Jackanory was recently brought back to our TV screens, albeit jazzed up somewhat with fancy computer effects and animation. In our day however, Jackanory was considerably less high-tech, but the overall aim of the programme was the same – to tell a classic childrens story over the course of a week or so.
The format was surprisingly simple. Each week a different celebrity would be called in to read a much loved childrens story. Classics such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte’s Web, Treasure Island or even the Beatrix Potter books were often the fodder used. The celebrity would normally be seated in a comfortable chair and would read the story to camera, whilst illustrations would be shown at key points, with the celebrity becoming a voice over.
If the story being read was a book famous for its illustrations (Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit being a great example) then the illustrations accompanying the story would be those from the book itself. If the book didn’t have illustrations, or perhaps they were only black and white images, then the BBC would supply their own images, which were sometimes animated, although usually only very simply. A good example here would be the bit in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where Augustus Gloop gets stuck in a pipe. This was animated by having a cut out of Augustus (presumably on a stick) moved slowly up behind a picture of a pipe.
Roald Dahl was my favourite author as a child and I therefore always hoped one of his books would be read. I recall the late Kenneth Williams doing a wonderful job reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Rik Mayall put all his energy into reading George’s Marvellous Medicine and (I believe) The Twits. Kenneth Williams was in fact one of the most prolific storytellers on Jackanory, but the honour of most stories told goes to Bernard Cribbins. Even Prince Charles got in on the act, reading his own book The Old Man of Lochnager whilst walking about the Scottish Highlands in a kilt.
The only thing I never understood about Jackanory was where the name for the show came from. As a child I assumed it was either because it rhymed with story (sort of), or that Jack Anory was some famous story teller. If anyone out there can tell me where the name came from, I’d love to know!