Playing to The Gallery 

I was very sad yesterday to hear of the death at the age of 83 of the pioneering children TV’s presenter Tony Hart.  The newspapers and television have been filled with suitably glowing tributes to him, because he was not only a superb presenter but also a warm and generous person. That’s quite a rare combination in the world of television, so I’m told.

I knew of him primarily through Vision On, a programme which I watched avidly as a child, and only found out much later on that it was intended to be for deaf children. The show involved comedy sketches and cartoons, as well as Tony Hart’s contributions which involved creating works of art live in front of the camera. He hardly ever spoke and used only the simplest of materials to create very beautiful things with the idea that this would inspire his audience to get in touch with their artistic side without making it look too much like a lesson. He did it brilliantly.

Here’s the middle chunk of a broadcast from 1975 which will bring it all bank to those of you of a certain age like me, but notable also in that it includes Sylvester McCoy who later became the 7th Doctor Who:

Best of all, this segment ends with my favourite bit, The Gallery, accompanied by a piece of music which is almost as redolent with nostalgia for me as the theme from Doctor Who. The track concerned is called Left Bank Two and was performed by the Noveltones; it can be heard here in full. Just a trio of vibraphone, guitar and drums played with brushes, I think it’s a masterpiece of relaxed simplicity. Nobody got his collar wet playing it, that’s for sure. It’s the sort of music you might have expected to hear in a smart cocktail bar in the early 60s but is now inextricably linked to The Gallery.

I was struck watching the above clip just how good the childrens’ drawings and paintings were too. I tried several times to get something shown in The Gallery, but never succeeded.

5 Responses to “Playing to The Gallery 

  1. Very sad. I have the same nostalgic feelings watching and listening to those clips.

  2. Adrian Burd Says:

    It is sad. I recall being intrigued as a young lad, by the art of both Tony Hart and Rolf Harris. What with the passing of John Mortimer as well, it’s been a sad week.


  3. telescoper Says:

    Actually, I liked Rolf’s arty things when I was a kid too. “Can you see what it is yet?” and all that. More recently, Rolf Harris did a series of programmes about painters in which he talked about their work and tried to emulate their style himself. I found it a fascinating, completely unpretentious and very charming show. Bravo Rolf.

    Not sure about the music though.

  4. Adrian Burd Says:

    I seem to recall a similar program some (many) years ago. There was an art forger who go caught and, once he had served his time, he did a series of programs in which he would talk about a specific artist whilst creating a painting in the style of that artist. It was fascinating to watch and to actually see what it was that people were talking about when discussing painting techniques and how they affected different styles. He even gave a glimpse into how to artificially age paintings. I wish I could recall his name! I seem to recall that, when he died, he was still claiming that there was one his paintings hanging in a national gallery somewhere, but he refused to say where.


  5. telescoper Says:


    I’m pretty sure the guy you are talking about is Tom Keating, Britain’s most famous art forger, who died in 1984. So it was a long time ago. He made the series you mention for Channel 4 a year or so before he died. He was caught in 1977 but I don’t think he ever did time, because he was very ill with cancer. Ironically some of Keating’s known forgeries attract very high prices at auction.

    There’s another more recent example of a chap called John Myatt, who was imprisoned for a year in 1999, but I’m sure its the older one you’re thinking of.


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