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Happy 50th Birthday Bagpuss!

For generations of Brits, one of the most fondly remembered figures from their childhood was a certain saggy old cloth cat. He lived in a shop window and when the humans left he and the other toys came to life. With distinctive pink and white stripes (that he got in a production error) and perhaps the most iconic yawn in animation, there can only be one Bagpuss. February 12, 2024, marks the 50th Anniversary of the broadcast of the first episode.

Bagpuss was created by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin through their company Smallfilms. They had already had success through series such as The Clangers, Ivor The Engine and Noggin The Nog, but Bagpuss is perhaps their most iconic series of all. Like all their work it was produced in a converted cowshed in Blean, just outside of Canterbury.

Only 13 episodes of the series were ever produced but the series has remained enduringly popular. In 1999 it topped a BBC poll of the favourite children's TV programme and came fourth in a similar poll on Channel 4. The series was regularly repeated on the BBC until 1986 and later became a fixture on Satelite/cable channel Nick Junior.  It's available to modern audiences via streaming services BritBox, ITVX and Amazon Prime, and via a remastered Blu-Ray and DVD from Fabulous Films.

The night before the Anniversary BBC Four aired a night of programs to celebrate including episodes of the series and documentaries. They are subsequently available to watch on iPlayer

To mark the 50th Anniversary rights owner Coolabi has announced a range of collectibles from coins and stamps to plushes and crafts.

The Westminster Collection will be issuing a range of five 50p coins in base metal and sterling silver. The reverse of each coin will feature one of five iconic characters from the show, paired with a relevant quote from the series. The coins will feature Bagpuss, Professor Yaffle, Gabriel, Madeline and The Mice. The obverse of the coins will feature a portrait of King Charles III.

A set of four commemorative stamps will be issued by Guernsey Post for the island of Alderney. The stamps will feature Bagpuss and his friends and will include souvenir sheets, first day covers and a presentation pack.

Rainbow Designs, creators of high quality children's toys inspired by Children's literature has launched a new range of Bagpuss plush toys including a brightly coloured yawning soft toy that lets out an enormous yawn when you squeeze his head.

Meanwhile Bagpuss- the 50th Anniversary Edition is a special edition Bagpuss exclusive to Danbury Mint. The MBi designers worked closely with Steiff, the inventors of the teddy bear, on a special anniversary piece. He features the special Steiff button in his ear as a mark of authenticity and has been airbrushed by hand. The toy is available to preorder now and will ship in April.

Practical Publishing will be publishing a Bagpuss collection available at CraftStash. It will feature cutting dies, beautiful printed papers and toppers, allowing card makers and crafters to work on projects while capturing the nostalgia of  Bagpuss.

The Beaney House Of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury is hosting the Smallfilms Gallery, renamed in honour of the studio. The family gallery contains work by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin that was used in their series that were produced near Canterbury. The exhibition was created in close conjunction with the Postgate and Firmin families and Dr Chris Pallant of Canterbury Christ Church University- author of Beyond Bagpuss. It includes many original props and puppets used in the series, including the original Bagpuss himself.

Bagpuss will also continue his role as mascot to the Hospices Of Hope, the UK's only charity supporting Hospice care in southern and eastern Europe. He has held this position since 2002 when Oliver Postgate donated Bagpuss's "pocket money" to fund a specialist children's wing at a Romanian Hospice. The charity will mark Bagpuss's birthday with events including the Bagpuss Bash, a Bagpuss Bikeathon, family walks and more. 

Emily Firmin, daughter of Peter Firmin and star of the Bagpuss intro says"“I can't believe Bagpuss is 50! That makes me feel old. It's funny when I think about it, he wasn't a kitten when he opened our shop. I think he must have been at least a three year old cat to own a shop of lost and founds."

"Many moons ago, Oliver Postgate and my father Peter Firmin, offered me sweets for a funny photo of me and a gorgeous pink and white cat. The sweet dress my mum Joan made me and the horrible Victorian style shoes I had to wear seem like a dream."

"Who would have believed that Bagpuss would still be such a super star 50 years later. I still adore him. I see him occasionally when I pop into the Beaney museum in Canterbury. He's in good company in an exhibition of all the puppets made by my father. I'm very proud of the fact that Bagpuss has supported The Hospices of Hope since 2002 and I will be visiting their hospital in Romania this year to paint a mural with some of the children."

Fran Huxley of Coolabi Group adds "Bagpuss is a charming, quintessentially British brand that captures the hearts and minds of people across the world. We are delighted to wish Smallfilms' magical saggy old cloth cat a very happy 50th Anniversary and to have such a wonderful range of collectables out this year to mark this lovely occasion."

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