Well perhaps 50 years is pushing it a bit! But the films on this post have never had a public viewing, except for the characters pictured above. They together with their satirical scripts, had a weekly following on Granada TV! But it was all a far cry from the hopes and dreams we had for some of these projects in the 60s!
New Years Eve! So it seemed like a good idea for the end of 2012 to tie up a few loose ends, especially as they are part of our family history.
(If puppets bore you try a different post NOW)
I’ve spent days trying to get to grips with transferring videos to DVD. The film was originally on 16 mm, but in the end technology defeated me and I re-filmed it from the DVD on the TV. Sorry about that clever techi people!
This first one about gnomes in a garden was a pilot for the BBC. Yes it is a bit twee for today’s but this was post flowerpot men etc!
How we prepared a puppet film for public scrutiny in the late 50s early 60s
1. Wrote 6 scripts. 2. Designed and made the marionettes, 3 Dressed and strung them – all in between ‘live shows’ in order to earn a living! 4. My father wrote musical score – employed musicians – 5. Collaborated with others – raised money 6. Found an empty garage/storage unit – laid a level concrete floor. (We did this ourselves – so I think there could still be an abandoned mini mountain of concrete somewhere in North London) 7. Bought a camera -ordered the film 8. Hired a crew, started filming 9. Watched the ‘rushes’ every day to check continuity etc. 10. Edited film.
We took it to an interested party at the BBC – who wanted to see more, but time was of the essence and we were now relying on others for editing etc. we simply ran out money!
The films were written to appeal to under fives and we did all the action and the voices ourselves.
Next – Another newly discovered artifact – a pilot for a commercial with rubber marionettes and a sync system. In the puppet business it was always important to move with the times.
My father invented a method for synchronising the lip movements of marionettes. I have just transferred an early trial, a fun attempt at making a commercial. We later improved the system, but companies were also happy to employ us to make more conventional marionettes for their commercials, such as Lucas and Pye Radio.
(Please press arrow to see early pilot)
Telegoons – Based on ‘The Goon Show’
We had a lot of visits from the ‘Telegoon people’ to our studio in the early days, I still have the set of the original designs for the characters (I will put on youtube when I get round to it) But I believe the company decided to make them ‘in house’ to save money!
This could have been a big mistake, over the years the Telegoon puppets latex heads have disintegrated, while our rubber headed gnomes and clowns remain solid to this day!
My father’s lip sync system was used for early episodes of The Telegoons although he had patented the invention, I believe the film company did their own thing ‘in house’ who knows! My parents spent a fortune on legal advice!
Our family were however the only puppeteers involved in the pilot of the Telegoons which sold the whole thing to the BBC but they did not produce it! It was left to a small film company set up especially for the project,
I was engaged as a puppeteer for 15 episodes. As a member of Equity it ensured that I could do ‘puppet television’ work. As a family we had made films so. I could usually get ‘takes’ in one which was very important, if several’takes’ were needed it meant extra studio time and money. I therefore operated Neddie more or less all the time, he was in so many scenes!
Later there were endless arguments as to which union subsequent puppeteers had to join. The whole thing was so full of intrigue ‘behind the scenes’ it was a wonder the films got made!
But by this time other lovely puppeteers were brought in, Violet Philpot and John Dudley to name two. Years later John enjoyed reminding me that we met in ‘dustbins which was true. He walked on to the set, and took his place next to me, where I was already manipulating Neddieseegoon in a dustbin!
Bloodnok was the heaviest.
The Goons had mixed feelings out it all but Spike however did visit the set once!
The series was not very popular in this country but became a hit in Australia, especially for a generation that had never experienced the joys of the original Goon Show radio series.
It is The Telegoons 50th anniversary this year, so our look a like Eccles might be invited to nod in the direction of his ardent followers…But they will have to content themselves with his appearances on youtube and updates about our latest discoveries on ‘Puppethouse Mayhem’ on this blog!
The Eccles below has appeared at The Goon Show Preservation Society events, once to sing a duet (Robin my eldest son did the voice) with Misty one of our marionettes (a terrible singer) at a big Convention.
I made this Eccles myself, I was taught to carve hands by one of the leading wood carver at St Paul’ s Cathedral, Tony Webb, I had attended one of his courses (see youtube) but later he taught me in his garden shed, he lived round the corner from me in South London!
Before ‘The Telegoons’ came about we did a satirical series for Granada TV. and were writing new scripts on a weekly basis. The puppets have got lost but the sound tape with the first script, played just long enough on a friend’s reel to reel tape recorder to capture it on a cd before it ‘gave up the ghost’.
There are one or two gaps and quality is not brilliant but come on it’s the effort that counts!
This episode was the first one and about giving up smoking and typical of my dad who smoked like a chimney!
It’s New Year’s Eve – and as a grandmother I feel entitled to ramble on and even repeat myself – so incase anyone has not noticed…
We were some of the early pioneers in the world of puppetry after the war, my parents started in 1946. As a child I remember taking huge marionette musicals to Clacton, Bognor in the 50s Later to Blackpool and Scarborough. We were rich of poor depending on the sun and the season.
More ‘grandmotherly’ self indulgence – see my poem about Blackpool illuminations. (https://annperrin.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/blackpool-illuminations/)
We had performed Cinderella at the Torch Theatre in London. The Pied Piper and more convential drama in Southsea.
In the early days we also had and our own theatre in our house on the edge of Highgate. We had red plush tip up seats and it was open to the public in Sundays. As well as local people we had actors and celebrities keen to see the latest performance.
Around this time a fellow puppeteer set up ‘The Little Angel’ in Islington we knew them well but I believe they were partly Arts Funded. Typical of my dad he would never apply for arts grants, he wanted to be independent, on the move and was law unto himself.
Moving on – our TV Cooks made programmes for deaf children and we did ‘Road Safety Shows‘ in dozens of London Schools for many years, mixing messages on safety with the fun of the clowns. I think if was Bernard Shaw who said ‘you can teach the British anything as long as you can make them laugh’.
On one notable occasion my parents took their show to Buckingham Palace to entertain the Queen, Prince Charles and Princess Anne at a private party. I had hoped to go as although I was still a child I often helped with the show. But my mother in her wisdom decided Grandpa who had fought in The Great War should meet the Queen and he had not ever pulled a curtain in his entire life! But he loved the whole experience and never stopped talking about it,
At least I got to help with the shows when we entertained the stars at their private I met Peter Sellers, Lauren Bacall, the Profumo’s etc in London hotels such as the Dorchester. We did shows for Humphrey Lyttleton and Kenneth Moore children’s parties in their own homes. My job was gradually extended to helping set the scenes and in the end pulling a few strings.. Attending school was of secondary importance in our family!
The show usually included the Puppet Circus, The Teddy Bears picnic, musical numbers, extracts from Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland. or Peter Pan.
The full history of our company best to go to http://www.puppethouse.co.uk
Our biggest public success was probably gaining the contract for the marionettes and performing with them, in the feature film
‘Oh What a Lovely War’ on the West Pier in Brighton.
2013 – The old magic of puppetry stays with me, this year I am hoping for a ‘final shot’ if it happens at all, with ‘Cindy Brown’s Chat Show’ – so that some of the marionettes can have their final say on youtube!
if of course Cindy stops fiddling with her hair..
One of my early oil paintings – puppets on the beach.
Please note I am also working on my poetry. So why not follow this blog it is about all sorts of things not just puppetry,