From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A title frame from the 1960s (top, the same font continued to be used throughout the 1970s)
GenreChildren's television
Created byJoy Whitby
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes3640 (2330 missing)
Running time15 minutes
Original release
NetworkBBC1 (1965–96)
CBBC (2006)
Release13 December 1965 (1965-12-13) –
24 March 1996 (1996-03-24)
Jackanory Playhouse
Jackanory Junior

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.[1] 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 was 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. The format was revived as Jackanory Junior, airing on CBeebies between 2007 and 2009.

The show's format, which varied little over the decades, featured an actor reading from children's novels or folk tales, usually while seated in an armchair.[2] From time to time the scene being read would be illustrated by a specially commissioned still drawing, often by Quentin Blake. In 1983, Malou Bonicos was commissioned to provide illustrations for one Jackanory story. 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".

Coverage of the live broadcast of the Apollo 8 mission in 1968 was interrupted so Jackanory could be shown.[3]


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.[4]

The rhyme was first recorded in the publication The Top Book of All, for little Masters and Misses, which appeared about 1760.[4]


Title frame from the opening of The Magician of Samarkand, depicting the 2006 logo

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.[5] 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 was not 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 1996). The Magician of Samarkand was a similar production, albeit without the actors speaking additional 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.[5][6]

Both stories were released in their entirety on DVD later that year, with added bonus features (galleries with images from the stories and a behind-the-scenes film for Muddle Earth).

While no further stories were made, Muddle Earth would be adapted for television again a few years later.

Jackanory Junior[edit]

A version of Jackanory for younger children—called Jackanory Junior—was shown on CBeebies between 2007 and 2009.[7] The CBeebies Bedtime Stories strand continues the tradition of well-known actors and personalities reading stories directly to camera.[8]


See List of Jackanory episodes for the stories broadcast from 13 December 1965 to 9 March 1984.

Subsequent stories included:

List of readers[edit]

Cultural influence[edit]

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.[10]

"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.[11]

In 2013 the UK TV Network Dave launched Crackanory as an adult version of 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.[12]


  1. ^ McKay, Sinclair (9 December 2015). "Why children – and actors – loved Jackanory". The Telegraph. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  2. ^ Sheridan, Simon (2004). The A-Z of Classic Children's Television: From Alberto Frog to Zebedee. Reynolds & Hearn Ltd. pp. 139–141. ISBN 1903111277.
  3. ^ Times, AUTHOR: Radio. "In place of the advertised programme…". Transdiffusion. Retrieved 13 November 2022.
  4. ^ a b I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd ed., 1997), p. 233.
  5. ^ a b "BBC NEWS - Entertainment - Jackanory to return with Kingsley". bbc.co.uk. 26 July 2006.
  6. ^ "Nick Willing". IMDb.
  7. ^ "BBC - Press Office - Who's reading the story on Jackanory?". bbc.co.uk.
  8. ^ "CBeebies Bedtime Stories". bbc.co.uk. 7 January 2018.
  9. ^ Stories from Russia: as told in 'Jackanory' by John Stride. London: BBC Books. 1970. ISBN 0563102330. ASIN 0563102330.
  10. ^ Jackanory With Gene Hunt. YouTube. 9 June 2009. Archived from the original on 18 December 2015.
  11. ^ Cassell's Dictionary of Slang. Jonathon Green. Pub. Cassel & Co. ISBN 0-304-35167-9
  12. ^ Powder Blue Internet Business Solutions. "Crackanory". chortle.co.uk. {{cite web}}: |author= has generic name (help)

External links[edit]