The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

In Memoriam: Brian Cant

Anna Home OBE, Chair of the Children's Media Foundation and a researcher for Play School (1964), commemorates the life and talent of Brian Cant (1933 - 2017).

Brian Cant, who died in June, aged 83, will always be remembered as the face of Play School.

He was part of the original presenting team in April 1964, which launched the programme, and by accident, BBC Two itself, due to a power cut on the opening night, which made Play School the first programme shown on the channel.

in April 1964. Brian had already begun a successful career as an actor and presenter, and was at that time working for BBC Schools television.

However it was with Play School that he found his metier. Childlike but not childish, funny, with a great sense of comic timing; and versatile - an essential for Play School presenters who had to be able to move seamlessly from singing and dancing, dressing up and nursery rhymes to performing experiments, and cleaning out rabbit hutches.

They also had to develop a new style of presenting, addressing the child as an individual and talking in a much more relaxed and less authoritarian style. Brian and his co-presenters were real friends to several generations of small children, friends from whom the audience learned a lot without realising. After Play School came Play Away for older children which developed into an innovative, and at times, really anarchic comedy show. Brian also voiced a number of well known animation series, but was probably best known for Trumpton, with its regularly recited list of the fire crew ‘Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert Dibble and Grub.'
Sadly, Brian’s latter years were marred by Parkinson’s disease, but it was great that his achievements were recognised by Bafta in 2010 with a Special Award. In his acceptance speech he said: ‘When I was a child I spake as a child. I understood as a child, I thought as a child. When I became a man I spake as a child. I understood as a child. I thought as a child, AND they paid me for it!’

Happily he was also able to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of Play School organised by CMF in 2014.

Brian was a pleasure to work with, a lovely man and a great children’s presenter.

 

 

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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)