Farewell Peter Firmin

When we talk of seminal or influential science-fiction/fantasy we don’t always pay enough tribute to the works produced for the very young. Whether this is in spite of or because of the way works for young children often have greater freedom of absurdity than works for adults, I don’t know. Either way, it is sad news that artist and maker of children’s television Peter Firmin has died aged 89 https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2018/jul/01/bagpuss-clangers-basil-brush-creator-peter-firmin-dies-aged-89

For those not familiar with his 1970s TV shows, take as one example The Clangers.

Set on a asteroid in space, the Clangers were knitted pink aliens that look something like a pig or a mouse. Their homes are tunnels within the spherical moon-like rock and the craters are covered in dustbin lids. For food they eat soup. The soup comes from a soup dragon (obviously). They collect scrap metal and odds and ends. Their friend is a mechanical chicken. Musical notes grow on bushes and can power machines. It’s genius.

Take the opening narration of this episode (called The Intruder)

In the episode a robotic probe lands on the Clanger’s little planet with much resulting misunderstanding. I don’t think there are many first contact stories with humans from the alien’s perspective that manage to engender quite this level of empathy with the aliens (none of whom ever speak English).

Or try https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2oZzicGHvFE

The Clangers, Noggin the Nog, Bagpuss (including a wooden woodpecker based on Bertrand Russell), Ivor the Engine – weird, clever flights of the imagination. Wonderful in the proper sense of the word.

7 thoughts on “Farewell Peter Firmin

  1. Thanks for this little bit of nostalgia CF. I guess now I know where that Soup Dragons band got their name. Divine Thing! Was this a meaningful childhood memory for you? He sure has a distinctive voice.

    In honour of Canada Day, I’ll post this video of Mr Dressup, an equivalent sort of figure for Canadians, probably. His show was full of creativity, messages about tolerance, curiosity about about other people and places, doing the best with what you’ve got, and a healthy dose of silliness. I bet a good proportion of households with kids had versions of the tickle trunk (ours was a cardboard box). Childhood memories ❤ Happy Canada Day, eh, CF!

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  2. Firmin rated a full-page obituary in today’s Times – no less than he deserved, of course, but more than you’d normally see for a genre-adjacent person like him. A sad loss. I should put on my Clangers DVD in memory….

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