Possibly my favourite Christmas present last year!

You may have noticed that my gravatar is the rather cute Tiny Clanger.  The Clangers have something of a cult following now, but I find it’s quite unusual for somebody my age to be such a big fan.  Although I grew up in the ‘90s and enjoyed many of the kids’ TV programmes produced in that decade, my earliest television memories are actually of shows like The Clangers that first aired in the 1960s and 1970s, made by the company Smallfilms.  This is due to my parents, who would sit me down with a video of Noggin the Nog or The Clangers, so that they could revert back to their childhood whilst keeping me entertained too.

Noggin was the Prince of the Nogs, whose peaceful life was sometimes disturbed by the exploits of his wicked uncle, aptly named Nogbad the Bad.  The programme was loosely influenced by the Viking era and was told as a saga from the opening of each episode.  My favourite character was either Grolliffe, a friendly ice dragon, or Olaf the Lofty, the court inventor whose flying machine took Noggin to distant lands with silver palm trees and magic carpets.

The Clangers was, in a charming sort of way, more futuristic. Bearing in mind that it came to the screen around the time of the moon landings, it’s unsurprising that it captured the imagination of so many children.  Clangers were small, woolly, mouse-like creatures, who pottered about on a small planet and dined on blue string soup.  They communicated by whistling and had adventures that included growing a music tree and meeting the mysterious iron chicken.

Noggin, Nooka and Knut: The Nogs

Smallfilms was a collaboration between writer Oliver Postgate and animator Peter Firmin.  Their programmes remain distinctive for Postgate’s gentle narration and for the stop motion animation, which was filmed in a barn in Firmin’s garden.  Other well-known Smallfilms creations were Bagpuss and Ivor the Engine, but my favourites have always been the whistling moon mice and the friendly Norseman.  I recently re-watched some episodes of Noggin on YouTube and was surprised at how much I remembered, nearly two decades after I was first entranced by it on VHS.  Both Noggin the Nog and The Clangers are now available on DVD, with the Dragons’ Friendly Society website playing a huge role in keeping these classics alive.  Explosions and special effects may be few and far between, but I firmly believe that Smallfilms produced some of the best kids’ TV of the last century.  The originality still shines through and there is a simple charm to them that seldom appears in childrens’ television today.