"A house,
With a door!
Windows, 1, 2, 3, 4.
[rat-a-tat-tat]
Ready to play?
What's the day?*.."

* Or, if you're of a previous generation - "Ready to knock?/Turn the lock..." Not as good, though...

AH, ME! A legend in several million lifetimes of Brits from 20 to 40, Play School ran from the late sixties to the early/mid '80s almost unchanged in format, with only a switch to colour and a radical cosmetic facelift in the early '80s (to a Teletubbies-dwarfing storm of parental protest).

Basically, each day of the week (carefully identified at the start), two presenters, male and female, chosen from the mindstopping roster below, would say a cheery "hullo", before swiftly moving on with the day's business, which would originate from what was "under the clock". This object would then form the loose "theme" of the show, which went, roughly, thus -

A "make and do" kind of project would ensue, often utilising toilet rolls and "get a grown-up to help you with the" scissors. This would lead into a song/dance routine in a white studio limbo. About this time, it was back to the clock for the obligatory time-telling session ("Now, the big hand's pointing straight up, so that means it's something o'clock..."). Then back to that makey thing, and the legendary "real world" link via the round/square/arched window (cue harp chords and patented seventies wobble dissolve). The film shown was nearly always biscuits/cakes/shoes etc. being made in a factory. And mesmerising it was, too. Then back to the studio, and here's where we had the Playschool pets (ever-changing out of necessity, but including along the way Bit and Bot (goldfish who, it was terrifyingly revealed to many a five-year old, had no eyelids! "But it's alright..." No it wasn't!), Buffy (rabbit), Lizzie (Guinea Pig), "The Mice" and K'Too, the cockatoo who danced to JONATHAN COHEN's piano and "could live to be 100 years old" (he didn't), either them or the toys -

Jemima (red-cheeked floppy cloth effort in Laura Ashley frock), Hamble (awful, scary Bjorkesque Victorian porcelain doll thing - ugh! Often the target on in-studio "drawn-on pubic hair" japes), Humpty (the coolest - round, fat green fucker in tartan trews, prone to unsteadiness atop a cardboard wall - di all his own stunts) and Big Ted and Little Ted Bear (from nowhere in particular). Oh, and Dapple, the rocking horse. Then came the story - something like Barbar the Elephant or The Bears Who Stayed Indoors. Then possibly, another song, then it was "B'bye!" till next time. Aaaah...

Below is a list of Play School presenters, which is currently still under construction. More to be added soon...


CHLOE ASHCROFT - Fondly-remembered storyteller and owner of farm, providing many "items" there set (in a good way though, not like Blue Peter's Partridgean SIMON GROOM). Frequently took mind-bending duet with Johnny Ball - "We're going to hang out the washing on the washing line/Won't you hang out the washing, Johnny dear..." Aaaaah...


JOHNNY BALL - Frenzied comedic entertainer and polymath. Eternal boyish giggle masks razor sharp wit and matematical mind. Background in forces entertainment helped form his trademark frantic delivery. Plays to all ages - from here, he went on to the legendary "THINK" series (qv).

Classic songs included duet with Ashcroft (see above) and "Pull a funny face, move your eyes and nose and mouth all over the place". Also frequent Humpty knocker-off-wall "It's all right, he doen't get hurt. In fact he quite enjoys it!"


FLOELLA BENJAMIN - Top all-singing actress/presenter was an early "multiracial" addition to the team along with DEREK GRIFFITHS late 70's, when this was a big deal (later came others such as the moustachioed Ben Bazell), but the odd "Jamaica" item aside, was at her best reading the classic "Hurry Up Harry!" (about a dog at the seaside, not Sham 69). Classic song - "Five grey elephants balancing/Side by side on a piece of string".


BRIAN CANT - One of the originals, and a genius with mime and shirts. PLAY AWAY and BRICABRAC were his meisterwerks. Top song - "Underneath the Spreading Chestnut Tree".


CAROL CHELL - Top childhood crush material, lending an extra dimension to making binoculars out of toilet rolls etc. Was "in charge" of the Play School mice, if memory serves.


FRED HARRIS - Educational kids' genius second only to JOHNNY BALL (qv). Comedy background (inc. The Burkiss Way for R4) ensures plenty of adult in-jokes and off-the-cuff quips for when things don't go quite right. Golden PS Moment - Mock tantrum staged when Big Ted wouldn't stand up properly, sending the toys flying across the floor "I can't work with these amateurs!" Other shows include - CHOCKABLOCK, BASIC MATHS, RAGTIME, MICRO LIVE, ME AND MY MICRO, ELECTRIC AVENUE.

A Classic Harris moment was always the rendition of Little Ted Bear -

Little Ted Bear, from nowhere in particular,
Nowhere in particular,
Nowhere at all,
Walked from here to there,
And climbed the perpendicular,
Climbed the perpendicular,
Cupboard wall.

Then when his search was ended,
Down the wall he slid,
And when he had descended,
Do you know what he did?
Little Ted Bear went nowhere in particular,
Nowhere in particular, flat or perpendicular,
Nowhere at all.


CAROL LEADER - Voice of an angel. At her best singing that song about a "fussy old crow" sitting on chimney pots ("He liked sitting on number six, though/On no other chimney pot would he go") Then onto CHOCKABLOCK (qv) with the great Mr. Harris. Recently spotted on a bizarre Open University programme arguing what was the best way to get out of a room with no doors or windows.


DEREK GRIFFITHS - Rubber-limbed genius of mime and music. As well as the 'School, made mark doing themes for Bod, Look and Read, and of course Heads and Tails and the ever-popular Film Fun. Currently "does" the West End, and it's TV's loss.

Famous Griffiths acts included "We all walk the wibbly-wobbly walk", "I'm a dingle-dangle scarecrow with a flippy-floppy hat" and "I wish I could wobble like my sister Kate". Note prevalent 'loose-limbed' theme.


SARAH LONG - Main thing we remember is her constantly feeding the Play School goldfish. Married to Derek Wilton off of Coronation Street in real life. Died of cancer a few years back, sad to report.


DON SPENCER - Ex-pat Aussie musical powerhouse who wielded a mean guitar and sang such PS standards as "Ride a Cock Horse" and "Shop Shop Shop Shop Shopping" like a man possessed. Original works include the "I wish I was a spaceman..." theme to Fireball XL5. Other shows include - HOKEY COKEY, ANIMAL FAIR.



ANN MORRISH


BEN THOMAS


DELIA MORGAN


ERIC THOMPSON


GORDON ROLLINGS


IAIN LAUGHLAN


JENNIFER NADEN


JULIE STEVENS


LIONEL MORTON


LIZ WATTS


PATRICK ABERNETHY


RICK JONES


JOHNNIE SILVO


STUART MCGUGAN


TONI ARTHUR


WAYNE JACKMAN

ALSO APPEARING through the years - Ben Bazell, Stuart Bradley, Simon Davies, Elizabeth Millbank, Brian Croucher, Brain Jameson, Phyllida "Mother of Emma Thompson/ wife of Eric" Law, Elizabeth "Sarah Jane" Sladen, Sheelagh "Do It!" Gilby, Carol Ward, Marla Landi, Judith "Tomorrow's World" Hann, Miranda O'Connell, Carmen Munro, Maggie "Ragtime" Henderson.

Pianists - Johnathan Cohen and William Blezzard