A title frame from the 1960s (top, the same font continued to be used throughout the 1970s)
|Created by||Joy Whitby|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||3640 (2330 missing)|
|Running time||15 minutes|
|Original network||BBC1 (1965–96)|
|Picture format||405-line (1965–69)|
PAL (576i) (1969–96)
|Original release||13 December 1965 –|
24 March 1996
|Related shows||Jackanory Playhouse|
Jackanory is a BBC children's television series which was originally broadcast between 1965 and 1996. It was designed to stimulate an interest in reading. The show was first transmitted on 13 December 1965, and the first story was the fairy-tale "Cap-o'-Rushes" read by Lee Montague. Jackanory continued to be broadcast until 1996, with around 3,500 episodes in its 30-year run. The final story, The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne, was read by Alan Bennett and broadcast on 24 March 1996. The show was briefly revived on 27 November 2006 for two one-off stories, and the format was revived as Jackanory Junior on CBeebies between 2007 and 2009.
The show's format, which varied little over the decades, involved an actor reading from children's novels or folk tales, usually while seated in an armchair. From time to time the scene being read would be illustrated by a specially commissioned still drawing, often by Quentin Blake. Usually a single book would occupy five daily fifteen-minute episodes, from Monday to Friday.
A spin-off series was Jackanory Playhouse (1972–85), which was a series of thirty-minute dramatisations. These included a dramatisation by Philip Glassborow of the comical A. A. Milne story "The Princess Who Couldn't Laugh".
The show's title comes from an old English nursery rhyme:
- I'll tell you a story
- About Jack a Nory,
- And now my story's begun;
- I'll tell you another
- Of Jack and his brother,
- And now my story is done.
The rhyme was first recorded in the publication The Top Book of All, for little Masters and Misses, which appeared about 1760.
In November 2006 Jackanory briefly returned with comedian John Sessions as the revived programme's first narrator reading the Lord of the Rings parody Muddle Earth, written by Paul Stewart (and illustrator Chris Riddell). The second narrator was Sir Ben Kingsley, reading The Magician of Samarkand by Alan Temperley. They were broadcast in three 15 minute slots on CBBC and BBC One and later repeated in their entirety on BBC One on consecutive Sundays. The readings of Muddle Earth were heavily accompanied by animation and featured John Sessions speaking the lines of all the animated characters (and occasionally reading those of Joe whenever he wasn't on-screen), leading to criticism that the spirit of the original programme, a single voice telling a tale with minimal distractions, had been lost. (The original series had occasionally included dramatised material, in e.g. 1984's Starstormers by Nicholas Fisk, and increasingly so towards the end of its run in the mid-1990s.) The Magician of Samarkand was a similar production, without additional actors speaking lines; Ben Kingsley read both the story and the lines of all the characters. Both of these stories were produced and directed by Nick Willing.
Both stories were released on DVD in their entirety with added bonus features (galleries with images from the stories and a behind-the-scenes film for Muddle Earth).
A version of Jackanory for younger children—called Jackanory Junior—was shown on CBeebies between 2007 and 2009. The CBeebies Bedtime Stories strand continues the tradition of well-known actors and personalities reading stories directly to camera.
See List of Jackanory episodes for the stories broadcast from 13 December 1965 to 1 February 1980.
Subsequent stories included:
- Count Bakwerdz on the Carpet and Other Incredible Stories (1980), written by Norman Hunter, read by Kenneth Williams
- Agaton Sax and Lispington's Grandfather Clock (1981), written by Nils-Olof Franzén, read by Kenneth Williams
- The Lightkeepers (1983), read by Andrew Burt
- The Dangerous Journey (1983), read by Andrew Burt
- The Wheel on the School, written by Meindert DeJong, read by Peter Settelen
- The Bread Bin, written by Joan Aiken, read by Bernard Cribbins
- Arabel's Tree House, written by Joan Aiken, read by Bernard Cribbins
- The Hundred and One Dalmatians, written by Dodie Smith, read by Sarah Greene
- Matilda, written by Roald Dahl, read by Victoria Wood
List of readers
- Joss Ackland (5 programmes reading Danny, the Champion of the World)
- Tom Baker
- Floella Benjamin
- Alan Bennett
- Ed Bishop
- James Bolam
- Helena Bonham Carter (5 programmes reading Philippa Pearce's The Way to Sattin Shore stories)
- Richard Briers
- Kathy Burke
- Andrew Burt
- Earl Cameron
- Brian Cant
- Matthew Corbett
- Bernard Cribbins (114 programmes)
- Peter Davison
- Angus Deayton
- Judi Dench
- Denholm Elliott
- Rupert Everett
- Harry Fowler
- Edward Fox
- Jan Francis
- Clement Freud
- Ann George
- John Grant (55 programmes reading his Littlenose stories)
- Joyce Grenfell
- Sheila Hancock
- Susanne Hart
- Lenny Henry
- John Hurt
- Wendy Hiller
- Michael Hordern
- Jeremy Irons
- Roy Kinnear
- Martin Jarvis
- Stratford Johns
- James Robertson Justice
- Arthur Lowe
- Joanna Lumley
- Art Malik
- Alfred Marks
- Alex Marshall (1969–1974)
- Trevor Martin
- Rik Mayall (Reading George's Marvellous Medicine)
- Sylvester McCoy
- Geraldine McEwan
- Paul McGann
- Ian McKellen
- George Melly
- Paul Merton
- Spike Milligan
- Hayley Mills
- Lee Montague
- Patrick Moore
- Liam Neeson
- Michael Palin
- Jon Pertwee
- Alison Prince
- Ted Ray
- Miranda Richardson
- Bob Roberts
- Tony Robinson
- Gordon Rollings
- Patsy Rowlands
- Willie Rushton
- Alan Rickman
- Margaret Rutherford
- Prunella Scales
- Peter Sellers
- Elaine Smith
- Maggie Smith
- Patrick Stewart
- John Stride
- Elaine Stritch
- Mollie Sugden
- H. E. Todd
- Patrick Troughton
- Ann Way
- Mary Webster
- Billie Whitelaw
- Kenneth Williams (69 programmes)
- Victoria Wood (reading the Ten in a Bed story)
- Wendy Wood (Auntie Gwen)
- Prince Charles (reading his own book; The Old Man of Lochnagar).
- Ben Kingsley (The Magician of Samarkand)
- John Sessions
Philip Glenister, in character as Gene Hunt, made an appearance on Jackanory as the guest reader in the Ashes to Ashes series 2 finale, set in 1982, which Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) imagines being transmitted to her television set.
"Jackanory, jackanory" said by someone in the sing-song tones of the theme tune indicates that they think that someone else is making up or "stretching" a story, i.e. lying.
In 2013 the UK TV Network Dave launched Crackanory as an adult version Jackanory. Each Crackanory episode features two 15-minute tales narrated by contemporary comedians and actors, containing a mix of live action and animation as per the original.
- I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd ed., 1997), p. 233.
- "BBC NEWS - Entertainment - Jackanory to return with Kingsley". bbc.co.uk.
- "Nick Willing". IMDb.
- "BBC - Press Office - Who's reading the story on Jackanory?". bbc.co.uk.
- "CBeebies Bedtime Stories". bbc.co.uk. 7 January 2018.
- "Stories from Russia (Jackanory Story Books): Amazon.co.uk: unknown: Books". amazon.co.uk.
- Jackanory With Gene Hunt. YouTube. 9 June 2009. Archived from the original on 18 December 2015.
- Cassell's Dictionary of Slang. Jonathon Green. Pub. Cassel & Co. ISBN 0-304-35167-9
- Powder Blue Internet Business Solutions. "Crackanory". chortle.co.uk.
- British Film Institute Screen Online analysis and listings (incomplete)
- Jackanory on IMDb
- The Mausoleum Club full listings 1965–69 and 1970–74
- Stop Messin' About: The Kenneth Williams Website via archive.org
- New Chapter Opening for Jackanory: BBC News report
- Jackanory at bbc.co.uk
- The new Jackanory at CBBC