‘Don’t think Moog!’

What an amazing episode of the old children’s programme Willo the Wisp from the beginning of the 80’s.

Moog the (proto-/semi-/pseudo-) dog arrives at abstract thought for the first time and then discovers humour in the same vein before being trapped by the nasty Televisual-witch Evil Edna, who amazingly convinces him to trap himself in his own thought by ‘thinking of himself’ more, he’s just too unselfish…!

I was a bit ambivalent about Willo’ the Wisp as a child (I seem to recall), but this episode is a revelation.  Its interesting also that the Willo’ the Wisp ties into a whole folk tradition of entities and creatures, in this case most predominantly a creature that appeared as a light and led people astray in the marshes and bogs.  They’ve inspired some brilliant visual work over time.  Here’s a Russian Will-o’-the-Wisp as realised by an unknown Japanese artist.


And yes it is this conceptual space which is being drawn on by the makers of some historic children’s television and it feels important that it is.

Human relocation into a mostly built environment which has subsequently grown and engorged around us, brings a kind of febrile sterility in terms of contact with the wider world of our shared being.  The stories and myths of the land are important points of connection from a place when humans were living more profoundly with the planet.

I recall seeing a BBC documentary once on the evolution of children’s television.   At a certain point when they were discussing the brilliant contributions of people like Oliver Postgate (and his collaborator Peter Firmin) and the many programmes they made (like Clangers, Ivor the Engine and Bagpuss) that when they made Pogles’ Wood in 1966,  Sociologists wrote to the BBC to say that children’s programmes should no longer focus on or be set exclusively in places such as the woods.  Their view was that children would be growing up in cities now and that it was necessary for their programmes to reflect this and to reflect city life, rather than maintain a focus on what might appear bucolic.

As with the excellent programme below, you can also see how Postgate was inspired by Dylan Thomas among others and as such would himself have been partly fuelled by ‘the force that through the green fuse…’   And while its important to reflect the reality of children’s living environments and their predominance, it has also never been more important to maintain a connection with the places outside the concrete confines of our human-coops.  Where and when we can come into contact with and immerse ourselves with things which are growing, moving and living of a will and an intent that does not come from humans.

alan lee fairies 1978.jpg
Alan Lee ‘Fairies’ 1978
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‘Will-O’-The-Wisp’ (2015) by the excellent Maurice Sapiro

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