Thursday, September 6, 2018

Crackerjack! Reunion in Chiswick on September 15

If you are a Brit of a certain age, changes are good that you remember the children's show Crackerjack!. It aired for around 28 years, from September 14 1955 to December 21 1984 (it was off in 1971) on the BBC. To celebrate the launch of the new book It's Friday, It's Crackerjack! by Alan Stafford, there will be a reunion of many of the show's cast and crew at St. Michael's Centre in Chiswick, London. Below is a press release for the event (copyright Alan Stafford, all rights reserved).



Don’t drop that cabbage!  Don’t crush that grape!  This September a host of stars from Friday’s teatime TV classic are getting back together to celebrate the 29-year run of CrackerjackCRACKERJACK!

They’re coming to Chiswick on Saturday 15th September for the book launch of It’s Friday, It’s Crackerjack!  And inevitably the conversation will turn to the show’s perennial stooge, short tubby bespectacled Peter Glaze.

When nervous newcomer Jan Hunt joined Crackerjack in 1975, Peter (who’d already clocked up 15 years on the show) gave her a useful tip: ‘Peter said to me, “Jan, it’s not live television. So if you think you’ve made a boo-boo, just go – poo bum willy wee-wee!  And of course they’ll have to stop.”’

Australian Rod McLennan took over from Leslie Crowther in 1968, and was the second in a long line of lanky comics to partner Peter: ‘I suppose he was the feed – although he looked funnier.  Physically he should have been the funny man, because he was little and portly and spoke very, very quickly.’
Alan J W Bell (of Last of the Summer Wine fame) directed Peter Glaze in several Crackerjack slapstick silent movies: ‘If you told him to pick up a bottle and look at it and let it fall out of your hand, he wouldn’t just drop it.  It would be a flurry of hands.  Everything he did was superbly mimed.  Had he been in America, he’d be a multi-millionaire, owning studios, because he just had the gift of performing.’

Peter’s third co-star, Don Maclean, recalls the boisterous studio audiences at BBC Television Theatre (now the Shepherds Bush Empire): ‘We had one group, they were a rough load of kids.  And they worked out that the microphones above their heads were the audience mikes.  So they were shouting four-letter words into these mikes.  And the sound men had a hell of a job blocking it all out.’

Hostess Jillian Comber joined back in 1960, assisting original host Eamonn Andrews with the Double or Drop quiz, where correct answers earned you armfuls of prizes while a dropped prize meant the dreaded cabbage: ‘If you had a clever child, or two that were really going to parry, then I had to put things in very difficult positions so that they would drop.  It was very unfair, but the timing on the live shows had to be so precise.’

Writer Tony Hare scripted many of the iconic musical finales, where costume drama collided with chart toppers, including a memorable rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody: ‘It was the longest song they ever did.  They rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed it.  And they did it pretty well.  Even Glaze was alright, you know, he was screaming away.  And I remember Don Maclean saying, “Don’t you ever do that to us again!”’

In the 1980s Crackerjack bid farewell to Peter Glaze, and gained Stu Francis, the gunge tank, and the show’s first ever theme song, written and performed by Chas and Dave.  Hostess Sara Hollamby remembers: ‘The kids in the audience used to sing it as well.  It was absolutely deafening!  It made the hairs on your neck stand up on end.  It not only got the audience going, it was good for us as well.  You didn’t need a warmup guy with that.  It was a work of genius, that signature tune.’
All these Crackerjack stars, and more besides, will converge on the St Michael’s Centre in Chiswick on Saturday afternoon 15th September, to share anecdotes and sign copies of It’s Friday, it’s Crackerjack! by Alan Stafford, published by Fantom.  So Crackerjack pencils at the ready! 
Tickets (at £25, which includes a copy of the book) are available from where you’ll also find a full celebrity guest list.

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