Children's ITV Presentation

Everyone has their favourite children's programmes from the seventies and eighties. But how many people give consideration to, or can even remember, who introduced them, and how?

Well here's a 'net first with the complete history of Children's ITV, who's fronted it, and why.

The notion of networked children's continuity was first suggested within ITV as far back as the early 'seventies. The fierce regional identities prevalent at each of the constituent companies saw the proposals fail at the first hurdle and so it was not until the late 1970s that ITV's first umbrella children's branding appeared.

This was "Watch It!" (sound familiar?), conceived by the promotions department at ATV. The logo was a three colour device, and on the derived animations the exclamation mark toggled on alternate frames to give the appearance of reading "Watch ITV". Implementation of the branding differed from region to region although it was always sourced locally and never provided on a network basis, although ATV would provide different animations each season to freshen up what was available to each company. Most companies (eg Southern (later TVS) and Granada) would use their own station announcers during Watch It! airtime, most endeavouring to relate to the younger audience by being that bit more familiar or perhaps by donning colourful casual knitwear.

Granada's Charles Foster introduces Watch It! programmes.

Watch It! continued through 1982 although by this time ATV had been restructured into Central Independent Television. Central's controller of children's programmes, Lewis Rudd, suggested a different approach to to the method of presentation and as a result, the Central promotions department came up with the initial concept for Children's ITV. It was quite simple - a new look was devised, and links between programmes were pre-recorded using presenters drawn from the constituent programmes. The networking arrangements were similar to those already in place for the transmission of schools programmes - the links were played out from Central and the component programmes came from the supplying companies.

The Saturday Show's Isla St Clair presented Children's ITV during February 1983

Children's ITV went to air from January 1983, between 1600 and 1715 each weekday afternoon (Watch It! had previously begun at 1615, the extra fifteen minutes being filled by a repeat of one of the pre-school programmes shown at lunchtime the same day). The stings were cel animated, and used a rocket ship device to reveal the logo. The initial set was also designed to look like a rocket ship, taking the form of a command bridge, although after a few months this was changed. The presenters rotated each month and in the first year included Matthew Kelly (from the Tyne Tees series Madabout), Isla St Clair (from the Central series The Saturday Show), Derek Griffiths (from the Granada series Film Fun) and Tommy Boyd (from the Central series What's Happening).

The links were pre-recorded in advance, principally because the artists who had been engaged to present were not available on a daily basis to present them live. Initially the links were pre-recorded in a small studio at a London facility called Molinare, using a single locked-off camera.

This system continued for some time. The rocket ship concept was eventually abandoned, and the the set and style of presentation used began to reflect the artist presenting that month or the programme that he/she came from. By 1984 the links were still being recorded but using a common, stylised set known as Network Control. The exterior of this fictitious location also featured in the animations and stings.

The exterior of Network Control, as depicted in animations and stings.

Stu Francis stares at the ceiling before Hold Tight appears...

Although it worked well on screen, the technical considerations often left the system flawed. With each programme coming from a different source, and each link being pre-recorded, things often went wrong on air. Programmes would be rolled early and the links be cut short. Or programmes would fail to appear and the presenter would be left on screen looking gormless. (Because each link was recorded for the slot available, the presenter would hold the final pose for a further minute so that the transmission controller had something to leave on screen just in case). Pre-recording the links also meant that late schedule changes could not be easily referenced.

In September 1985, the BBC revamped their own children's presentation with the introduction of an unashamed copy of Children's ITV, with the highly original title of "Children's BBC". Using the BBC1 announcer booth at Television Centre, later dubbed "The Broom Cupboard", an unknown called Phillip Schofield single handedly provided links between the usual fayre of Hanna Barbera cartoons, John Craven's Newsround and Blue Peter. This format of a small studio using one single presenter (and an occasional puppet) continued in largely the same format until 1993. The Children's BBC service was very similar to Children's ITV but with one major difference: it was live.

Children's BBC's Phillip Schofield, accompanied by Gordon the Gopher and a stuffed monkey called Hogan

Gary Terzza and Debbie Shore

As a result, in 1987, Children's ITV also went live. Using the small presentation studio at their Broad Street studios (which had become available since in-vision continuity for the Central region was dropped), presenters Gary Terzza (a former Central announcer) and Debbie Shore presented live links a large set built to look like a transmitting station. Although the studio space was small, the designers' clever use of a plate glass mirror gave the effect of a much larger set. The new live format gave brought a great deal of flexibility - timings could be altered, schedule changes reflected and breakdowns dealt with in a continuous manner.

In 1988, the format was refreshed again. A single presenter replaced Terzza and Shore. He was Mark Granger, from Leeds. The Network Control set was replaced by a more offbeat, stylised look. It was a much simpler set design than the one it replaced, but was the first Children's ITV set to include in-vision monitors showing the VT clock of the next schedule item. Granger lasted around a year, although during his holiday leave a presenter was brought in from the Thames series "Freetime". He was Andi Peters, a 19-year old Londoner who later switched to Children's BBC and stayed there for four years.

Mark Granger introduces Dangermouse

The presenters during the Stonewall Productions era - from left to right Jerry Foulkes, Jeanne Downs, Scally and Clive Warren

Until now, the presentation, promotion and transmission of Children's ITV had been handled continuously by Central, on a network agreement basis.

In 1989, a contract to provide the service was put out to tender. Interestingly, it was awarded to an independent company headed up by Michael Jackson, a Central staffer who used his expertise to prepare a suitable application. His company, Stonewall Productions held the contract for two years, although ironically used facilities and staff provided by Central. There was no fixed set during the Stonewall era, different locations being used around Central's Broad Street studios. Presenters included Clive Warren (now a Radio 1 DJ), Jerry Foulkes (recently editor of Channel 4's Right To Reply and now at the BBC) and Jeanne Downs, who went on to pursue a singing career. There was also a brief flirtation with a puppet - a large dog called Scally.

The Stonewall era is also distinctive in that the Children's ITV brand was spread for the first time to summer holiday mornings (Warren being hired specifically for this requirement).

A small, studio-based set was used to link the summer morning schedule, featuring Children's ITV bean bags!

Clive Warren shows his knees as he awaits a cue...

April 1991, and Tommy Boyd returns to Children's ITV - a job he'd previously had in 1983

In April 1991, the contract to provide Children's ITV returned to Central. The choice of presenter was viewed with some scepticism around the network, for it was Tommy Boyd. Boyd's track-record in Children's television was impressive (dating back to the late seventies with "Magpie"), but he had not been seen on Children's ITV for some years and was almost forty years old. At a time when most other children's presenters were in their early twenties this was a significant difference and a marked change from the young, vibrant Stonewall service which Boyd replaced. During this era, the presentation studio at Broad Street was again brought into use, with Boyd sitting behind a desk linking between the programmes. As time advanced his standard improved but it was never really on a par with Children's BBC. A summer holiday morning service was again provided in 1991, from the roof of the Central studios. A young magician, Glenn Kinsey, was hired for the role.

During the 1991-3 era, greater importance was being placed throughout television on promotions (trailers) as a way of effectively detailing areas of the schedule to viewers who might not know about them. The 1993 invitation to tender for the provision of the Children's ITV service specified a minimum number of high quality trailers that the successful applicant must produce over the term of the contract. With a large promotions department, the contract remained with Central.

By 1993, control of the schedule was now vested in one person (the previous arrangement having been selection via committee). The first Network Centre controller of children's (and daytime) programming was Dawn Airey, a former Central management trainee. In February 1993 she took the unusual step of abandoning the in-vision links between programmes in favour of an out-of vision service reliant on animations, characters, promotions and interstitials. The character of the service became a disembodied voice, provided by an unknown plucked from the Birmingham unit of the Central Junior Television Workshop - Steven Ryde. Ryde could adapt his voice to many forms and he easily became the many different characters (Lycraman, Gordon Flycamp etc) who popped up between programmes. Later in 1993 the service was rebranded as CITV.

For five years the voice of CITV, Steven Ryde.

New logo introduced in 1998

The service continued under the next controller, Vanessa Chapman, with little change other than natural developments of the existing concept. But ratings were falling, although this was probably attributable to Chapman's commissioning policy and scheduling. The appointment in 1998 of Nigel Pickard saw CITV revert to adopting an in-vision service. Pickard felt the current approach lacked immediacy. Ryde's obvious experience saw him become producer as Central continued to provide the service. But the company had moved out of the large Broad Street studios in favour of a smaller development where the only studio facility was used by Central News, the regional news programme. Space was found from which to present the new links, although it was very small.

Advertisements were placed in the press for presenters and the two chosen were Stephen Mulhern, a young magician who now hosts his own magic programme, and Danielle Nicholls, an unknown from Manchester.

In 1998 the networking arrangements changed again, leaving the whole CITV service (links, promotions and programming) to be run from Central. This allowed total flexibility over the whole output.

In late 1999 the studio arrangements at Central Court were changed such that Central News and CiTV were able to share the one studio there. The set currenlty in use is the biggest ever dedicated to CiTV.

Stephen Mulhern, on screen since 1998

Left to right: Green, Darville, Nicholls and Mulhern

Two additional presenters were recruited in January 2000 to join Mulhern and Nicholls. They were Andrea Green and Tom Darville.

Their selection and subsequent appointment were featured in a special programme about children's presenters made by LWT for ITV.

Finally, a quick look at some other presenters and images. For a description of each, place the cursor over the image.

Children's ITV's first presenter - Matthew Kelly. January 1983. Mike Reid presents, 1983 Charlotte Coleman (as Marmalade Atkins) presents, 1983 The 1983 logo
Roland Rat presents, 1985 Glenn Kinsey presents, 1992 The corporate Children's ITV logo, used 1989-1992 Logo used 1991-1998 (latterly without 'Childrens')
Jerry Foulkes presents, 1989 Tommy Boyd presents, 1983 Mick Robertson presents, 1983 Uncle Travelling Matt from Fraggle Rock presents, 1985
A pre-manic Timmy Mallett presents from a farm, 1985 Rod and Emu present, December 1985 The logo used during the Stonewall Productions era, 1989-1991 Danielle Nicholls, current presenter

Last Updated 12 June 2000.

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Children's ITV and CiTV � ITV Association / ITV Network Limited 1983-2000