Peter Firmin

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For the English magician and television presenter, see Pete Firman.
Peter Firmin
Born Peter Arthur Firmin
(1928-12-11) 11 December 1928 (age 87)
Harwich, Essex
Occupation Artist, puppet maker (illustrator)
Spouse(s) Joan
Children 6 daughters

Peter Arthur Firmin (born 11 December 1928) is an English artist and puppet maker. He was the founder of Smallfilms, along with Oliver Postgate. Between them they created a number of popular children's TV programmes, The Saga of Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine, Clangers, Bagpuss and Pogles' Wood.

Early life[edit]

Born in Harwich, Essex, in 1928, Peter Firmin trained at the Colchester School of Art in Colchester. After National Service in the Navy, he attended Central School of Art and Design in London from 1949-1952. He worked in a stained glass studio, as an illustrator and as a lecturer.

It was while he was teaching at the Central School of Art that Oliver Postgate came looking for, as Firmin puts it: "…someone to illustrate a television story – someone who was hard up and would do a lot of drawing for very little money".[1] They immediately 'clicked' and subsequently formed Smallfilms.

Career[edit]

Peter Firmin is best known as half of the Smallfilms production company, active 1958 to the late 1980s. Most of Smallfilms' animation was produced in a farmyard barn on Firmin's land in Blean near Canterbury in Kent. Firmin made the sets, puppets and backdrops for the programmes, often also contributing to making sound and visual effects during filming.

Alongside the work with Oliver Postgate, Peter made other puppets and children's programmes. In 1959, with his wife Joan, Peter devised a programme of nursery rhymes for Associated-Rediffusion using live cardboard animation and puppets, called The Musical Box. It was presented by Rolf Harris and then Wally Whyton. Puppets included Billy Whistle and Muskit.

In 1961, ITV commissioned another puppet. Olly Beak was a little owl made of chicken feathers stuck into a crocheted body. He appeared on Smalltime, and was joined in 1962 by Fred Barker (a shaggy dog made for Postgate/Firmin 1961 production The Dog Watch) and in 1963 by Whiffles, an otter puppet, and Penelope, another owl.

Firmin co-created, with Ivan Owen, the TV puppet Basil Brush in 1962. He made the first puppet for The Three Scampies, using a real fox tail.[2]

Firmin continued to work an illustrator. He has written and illustrated many books of Smallfilms characters, plus children's books of his own devising and books for adults including Vita Sackville-West's poetry and Seeing Things, Postgate's autobiography.


Printmaker[edit]

Firmin, having retired from TV production, now produces engravings and linocuts.

Noggin stamp[edit]

In 1994, Firmin provided an illustration for a British postage stamp, SG1804, featuring characters from Noggin the Nog. It was one of a set featuring characters from British children's literature. He produced further illustrations for the advertising campaign to publicise the stamps.[3][4]

Recognition[edit]

He was awarded an honorary MA by the University of Kent on 17 July 1987. In 2011 Firmin was awarded the Freedom of the City of Canterbury in recognition of his "outstanding work".[5]

In November 2014 it was announced that Firmin would be honoured at the BAFTA Children's Awards.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Firmin is married to Joan, who knitted the Clangers from vibrant pink wool. They met at The Central School of Art in London, where Joan was studying bookbinding. They were married in 1952 and lived in London until moving to Kent in 1959.

They have six daughters:[2] One, Emily, appeared in the opening sequence of Bagpuss.

The Firmins still live on the farm in Blean, Kent, where Smallfilms produced their programmes.

Publications[edit]

  • Stanley, the tale of the Lizard, Peter Meteyard; illustrated by Peter Firmin (Andre Deutsch, 1979)
  • The Last of the Dragons, E. Nesbit; illustrated by Peter Firmin (Macdonald, 1980)
  • Melisande, E. Nesbit; illustrated by Peter Firmin (MacDonald, 1980)
  • The Winter Diary of a Country Rat, written and illustrated by Peter Firmin (Kaye and Ward, 1981) ISBN 0-7182-2541-4
  • Chicken Stew, written and illustrated by Peter Firmin (Pelham Books, 1982)
  • Tricks & Tales, written and illustrated by Peter Firmin (Kaye and Ward, 1982) ISBN 0-7182-2600-3
  • The Midsummer Notebook of a Country Rat, written and illustrated by Peter Firmin (Kaye and Ward, 1983)ISBN 0-7182-2601-1
  • Day and Night, Then and Now, Summer and Winter, by Heather Amory, illustrated by Peter Firmin (Usborne, 1985)
  • Pinny Finds a House, Pinny and the Bird, Pinny in the Snow, written and illustrated by Peter Firmin (Andre Deutsch, 1985)
  • Pinny and the Floppy Frog, Pinny's Party, written and illustrated by Peter Firmin (Andre Deutsch, 1987)
  • My Dog Sandy, written and illustrated by Peter Firmin (Andre Deutsch, 1988)
  • Making Faces, written and illustrated by Peter Firmin (Collins Pic- Lions Publishing, 1988)
  • Ziggy and the Ice Ogre, Chris Powling, illustrated by Peter Firmin (Heinemann, 1988)
  • The Jenius, Dick King Smith, illustrated by Peter Firmin (Victor Gollancz, 1988)
  • Nina's Machines, written and illustrated by Peter Firmin (A & C Black, 1988)
  • Boastful Mr Bear, Happy Miss Rat, Hungry Mr Fox, Foolish Miss Crow, written and illustrated by Peter Firmin (Bolitha Press & Dell of NY, 1989)
  • The Land and the Garden, Vita Sackville-West, illustrated by Peter Firmin (Webb & Bower, 1989)
  • Seeing Things: An Autobiography, Oliver Postgate; illustrated by Peter Firmin, 2000 - ISBN 0-330-39000-7

References[edit]

  1. ^ Peter Firmin, Dragons' Friendly Society .
  2. ^ a b "Saggy old cloth cat pulls in the crowds". Canterbury Adscene (Kent Regional News and Media). 2007-11-09. pp. 4–5. 
  3. ^ "Stamps and First Day Cover". Smallfilms website. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  4. ^ "Noggin the Nog Memorabilia – stamps". Northlands (Neil Jones). 1997–2003. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  5. ^ "Bagpuss co-creator Peter Firmin's freedom of Canterbury". BBC News. 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2011-06-08. 
  6. ^ "Bagpuss co-creator Peter Firmin gets Bafta honour". BBC News. 11 November 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 

External links[edit]