The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Bernard Cribbins OBE

Chair of the Children's Media Foundation, Anna Home, pays tribute to Bernard Cribbins whom she produced for the iconic 'Jackanory' programme at the BBC.


Bernard Cribbins, who sadly died last week aged 93, had a remarkable career on stage, in film, and on TV where, as well as appearing in many series ranging from 'Dr Who' to 'Fawlty Towers', he became known as a great children’s performer and storyteller.

Many adults will remember him as the kindly railway porter Mr Perks in the 1970 film of 'The Railway Children' who befriends the three Waterbury children, led by Roberta (Bobbie) played by Jenny Agutter, who find themselves in Yorkshire with a mystery to solve.

However it was as a solo TV storyteller that Bernard became known to many generations of children. He was a regular on the long running daily 15 minute BBC storytelling programme 'Jackanory' (1965 to1996) and held the record for telling the most stories - 114 titles - despite strong competition from Kenneth Williams!

Bernard told /read a wide range of stories including classics like 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Alice Through The Looking Glass', modern classics like Roald Dahl’s 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory', and 'James and the Giant Peach', plus stories specially written for Jackanory. He told all the very funny 'Arabel and Mortimer'  stories (Mortimer was Arabel’s pet raven) written by Joan Aiken and beautifully illustrated by Quentin Blake.

Bernard was also the narrator of the animated series 'The Wombles', and later in his career returned to CBeebies as the storyteller Jack in the series 'Old Jack’s Boat' (2013 -15)

Telling or reading stories to children on television isn’t easy. It should feel like an individual experience for the viewer - the story is being told directly to you. Bernard excelled at that this. His storytelling was a one-to-one relationship.

We can see something of that in this never-before-shown footage Bernard recorded which was played in for the guests at the Children's Media Foundation's 50th Anniversary celebration for Jackanory, held at Foyles bookshop in London in 2015.

In his early film career Bernard had a leading role as a companion to Peter Cushing's Dr Who in the 1966 film 'Daleks - Invasion Earth 2050'. It was this that led to Russell T Davies casting Bernard as Wilf Mott, Catherine Tate's grandfather, in his revival of the Dr Who franchise, which brought a whole new body of fans and appreciation. Not least from Children's Media Foundation patron Russell himself who posted this tribute on Instagram last week.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Russell T Davies (@russelltdavies63)

Bernard was a lovely man with a great sense of humour and warmth. Those of us who worked with him were privileged. We will remember him.

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