Tuesday, 31 May 2011

We Are The Biscuit Factory Rappers/Known On The Block As Da Chigley Packaz...

And from The Magic Roundabout and all of its associated not-about-drugs-ery, we move on with an equal lack of linkage with hallucinogen ingestion to one of the other iconic television animations of the 'swinging' sixties. Well, technically, four of the other iconic animations of the 'swinging' sixties, if we're being strictly accurate about it. If ever there was a legitimate rival claimant to Gerry Anderson's rarely-disputed title of Supreme Balding Overlord Of Small-Screen Puppetry That Dominated Sixties Television (And Beyond), it was Gordon Murray, who between 1966 and 1976 was responsible for four - yes, four, you did read that right, and we'll be finding out just that unexpectedly numerically-expanded total was arrived at in due course (and that's where the story starts to get really peculiar) - charming stop-motion serials set in stylised mouthless-puppet-populated sociologically-idealised depicitions of British residential community life. Although one of them wasn't actually made in the 'swinging' sixties. And it wasn't - apparently - set in Britain either, nor even the sixties, 'swinging' or otherwise. But we really are getting ahead of ourselves there. What would Chippy Minton say??

Not much, probably, as he didn't have a mouth. Nor, more to the point, was he actually a resident of Chigley. Well, yes, he did make a guest appearance in more than one episode of it, but again we're getting ahead of ourselves there, even if he wouldn't have much to say about that himself. But he liked his job as a carpenter, and there was nothing he'd rather be, and he'd had his tools for many long years and they were all good friends to him, and a joke about He's Gone by Suede that would take too long to explain, so he probably wouldn't really begrudge us talking about his non-parent series. Not least because there's plenty more to come about his parent series in but a couple of chapters' time.

First broadcast in 1969, Chigley was the third in this none-more-sixties series (which, in an even more obscure joke that would take too long to explain, would technically make it Nightmares In Wonderland, though for very good reasons that will later become very much apparent that title should realistically belong to one of the earlier instalments... but, again, more on that later). Thematically described as being located 'Near Camberwick Green, Trumptonshire', Chigley was a subdivision of the fictional county which was given over to ultra-modernist light industry (a world away from the deceptively nearby ruralist-pluralist backdrop of mills and vintage cars that we'll be delving into in a future instalment), boasting an impressive high-tech biscuit factory and fully functional wharf alongside a smaller pottery business, and all of it overseen by Lord Belborough, the eccentric toff resident of the capacious and opulent Winkstead Hall who owned his own private steam railway and regularly played his barrel organ for the nifty footwork-related edification of the biscuit factory workers (yes, alright, this isn't Don't Scare The Robin Carmody Hare. you know).

For reasons that are not altogether clear, Chigley is the 'forgotten' entry in Gordon Murray's excursions into small-screen utopian cultural harmonia (though not quite as forgotten as the fourth one, and in a nifty bit of postmodernist audience interactivity, see if you can remember the name of it before we actually get to it). Perhaps, though this is pure speculation here, partly due to the fact that it guest-stars a large number of characters from the two earlier series while introducing some slightly less memorable ones of its own (Lord Belborough notwithstanding), and also perhaps partly due to the BBC dropping it from their repeat schedules for a couple of years in the seventies. And yet, ironically, it also boasts one of the most widely-remembered elements of all of the combined series, namely Lord Belborough's jaunty song about how time flies by when he's the driver of a train, riding on the footplate there and back again as he raced to ensure some ingredients got to the biscuit factory in time for them to, erm, make another batch of biscuits. And there's a special prize of Being Completely Ignored for the first person to mention Half Man Half Biscuit's terminally unamusing 'tee hee, they were all on drugs!!' rewrite of it. Trumpton Riots was funny, though.

And yet for some odd reason it isn't that well-remembered effort that forms the Magic Roundabout-accompanying second half of track four of Music From BBC Children's Programmes, but something from elsewhere in the programme. And what's more, it's presented in a fashion that would leave even DJ Kool Herc mouth-agape at the turntable-spinnin' skills on display.

No comments:

Post a Comment