The Bowes Museum > Exhibitions > 2009 > Toy Tales

Toy Tales

Visitors to The Bowes Museum were able to wallow in a trip down memory lane at this major exhibition.

The exhibition, a celebration of 60 years of BBC children’s television programmes, guaranteed to inject a dose of rose-tinted nostalgia for those carefree days of childhood.

Whether you’re two or seventy-two, there was bound to be a favourite among the wide range of puppets, props and stage sets on show, which fired the imagination. Younger audiences had fun comparing the baby boomers’ preferences from yesteryear - with their shaky sets and visible puppet strings - to their modern counterparts reinvented for today’s generation.

Remember the days before daytime TV, when Watch with Mother was a post-lunch treat before an afternoon nap? You could have renewed your acquaintance with Andy Pandy, Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men and Rag, Tag and Bobtail. Reminisced about memories of grainy black and white TV images of puppets such as Muffin the Mule and Pinky and Perky, compared to the hi-definition colour of today’s favourites like Charlie and Lola and 64 Zoo Lane.

Or how about that much-loved favourite Paddington Bear, with his luggage label and his marmalade sandwiches, Sooty and Sweep, Basil Brush, The Magic Roundabout, Teletubbies, Postman Pat and current favourite In the Night Garden? All these and more were represented in various forms, including puppets, videos, original scripts, story boards, props and drawings.

The exhibition also paid tribute to the animator, puppeteer and author Oliver Postgate, who died in December 2008. Postgate, together with Peter Firmin, set up the company Smallfilms in a disused cowshed at Firmin’s home in Kent, producing animated footage on a shoestring budget to great acclaim. Their successes include Bagpuss, once voted the most popular children’s TV programme of all time. Peter Firmin kindly lent the Museum his collection of The Clangers, Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog, for this unique exhibition.

Artist Linda Birch, whose popular painting workshops at the Museum always have a waiting list, loaned some original Bagpuss story boards relating to her time as an illustrator of the famous feline.


©Paddington and Company Limited/FilmFair Limited 2009, Licensed by Copyrights Group

The Bowes Museum grounds are open!

Due to the government announcement on Thursday 17 December, that County Durham is to remain in COVID tier 3 restrictions, The Bowes Museum unfortunately will remain closed to all visitors. However, the grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 - 4.00 daily, and we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, two spring trails and outdoor guided tours are available from 29 March 2021.

As we have already been shut for a number of weeks and there is much uncertainty around possible further restrictions, we have decided to use this period to undertake some work in Café Bowes, alongside performing some much-needed structural repairs to the building, notably to the windows. January and February are usually quieter times for the Museum, often due to severe weather, so we believe that this is the best time to carry out such works with the least amount of disruption to our visitors.

We have therefore decided to remain closed for a period of four weeks following any near-future tier 2 announcement from the government, as this will allow us time to deep clean the Museum prior to reopening our doors once again. We will, of course, keep you updated as the guidelines change.

Your ongoing support during these unprecedented times is hugely appreciated and we very much look forward to welcoming you back into the building as early as possible in 2021.

We hope to be able to offer a few COVID-safe outdoor events over the coming months, about which we shall make further announcements as soon as possible.