Oliver Postgate and Peter Mandelson share an unlikely pedigree: apart from being master puppeteers, albeit in different theatres, they both had a grandfather vital to the history of the Labour Party. While Mandelson had Herbert Morrison to look up to, Postgate's mother was the daughter of George Lansbury, one of the founders of the parliamentary party. Presumably, this distinguished statesman was responsible in part for the slightly wild, loveable idealist who emerges from this agreeably singular biography.
From his rapacious memory spring forth the details of an unconventional life, from early family memories (his father Ray started The Good Food Guide), education at Dartington Hall, a stint in prison as a conscientious objector in the Second World War, through a succession of jobs until he found the perfect blend of acting, writing and invention in the formative years of children's television. With artist Peter Firmin, and working from a disused cow byre in Canterbury utilising anything that came to hand, they created a dozen or so worlds that have never gone away, from Noggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine to The Clangers (created and screened originally at the time of the Apollo moonshot). If your penchant is Bagpuss, then nearly 300 pages of personal history pass, at times as baggy as the saggy old cloth cat himself, but the background details are fascinating, such as the fact that the humourless Professor Yaffle was based in part on philosopher Bertrand Russell.
Determinedly unquestioning of his art, Postgate's life leaps off the page with a beguiling conviction, particularly when describing an epiphanic "peak experience" after an operation, which caused him to alter his view of the world and himself, and gave rise to the book's title. Dropped unceremoniously by the BBC when they were deemed not to have the "hook" modern children desired, Postgate is now kept, in his anecdotage, by the wave of nostalgia which has engulfed his single-frame films, and which finally offers him a proper return for the pleasurable memories he's inspired in so many. In a world of increasing homogeneity, such creative mavericks deserve to be cherished, and read. --David Vincent
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'Oliver Postage was, for my money, the greatest children's storyteller of the last 100 years. Together, the team of Postgate and Peter Firmin were apparently incapable of creating anything less than timelessly wonderful whenever they sat down to work.' Charlie Brooker