Visitors to The Bowes Museum
this summer can wallow in a trip down memory lane at the major Toy Tales exhibition, while discovering the superb changes which have transformed the Barnard Castle treasure house.
The exhibition, which opens on Saturday 9 May, is a celebration of 60 years of BBC childrens television programmes, guaranteed to inject a dose of rose-tinted nostalgia for those carefree days of childhood.
Whether youre two or seventy-two, theres bound to be a favourite among the wide range of puppets, props and stage sets on show, which fires the imagination. Younger audiences are sure to have fun comparing the baby boomers preferences from yesteryear - with their shaky sets and visible puppet strings - to their modern counterparts reinvented for todays generation.
Remember the days before daytime TV, when Watch with Mother was a post-lunch treat before an afternoon nap? Then come along and renew your acquaintance with Andy Pandy, Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men and Rag, Tag and Bobtail. Reminisce about memories of grainy black and white TV images of puppets such as Muffin the Mule and Pinky and Perky, compared to the hi-definition colour of todays favourites like Charlie and Lola and 64 Zoo Lane.
Or how about that much-loved favourite Paddington Bear, with his luggage label and his marmalade sandwiches, Sooty and Sweep, Basil Brush, The Magic Roundabout, Teletubbies, Postman Pat and current favourite In the Night Garden?
All these and more are represented in various forms, including puppets, videos, original scripts, story boards, props and drawings.
The exhibition will also pay tribute to the animator, puppeteer and author Oliver Postgate, who died in December 2008. Postgate, together with Peter Firmin, set up the company Smallfilms in a disused cowshed at Firmins home in Kent, producing animated footage on a shoestring budget to great acclaim. Their successes include Bagpuss, once voted the most popular childrens TV programme of all time. Peter Firmin is kindly lending the Museum his collection of The Clangers, Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog, for this unique exhibition.
Artist Linda Birch, whose popular painting workshops at the Museum always have a waiting list, is loaning some original Bagpuss story boards relating to her time as an illustrator of the famous feline.
It has been great fun, as well as a challenge, in putting this display together, said Lisa Jeffries, the Museums Head of Education and Workforce Development, who has led on putting together the exhibition. Staff at the Museum each have a particular favourite pertinent to their age group, which has triggered off a host of fond memories, and we are assuming that Toy Tales will elicit the same response from all our visitors whatever their age.
Toy Tales opens on Saturday 9 May and runs until Sunday 1 November. Visitors will also be able to view the Museums sparkling new Silver and Metals Gallery, which opens in mid-April, and to enjoy the ambience and menu of the revamped Café Bowes which, along with the enhanced Gift Shop, is now open to the public.