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Award-winning artist behind television classics Bagpuss and The Clangers, Peter Firmin has a place in the childhood memories of a whole generation.
Peter Firmin was born in 1928 and discovered a talent for illustration at an early age, inventing comics with pens and paper borrowed from his father, a telegraphist on the railways. He graduated from Central Saint Martins in 1952 with an NDO in illustration, having also lectured there.
Firmin looked set for a career in freelance book illustration until a life-changing visit from Oliver Postgate, a stage manager looking for help with a live animated television series.
Their first collaboration, Alexander the Mouse was performed live in the studios with an erratic magnetic animation method. When Oliver acquired a cine camera and adopted the more reliable stop-frame method, he founded "Smallfilms" in 1958.
From Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog to The Clangers and Bagpuss, Postgate’s scripts and pioneering stop-motion animation brought Firmin’s models, drawings and sets to life. Their future projects included some of the best-loved television ever made, not just for children but across the entire medium.
In 1999, Bagpuss was voted the nation’s favourite children’s TV programme in a BBC poll, thanks to regular, rapturously received repeats on television from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Although Firmin’s television work came to an end in 1986, the success of 2016’s Smallfilms exhibition at the V&A Museum of Childhood demonstrated its enduring appeal. A steady stream of honours have seen Firmin awarded both an Honorary MA from the University of Kent in 1987, and the Freedom of the City of Canterbury in 2011.
In 2014, he was honoured at the BAFTA Children’s Awards for his outstanding contribution to children’s media and entertainment.