Brian Cant

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Brian Cant
Brian Cant 2008.jpg
Brian Cant at a 'Play School' reunion event
Born (1933-07-12) 12 July 1933 (age 83)
Ipswich, Suffolk, England
Occupation Television presenter, actor
Years active 1960–present
Spouse(s) Mary Gibson (divorced)
Cherry Britton
Children Nicholas Cant
Richard Cant
Rose Cant
Christabel Cant
Peter Cant

Brian Cant (born 12 July 1933) is an English actor, television presenter and writer best known for his work in BBC television programmes for children from 1964 onwards.

Early life and education[edit]

Cant was born in the town of Ipswich, in Suffolk. He was educated at Northgate Grammar School for Boys, a state grammar school in Ipswich, since renamed Northgate High School.[1]


Cant was performing in BBC Schools Drama television Programmes about the Romans for the Corporation when he heard that auditions were being held for a new pre-school children's programme which was to be shown on the new BBC 2 channel. This was Play School. At his audition he was asked by programme creator and the series' first producer Joy Whitby to get in a cardboard box and pretend to 'row out to sea'.[2] He pretended to fish from his 'boat' and caught a wellington boot full of custard. He was cast as a presenter and first appeared on the third week in May 1964, and stayed with the programme for 21 of its 24-year run, becoming 'Mr Play School' according to Joy Whitby.[2] His involvement in Play School directly led to his work on three linked Gordon Murray puppet series: Camberwick Green (1966), Trumpton (1967), and Chigley (1969). Later he hosted or co-hosted the programmes Play Away (1971–84), and Bric-A-Brac (1980–82) for slightly older children.

During the 1990s Cant starred as 'Brian' the farmer in the children's television puppet programme Dappledown Farm, as well as providing the voice for one of the characters, Harry the Heron.[3] Cant is the storyteller of the UK version of Jay Jay the Jet Plane, and the narrator for the popular Canadian children's show Bruno.

Aside from his work on children's television, Cant has worked as an actor in series for adults. In the 1960s he appeared in two Doctor Who stories, in 1965 as Kert Gantry in The Daleks' Master Plan[4] and in 1968 as Tensa in The Dominators.[5] In 1978 he presented the BBC programme The Great Egg Race, and was one of the guest presenters featured in the 1982 series of the game show It's a Knockout after Eddie Waring retired.

His film appearances were few but included brief roles in The Pleasure Girls (1965), The Sandwich Man (1966), and A Feast at Midnight (1995) starring Christopher Lee.

In 1998 Cant parodied his previous contributions as a narrator in 'The Organ Gang', a weekly segment in Lee and Herring's This Morning with Richard Not Judy, a BBC TV Sunday afternoon comedy show.[6]

In 2001 Cant appeared in a music video on Orbital's DVD The Altogether. The clip is similar to Play School, featuring Cant in his familiar presenter role.[7] He read the second half of Ann Jungman's Vlad the Drac books for audiobook, replacing Anthony Daniels.

Brian Cant was the main voice actor in the Polygram spoken word recording of a dramatised "Fortean Times" recording produced by Steve Deakin-Davies of "The Ambition Company", it was nominated for a "Talkies" spoken word award.

In April 2007 Cant was named as the best-loved voice from UK children's television, in a poll of over 1,200 people for Underground Ernie magazine. Cant beat Bagpuss and Ivor the Engine narrator Oliver Postgate into second place, with David Jason (Danger Mouse) polling third.[8]

In May 2008 Cant recorded a brand new audio series of children's stories for free download from The Great Little Traders Club.

On 28 November 2010 he received the special award at the Children's BAFTAs for his work in children's television.[9][10]

On 5 April 2011, Cant appeared in the BBC1 daytime drama Doctors. It was his third appearance in the show, all as different characters.[11]


Cant's theatre credits include Still Playing Away, The Railway Children, Present Laughter, An Ideal Husband, Habeas Corpus, Gaslight, Side by Side by Sondheim, The Canterbury Tales (in which he memorably ad-libbed a reference to his work on Play School), Oh Coward, There's No Place Like a Home and many more, as well as thirty two pantomimes, including an adaptation of "Aladdin" at the Wolverhampton Grand written by Ian Billings.

Personal life[edit]

Cant currently lives in Buckinghamshire and is married to writer and director Cherry Britton, sister of TV presenter Fern Britton and actor Jasper Britton. They have three children, daughter Rose, and twins Christabel and Peter. He has two sons from his first marriage, Nicholas and Richard, who is also an actor. He is the son-in-law of the British actor Tony Britton and brother-in-law of the television chef Phil Vickery.

In 1999 he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, referring to this in an interview with BBC Breakfast which was shown on 24 November 2010.[12]


  1. ^ "Suffolk View" (PDF). The Suffolk Society. Spring 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Interviews by Sarah Williams. "How we made: Joy Whitby and Phyllida Law on Play School | Culture". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  3. ^ "Dappledown Farm children's TV Series Puppetry information". Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  4. ^ "Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Daleks' Master Plan - Details". BBC. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  5. ^ "Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - The Dominators - Details". BBC. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  6. ^ "Comedy - This Morning With Richard Not Judy". BBC. 2007-10-04. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  7. ^ "Jes Benstock - Other Films". Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  8. ^ "Entertainment | Cant 'best children's TV voice'". BBC News. 2007-04-05. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  9. ^ "Three Children's Baftas for Horrible Histories". BBC News. BC. 29 November 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2010. 
  10. ^ "Brian Cant to be honoured at children's Baftas". BBC News. BBC. 22 November 2010. Retrieved 24 November 2010. 
  11. ^ "Brian Cant". Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  12. ^ "BBC News - Brian Cant to receive children's Bafta". 2010-11-24. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 

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