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Gordon Murray (puppeteer)

Gordon Murray (born 1921) is a British television producer and puppeteer.

He is the creator and writer of some of the most popular children's television programmes ever seen in Britain, Trumpton, Camberwick Green and Chigley, the Trumptonshire Trilogy were all made by the company he set up.

Early life and television career

Murray was always interested in puppets, as a child he made puppets and used to give little shows to friends and family at home. Speaking in 1999 he said, I have been interested in puppets ever since I was a child. My enthusiasm was greatly stimulated, I remember, by a visit to the Victoria Palace when I was about eight to see Delvain’s Marionettes on the variety bill. Later, of course, I avidly read the Whanslaw books.

After being demobbed after World War II he set up his own puppet company, Murray's Marionettes . After inviting BBC producer Freda Lingstrom to one of his shows he was offered work, operating Spotty Dog in The Woodentops. Murray then became a producer in the BBC children's department, producing Sketch Club and Captain Pugwash. Initially the shows he worked on went out live, but frustrated by the hit and miss approach of live work, developed his own film studio and recorded his own films. In 1958 he created the series The Rubovian Legends, which ran until 1963, with fellow puppeteers John Hardwick and Bob Bura who he would work with over the following twenty years.

The Trumptonshire years

After the Children's Department and Women's Programmes merged in 1964 he left the BBC to form an independent production company, Gordon Murray Puppets Productions, based in a converted church in Crouch End in North London.

Here he made arguably his most enduring and loved programmes, The Trumptonshire Trilogy; Camberwick Green which aired in 1966, Trumpton in 1967 and Chigley in 1969. Murray would create the sets, puppets and scripts to the studio and Bura and Hardwick would create the animation. Realising that the string based marionettes used previously would look old-fashioned, he looked to Eastern Europe for the stop motion animation technique he would use.

One far-sighted contribution by Bura and Hardwick was their insistence to record Camberwick Green in both monochrome and colour, at the time colour was not available on British television but the decision to use colour allowed the programmes to broadcast several years after colour was introduced.

Following Chigley, in 1969 it was six years before Murray had a new series on television, a stop-motion remake of The Rubovian Legends called just Rubovia. His next work was Skip and Fuffy which aired within Multi-Coloured Swap Shop in 1978, his final series The Gublins aired in 1979.

After television

After retiring from animation he turned his attention to something completely different, and he produced and self-marketed more than thirty-four different limited-edition miniature books under the Silver Thimble Books imprint. Bound entirely by hand they contained miniature watercolour paintings, special embroidered covers and bindings, and slip cases. A complete set of these books is held in the Charlotte M. Smith Collection of Miniature Books in the library of the University of Iowa.

In the 1980s he burnt all the remaining puppets and sets, except for one soldier which escaped the fire, a soldier from Camberwick Green. It was given by his eldest daughter to a friend who kept it in a shoe box. It was later auctioned by Christie's in May 2003 but failed to meet the reserve price.

In 2001 a poll by Channel 4 television ranked Trumpton as the 22nd most popular children's television show. His work has been revived recently, in a series of television adverts for Porridge Oats and most recently on the cult BBC drama Life on Mars in a scene where the character Sam Tyler is hallucinating.

Selected filmography

References

External links

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