I hadn't intended to write another posting on the theme of TV nostalgia so soon, but I couldn't let this week pass without paying homage to the late, great TV presenter Tony Hart - a fixture of my childhood and the childhoods of just about every Briton under 60. The man was a giant of children's television for an unbelieveable 50 years, only retiring when ill health prevented him from carrying on in 2001. The favourite uncle that every child dreamed of - kind, patient, encouraging, and with utter belief that you could create anything that he could, given practice and a few mistakes along the way. He also had a sense of fun, with various assistants, characters and animations popping up over the years, but never at the expense of the art. Unusually for TV presenters, Tony Hart displayed no ego - nor did he try and pretend he was seven himself - it was all about the art and that's why we children loved him and found him such a comforting and constant staple in our lives. Like Blue Peter, Tony Hart strove to be all-inclusive so that even children from the poorest families could join in and he would often utilise items that most families had in their cupboards, creating pictures using materials such as dried macaroni and lentils.
At the end of each programme Tony would introduce The Gallery, where viewers' pictures were displayed to the soothing tones of 'Leftbank' (and at the height of his programmes' popularity, 20,000 pictures a week would be submitted!) Needless to say my pathetic rocket ship never made it, but the programme remained compulsory viewing every afternoon when I got in from school.
As if Tony Hart wasn't impressive enough, I now find that he served as a Gurkha in WWII and devised nearly all the ideas himself for each show. He even designed the famous Blue Peter Badge! The one innovation he didn't come up with was his clay friend 'Morph' who lived in a pencil box in his studio and got up to mischief every time Tony's back was turned, eventually to be joined by sparring partner Chas who was even naughtier! Tony Hart received two Bafta's and a Lifetime Achievement award for his services to television, but shamefully, no knighthood, though I see there is a rather touching Facebook campaign to award him a posthumous one! Occasionally you come across someone who seems as if they have been born to do what they do and Tony Hart was a prime example of the perfect person in the perfect career - even down to his neat surname! Certainly when he lost his ability to draw through a stroke four years ago he described it as 'the greatest cross I have had to bear.' RIP Tony - we shall not see your like again.