"I wanted to produce a programme where the location was the star and not the characters.Which meant that I could have lots and lots of people with no star characters.
I started Camberwick Green with Peter the Postman because I thought that he could visit all the other people in turn, delivering his letters"
"The first I heard of Camberwick Green was through Joe Whitby who was the producer of Playschool.(which had started in 1964 with Brian among the presenters) And she was asked by Gordon Murray to suggest somebody who could do the voices,and she luckily chose me.She could have had Eric Thompson,who did The Magic Roundabout or Rick Jones,who did Fingerbobs (also a Playschool presenter) But I got the job.
I didn't have to audition,I just got the first 3 scripts,and went to Freddie Phillips' house where we recorded them all -in his walk-in wardrobe,where I sat,with a microphone.
Freddie was in the other room,with Gordon,actually doing the recording."
"A lot of Camberwick Green is very much dependant on Freddie Phillips' work. Alas he died a couple of years ago.
He wrote the music,played the guitar,recorded the music and the dialogue,and produced all sorts of extraordinary sound effects,including the windmill.
He was a character,with a capital "C"."
Alison Prince (Trumpton co-writer)
"Freddie was a big solid man.Absolutely unshakeable
He used to sit in the corner of this little bedroom,playing his guitar with absolute efficiency.Never did a wrong note, never stopped,never hesitated.Brilliant musician,did a lovely job of work."
"The songs were so good because they never had to force a word to fill the rythmn.They're very rythmic and beautifully written I thought.
I'd been singing,if you can call it that,in PlaySchool.And poor old Freddie Phillips,who was a classical guitarist,a very clever man,had to write everything within my range,which was very narrow.So,in a way,all the songs are very similar.
The songs themselves were very good and I've been having a look at some of the lyrics (prior to this R4 prog).
The ones I used to enjoy come back to me ....like the ice cream man,which has got an enviromentally conscious bit in it" ..."would you rather have a choc ice or a cornet or a brick,or if you buy a lolly please don't throw away the stick"
About animators Bura and Hardwick -with whom Murray had worked previously on string puppet productions ........
"John Hardwick was a film buff.He'd got it into his system....as well as puppets of course.And he developed from scratch,while I knew him,the art of animation,which until then had not been done very much in this country.
Bob Bura was his partner and the 2 formed a marvellous team.
Camberwick Green came up when the BBC was about to change to colour,and it was John Hardwick who suggested we do it in colour.In fact,the 1st programme of Camberwick Green was shot in black and white and then it had to be redone in colour"
Bob Bura (John Hardwick had passed away in 2004)
"Everything we do,we do with a position that we think people will want to see it forever.
That sounds terribly big-headed, but we thought that whatever it is we're going to do is going to be seen-we knew that.
We loved Gordon's work,we loved his stuff.Our part was to do the animation and to supply a studio and lights and get a finished product.He was to supply puppets,sets and scenary."
"Despite Gordon Murray's careful preparation and Bura and Hardwick's painstaking attention to detail,things inevitably went wrong.Particularly when budget constraints meant that recordings were done in Freddie Phillips' spare room and sound-proofing consisted of a few well-placed egg boxes"
"We were working in a small back bedroom in a place called Chessington in Surrey.It was on the flightpath to London Airport (now Heathrow),so we had to keep stopping everytime a jet came in -the noise was enormous.We'd stuck egg boxes all over the wall but,even so,it was noisy."
"And the animators' models weren't immune to trouble either.In those days,the cameras that Bura and Hardwick were using generated a lot of heat and some of the models just couldn't take the strain"
"There were some difficulties.Sometimes film went wrong.And if you've done a difficult scene with several characters in it,like the soldier boys all marching about and part of the scenary crashes down or something like that,it can ruin the whole day's work.
And I remember on one ocassion,Peter the Postman was walking through the wood (episode 1),and the heat made the plastic trees droop slowly without being noticed until the film was shown."
"With Camberwick Green well-established,Gordon Murray set about expanding the world of Trumptonshire...... He drafted in Alison Prince to act as script consultant and,later,writer on the Trumpton series.
She'd already made her mark in children's programmes with another much loved animated series ....
"I'd been kicking around at the BBC in London because I'd done a previous series called "Joe",about a little boy who lived in a transport cafe.And Monica Simms,who was then head of children's television,drfited up and said "would you like to write some stories for this odd little series of puppets...firemen".So I said yes.
I was sent out to some warehouse in Hoxton,or some place,to look at these little plastic bendy toys,which is what they are essentially.....the firemen.And I thought they looked extraordinarily boring because they were all exactly alike.So I thought the first thing to do was to give them names.So there was one lanky one,and I called him Cuthbert.And there were 2 absolutely the same,so I called them the Pugh twins.There was another dreary little one that came along at the back,so I called him Grubb,and then we got down to writing the stories.
That was a bit problematic because the animation process doesn't work with smoke or flame or water.
So I realised that I was going to have to write these stories about a fire brigade that never put a fire out."
"Why does the creator of Trumptonshire think the series has stuck in the minds of so many people ?"
"Trumptonshire is still in existance,and after 40 years that's not bad you know.
There were times when it had lost its' initial impact with the public -about 20 years ago.
And then it gradually became popular again.
A child of,say,3 watching Camberwick Green when it first went out would now be 43 years old and probably has children of his or her own.And for some reason,nostalgic reason basically,they are keen on Trumptonshire again....for their children as well as themselves"
"I was terribly surprised when it turned out to be so successful.
I thought it was a nice series.
But perhaps the reason is that they're undemanding,understandable and easy-watching.....in the best sort of way."
"It's a programme that I enjoyed doing,having no idea how well it would be received.
It's a joy to be connected with it.
It's such a clever idea and made so well,that I'm proud to have been involved."
"Well it might be ground-breaking television or maybe just a collection of simple stories,with catchy tunes and clever animation, but there's one question I still want an answer to...."What happened to the puppets ?"
"After about 20 years,I went up in my attic and looked at the puppets.
They were made of plastic foam and the heads were ping pong balls on an aluminium wire frame.
And I thought to myself that they looked rather sad -they had begun to disintegrate.So I took them down to the bottom of the garden and burnt the whole lot.
I didn't want them to be seen by people.They were props.....film props.
One soldier boy escaped.
My elder daughter gave it to a friend who kept it in a shoe box and only showed it to people at dinner parties.
(Put up for auction at Christies in May 2003 with a £ 2-3,000 guide price -no takers though)"
Narrator's closing thoughts
"The programmes had a calm beauty all their own and television was all the richer for it. Whether it would do well today .....?
Well,I showed it to my children and they absolutely loved it.
So,Trumptonshire remains timeless."