The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Ready to Play?

CMF celebrates Play School’s 50th Anniversary
Saturday May 3rd 2 – 6.30 pm
Riverside Studios, Crisp Road, Hammersmith, London
Tickets available here.
Paul Jackson, Play School Archivist and author of ‘Here’s a House – A Celebration of Play School’, reports.Here’s a house

Here’s a door
Windows one, two, three, four
Ready to knock
Turn the lock
It’s Play School

To many aged 40+ those words or variations on them are familiar as the opening sequence of Play School.  50 years on from the first transmission, The Children’s Media Foundation is supporting a unique reunion of over 200 presenters, musicians and production team members, many of whom dedicated their whole career to Children’s Television, at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios, on Saturday 3rd May.  CMF supporters are invited to purchase tickets, priced £25.

50 years ago the iconic Play School house opened for the first time when presenters Virginia Stride & Gordon Rollings welcomed young pre-schoolers to what, over the next 24 years, would be instantly recognisable to generations of viewers – a clock introducing the story chair, three windows (Round, Arched & Square) showing films of everyday life, and Humpty who, with the other toys, sometimes took on a life of their own, falling over and even speaking to presenters in a stage whisper!  On the 14th April the first ever edition of Play School was recorded in Studio 2 at Riverside Studios in London and broadcast on Tuesday 21st April. In an auspicious turn of events, Play School’s first broadcast also launched the new BBC 2 channel after the previous night’s power cut wiped out the official grand opening.
Knowing that children often viewed alone, founding producer Joy Whitby briefed writers and presenters to forget about the actual size of the Play School audience and always speak directly as if to one child and encourage them to take part in dressing up or singing the songs.  The programme later went international with kits of scripts and windows films being sent to various overseas broadcasters including ABC in Australia where it has been transmitted since 1966 - and continues to this day.  Many presenters are forever associated with the programme including Brian Cant, Julie Stevens, Carol Chell, Johnny Ball, Derek Griffiths, Toni Arthur and Floella Benjamin – many of whom will be attending the event.
Who can forgot the daily rituals – the block calendar, wonderful songs and finger rhymes, pets day with the noisy K-too, the toys, and of course the talented and dedicated presenters & musicians?  Many of the creative team cut their teeth working on the programme and went on to produce later pre-school programmes including Playdays, Tweenies, Balamory and many more. 

As a mark of respect from the current generation of pre-school stars to their predecessors, the May 3rd event will be hosted by CBeebies’ Chris Jarvis (Show Me, Show Me) with a nostalgic look-back at what made Play School the institution it became – and the fun they had making it happen!
For more information on the event, visit our website.
It’s been a huge pleasure to work with a team of volunteers from the Play School production team whom the CMF brought together to organise this event.  If you had any connection at all to the programme, this will be a nostalgic afternoon with lots of chances to catch up with old friends.  And if you simply just loved the programme – come along and let us know!  We hope to see you there!

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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)