There are many things you’d expect to find in a museum – finds from ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome, but what about the retired star of a series voted ‘The Best Children’s TV Programme Ever’?
Described as “a saggy, old cloth cat, baggy, and a bit loose at the seams”, Bagpuss is arguably one of the most famous residents of Canterbury Heritage Museum.
Created by BAFTA award-winning Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate through their company Smallfilms, the TV series was filmed in Firmin’s barn in Blean, just outside Canterbury. Bagpuss has now retired quite comfortably to a replica of Emily’s shop window in Canterbury Heritage Museum.
Surprisingly, considering Bagpuss’s incredible popularity, only 13 episodes were ever made. The TV series was first broadcast on 12 February 1974 and ran to 7 May 1974, and has been frequently repeated ever since. Each programme began in the same way: through a series of sepia photographs, the viewer is told of a little girl named Emily who owned a shop (which didn’t actually sell anything). Emily found lost and broken things and displayed them in the window, so their owners could come and collect them. She would leave the object in front of her favourite stuffed toy, Bagpuss, whose “thinks bubble” became a way to illustrate the stories and mend or explore the objects that Emily had found. In real life Emily is one of Peter’s daughters.
Bafta-winning Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate created beloved characters for children’s television programmes in the pre-CGI animation era using stop-frame animation. Smallfilms became known to the BBC for their reliability and high quality shows and were renowned for being able to produce up to 2 minutes of TV-ready animation a day, far above pre-CGI industry standards.
It was only two years ago that Peter Firmin was presented with the prestigious Special Award at the British Academy Children’s Award to recognise the legacy of Smallfilms’ .
Along with the original Bagpuss, Peter Firmin has generously loaned many of the original film props for long-term display at Canterbury Heritage Museum including Ivor the Engine, Noggin the Nog, the Clangers and The Pogles family.
But remember, he is a very sleepy old cat, so if he has dozed off when you visit, just remember these famous lines…
Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss
Old fat furry cat-puss
Wake up and look at this thing that I bring
Wake up, be bright
Be golden and light
Bagpuss, Oh hear what I singPeriod 1950s
Location Blean, Kent
Find me in Bagpuss and Friends Room, Canterbury Heritage Museum DID YOU KNOW? Bagpuss was meant to be a marmalade-coloured cat. It all went horribly wrong in a fabric dyeing shop in Folkestone. He came out bright pink and the rest is history.