Clangers, Bagpuss and Co at Sissinghurst Castle Garden

The original Clangers will be on display at Sissinghurst this winter

Created by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, and filmed in a barn in rural Kent, these characters brought new life to children’s television. Clangers, Bagpuss & Co is the first major retrospective of Smallfilms - Firmin and Postgate’s influential and much-loved production company and includes films not seen for decades.

Oliver Postgate’s voice and Peter Firmin’s puppets and artwork are cornerstones of 20th century British culture and their quirky and inventive programmes shaped the childhood memories of millions. As well as telling the story of Bagpuss and The Clangers, the exhibition goes behind the scenes of some of their other creations: Pogles Wood, Noggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine.

From Watch with Mother in the 1960s to 21st century CBeebies, Smallfilm’s endearing characters and captivating imaginary worlds have been staples of children’s television across the globe. The Clangers returned to the small screen in 2015 and have been embraced by a new generation of fans.

©Smallfilms, Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Bagpuss and friends celebrate Christmas at Sissinghurst Castle Garden

Before the days of CGI, Smallfilms used detailed craftsmanship and bold ingenuity to create enchanting animations. Working in a barn and an adapted pigsty in rural Kent, the pair were able to maintain their creative independence and uniqueness of vision. The exhibition brings together the original puppets alongside archive footage, sets and storyboards, photos, scripts and filming equipment, all set in a playful recreation of Oliver and Peter’s film studio.

Visitors can see Oliver Postgate’s stop-motion film camera, adapted using a small motor and bits of Meccano, learn why Bagpuss changed from orange to pink, and find out what Major Clanger was really saying from original shooting scripts. They can also try their hand at animating the characters using current technology.

With behind the scenes access to the creation of nostalgic gems such as Ivor the Engine and Pogles Wood, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Don’t forget to take a walk around the estate and the South Cottage, which Vita Sackville-West immortalised in her book of poetry, “The Land and The Garden” which was illustrated by none other than Smallfilms’ Peter Firmin.

Clangers, Bagpuss and Co is open at Sissinghurst Castle Garden daily from 11 November – 4 February except 24 and 25 December, 11am – 4pm.