creator Peter Firmin to receive Bafta

Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate making Pogles' Wood
Peter Firmin, creator of The Clangers and Bagpuss, will be presented with a Special Award at the British Academy Children’s Awards.

Working with long-term collaborator Oliver Postgate, who died in 2008, Firmin created the children’s TV programmes such as The Saga of Noggin the Nog, The Clangers, Ivor The Engine, Pogles’ Wood and Bagpuss. Working with Ivan Owen, he created the puppet Basil Brush.

Firmin created the puppets and sets, while Postgate wrote the scripts and did the animation. Most of the films were made in a barn on Firmin's farm in Kent.

Firmin and Postgate started producing children's programmes in 1959 with Ivor the Engine, a series for ITV about a Welsh steam engine. It was remade in colour for the BBC in the 1970s.

Firmin with Bagpuss
Ivor was followed in the early 1960s by the sagas of Noggin the Nog, Later they branched out into stop-motion puppet animation. These included Pogles' Wood and The Clangers, space dwelling creatures who spoke in whistles. Bagpuss, about a shop of lost and broken objects overseen by a pink and white cat was made 1974. It was voted the UK's favourite children's programme in a BBC poll in 1999.

Reflecting on his career, Firmin said; "Television has changed and developed beyond anything we could have dreamt of in the years before colour and digital and computer chips with everything, so it is touching that our work is still remembered with such affection."

Firmin will be presented with the BAFTA Special Award at this year's British Academy Children's Awards. The ceremony will take place on Sunday 23 November and the award will be presented to Firmin by Bernard Cribbins with a special introduction by Michael Palin. A new version of The Clangers is being made with Palin providing the narration and Firmin as an executive producer.

Harvey Elliott, chairman of BAFTA’s Children’s Committee said: “Peter Firmin helped lay the foundations for the industry we see today, all from his small barn in Blean. His legacy is delighting and enchanting a whole new generation with the upcoming remake of family favourite The Clangers. Over the past 50 years, Peter’s work has thrilled, entertained and inspired generations of filmmakers and animators.”

Friday, 21 November 2014

The Graduate director Mike Nichols passes away, age 83

The Graduate
Mike Nichols, director of films such as The Graduate, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Catch-22, Carnal Knowledge and Primary Colors, has died at the age of 83.

The German-born, US-based filmmaker was one of one of only 12 winners of all four major US entertainment awards, being awarded an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Nichols won an Oscar for the 1967 comedy The Graduate and was also nominated for his work on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Silkwood (1983), Working Girl (1988), The Remains of the Day (1994).

His filmography comprises a raft of intelligent, witty and sometimes challenging movies, attracting high quality casts delivering performances widely recognised in the awards season.

Nichols avoided pigeon-holing his style and choice of material, stating: “I never understand when people say: ‘Do you do comedy or tragedy?’ I don't think they're very much different. They both have to be true, and there isn't a great play in the world that doesn't have funny parts to it. The whole idea is to reflect life in some way, which means surely you have to have both.”

Mike Nichols
Nichols died of a cardiac arrest on Wednesday. He had been working on an HBO film adaptation of Master Class, Terrence McNally’s play about opera star Maria Callas, starring Meryl Streep in the lead role.

Nichols began his career in the late 1950s as part of a comedy duo with Elaine May. One of their comedy records won a Grammy for best comedy album in 1962. Nichols moved into directing, making his Broadway debut stage with Neil Simon’s hit Barefoot In The Park, starring Robert Redford. This production won  a Tony award in 1964. Nichols won a Tony the following year for Simon’s The Odd Couple and Luv.

His first film directorial project was Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? In 1966. The highly charged adaptation of Edward Albee’s play, which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, saw Nichols receive a Oscar nomination. He won the directing the Oscar the following year for The Graduate, which made a star of Dustin.

During the 1990s he made films such as Postcards from the Edge, Primary Colors and The Birdcage. He directed Patrick Marber's play Closer in 2004, which saw its stars Clive Owen and Natalie Portman nominated for supporting acting Oscars. His final film was the 2007 political thriller Charlie Wilson’s War, starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

Nichols also enjoyed success on television. winning his first Emmy for the 2001 TV movie Wit, starring Emma Thompson. He won a second Emmy two years later for the epic HBO miniseries Angels in America. The drama about the Aids crisis starred Emma Thompson, Meryl Streep and Al Pacino.

Throughout his career Nichols remained active in the theatre, winning a Tony in 2005 for directing the Broadway version of the Monty Python musical Spamalot. He collected a ninth Tony in 2012 for a revival of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield. 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Slapstick celebrates the one and only Vivian Stanshall

Vivian Stanshall
Bristol’s Slapstick festival of silent and vintage screen comedy will pay tribute to the late Vivian Stanshall, founder of the Bonzo Doo Dag Dog Band and creator of the Sir Henry at Rawlinson End saga, which spanned records, plays and a film starring Trevor Howard.

Fellow Bonzo Neil Innes, actress and director Denise Coffey, and other friends recalling the many cult musical and screen creations of Vivian Stanshall, a Bristol resident who was killed in a fire 20 years ago.

The tribute forms part of the Seeing Double strand, which takes place at the Bristol Old Vic in January.

The 11th annual Slapstick event opens with comedian, writer and The Thick of It actor Chris Addison with rock keyboard legend Rick Wakeman at the festival's traditional opening gala at Colston Hall on Friday 23 January.

The weekend Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 January will see the Vivian Stanshall tribute as well as:
  • Griff Rhys Jones sharing memories of his Alas Smith and Jones partner, the late Mel Smith, and showing scenes from their unscreened sitcom.
  • Comedy writer Barry Cryer, who turns 80 in March 2015, on his long association with Morecambe and Wise. Cryer will receive the festival’s highest honour, the Aardman Animations/Slapstick Festival Comedy Legend Award.
  • Victoria Wood revealing her fascination for one of the comedy queens of early Hollywood, Gloria Swanson
  • The Goodies renunited to introduce more goodies from Laurel and Hardy, and
  • Comedy innovators Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer looking over a 20-year long body of work before receiving the festival’s latest Visual Comedy Award. 

Slapstick director Chris Daniels says: “There's a Seeing Double theme to the next festival and I'm confident that events we've just announced guarantee that Slapstick 2015 will be double the fun and double the value. Not only are we celebrating some of the greatest comedy duos of the past 100 years – from Stan and Ollie to Vic and Bob – but combinations such as Victoria Wood and Gloria Swanson show that we're also offering fascinating pairings and hugely enjoyable double bills.”

In all, Slapstick 2015 will be offering a choice of around 20 silent and vintage screen comedy events from Thursday 22 to Sunday 25 January at different central Bristol venues.

The Slapstick at Bristol Old Vic bill will also feature a Top Comedy Moments slot on Sunday 25 January at which an as yet unnamed member of British comedy royalty will share excerpts from their favourite film and television comedies.

Slapstick is a not-for-profit venture run mainly by volunteers. The festival's principal funders are Aardman Animations ( and Creative England (

Tickets for all of Slapstick's Bristol Old Vic-hosted programme are on sale now at prices ranging from £10 - £15. To book, call the box office on 0117 987 7877 or visit

For Gala bookings visit