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Jackanory: Wikis


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A title frame from the 1960s. The same lettering continued to be used throughout the 1970s
Genre Children's television
Format Children's story-telling
Created by Joy Whitby
Country of origin  United Kingdom
Language(s) English
No. of episodes 3,500+
Running time 15 minutes
Original channel BBC1 (1965 – 1996)
CBBC (2006 – date)
Picture format 405-line (1965 – 1969)
PAL (576i) (1969 – date)
Original run 13 December 1965 (1965-12-13) – 24 March 1996 (1996-03-24)
Status Current run
27 November 2006 – date
Related shows Jackanory Playhouse
Jackanory Junior

Jackanory is a long-running BBC children's television series that was designed to stimulate an interest in reading. The show was first aired on 13 December 1965, the first story being the fairy-tale Cap o' Rushes read by Lee Montague. Jackanory continued to be broadcast until 24 March 1996, clocking up around three thousand five hundred episodes in its 30+ year run. The show returned on 27 November 2006, with a new series beginning in 2007 on CBBC, along with a similar show for younger children, Jackanory Junior, broadcast on Cbeebies.

The show's format, which varied little over the decades, involved an actor reading from famous children's novels or folk tales while seated in an armchair, although later episodes took the radical step of allowing the presenters to stand up. From time to time the scene being read would be illustrated by a specially-commissioned still drawing, often by Quentin Blake. Usually a single book would occupy five daily fifteen-minute episodes, from Monday to Friday.

A few Jackanory stories took the form of a play rather than stories being read, in a series of thirty minute fully-cast and costumed dramas entitled Jackanory Playhouse. These included a dramatisation by Philip Glassborow of the comical A. A. Milne story, "The Princess Who Couldn't Laugh."


Origin of title

The show's title comes from an old English nursery rhyme:

I'll tell you a story
About Jack a Nory;
And now my story's begun;
I'll tell you another
Of Jack and his brother,
And now my story is done.[1]

The rhyme was first recorded when published in The Top Book of All, for little Masters and Misses around 1760.[1]


In November 2006 Jackanory returned with comedian John Sessions as the revived programme's first narrator reading The Lord of the Rings parody Muddle Earth, written by Paul Stewart (and illustrator Chris Riddell). The second narrator was Sir Ben Kingsley, reading The Magician of Samarkand by Alan Temperley. They were broadcast in three 15 minute slots on CBBC and BBC One and later repeated in entirety on BBC One on consecutive Sundays [1] The readings of Muddle Earth were heavily accompanied by animation and featured actors speaking lines (all animated characters were voiced by John Sessions), leading to criticism that the spirit of the original programme, a single voice telling a tale with minimal distractions, had been lost. The Magician of Samarkand was a similar production, without additional actors speaking lines; Sir Ben Kingsley read the lines of all the characters. Both of these stories were produced and directed by Nick Willing [2][3]

Rather than a series of books taking a particular time slot consecutively for a number of weeks in the year, it is envisaged that new readings will be dropped into the schedule as specials at irregular intervals.

CBeebies is running a weekly series of Jackanory Junior shows[4].


List of readers

Other information

  • Blur frontman Damon Albarn made reference to the show Jackanory in their first number one hit "Country House" in 1995. The lyrical passage is "He's got morning glory, life's a different story, everything's going jackanory"
  • Some master copies of Jackanory Playhouse were irretrievably disposed of by Adam Lee of the BBC archives in 1993.
  • The series was cartoon-parodied on the 1989-1991 CITV series "Round the Bend", in a segment titled Nursery Crimes.
  • British post-punk group Television Personalities wrote a song titled "Jackanory Stories." The song begins with the sing-song phrase "Jackanory, jackanory" (See "Slang" below).


"Jackanory, jackanory" said by a someone in the sing-song tones of the theme tune indicates that he/she thinks that someone else is making up or "stretching" a story, i.e. lying.[5]


  1. ^ a b I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), p. 233.
  2. ^ BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Jackanory to return with Kingsley
  3. ^ Nick Willing
  4. ^ BBC - Press Office - Who's reading the story on Jackanory?
  5. ^ Cassell's Dictionary of Slang. Jonathon Green. Pub. Cassel & Co. ISBN 0-304-35167-9

External links

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