…Paint the whole world with a rainbow

30 06 2011

“Up above the streets and houses

Rainbow climbing high

Everyone can see it smiling over the sky

Paint the whole world with a rainbow”

Hello Everybody…

Rummaging around, the other day, in the ‘glory hole’ beneath the stairs, I came across a box, a collection of dolls and soft toys, childhood treasures – apparently too precious to get rid of – belonging to Nic and Gem.    

There on top of the pile (where else would he be?), but with mouth firmly fastened, sat Zippy!

For those, and surely there can’t be many, who are unfamiliar with Zippy, he was a 20th century children’s TV icon, star of ITV’s ‘Rainbow’ series, for pre-school children, which ran in opposition to the BBC’s ‘Playschool’ for twenty years, from 1972.

The garrulous and bossy Zippy – whose mouth actually was a zip that had to be fastened up from time to time to quieten him down – and his mates, George – a quiet, shy, ever so slightly camp, pink hippo with prominent eyelashes, and Bungle – the big, clumsy, brown bear with a somewhat squashed face, together with ‘Rainbow’ presenter, Geoffrey, were not only popular with the under-fives but enjoyed quite a following amongst ‘children’ of all ages!

In more recent years the programme has attained a nostalgic cult status. It featured in the first episode of the 2008, ‘Ashes to Ashes’ retro ’80s TV sci-fi/police drama, while Zippy and George were interviewed for BBC’s ‘The One Show’, in 2009. There is even a website: www.rainbow-forever.co.uk , of course.

‘Zippy’, as I recall, belonged to Nicci while Gem had a cuddly George, who was nowhere to be found under the stairs, and I regret may have moved on to that great toy cupboard in the sky!

‘Rainbow’ was big in the Aldridge home during the late ‘80s. We had the full works – annuals, videos and music cassettes – featuring the never to be forgotten trio, Rod, Jane and Freddy!         

It was perhaps not by coincidence that I should unearth ‘Zippy’ (who still wears extremely well for his age) after all these years, having recently read, on scanning through the Guardian obituaries column – as you do, of the death of Roy Skelton (1931-2011).

To be honest my first reaction, was Roy who? It was actually the accompanying picture of Zippy and George and the caption, ‘Voice of the Daleks and Rainbow’s puppets…’that caught my eye.

Reading on, I was pleased to find that Roy (1931-2011) was a Nottingham lad, his Mum and Dad ran a sweet shop, while he was a pupil at  Mundella Grammar, before leaving school at 14 to join a travelling theatre group.

Following a national service stint in the RAF, he made a successful career in the dramatic world of theatre and television, where he eventually became better known for his voice than his face.

Roy provided the voices for both Zippy and George in nearly 1000 episodes of ‘Rainbow’. He admitted to relishing the challenge of scripts where the two characters argued, where he would , apparently effortlessly, switch from strident, manic Zippy (which he described as a cross between Margaret Thatcher and Ian Paisley) to calm and measured George.

But it will probably be for the staccato tones of the Daleks, from the Dr Who series, for which Roy will be most remembered. It was he who first exhorted ‘Exterminate, exterminate!’ and continued to do so for more than two decades, between 1967 and ‘88.                 

For over four decades Roy’s voice played such a large part in the lives of millions of ‘children’ but he remained an ‘invisible man’ who never gained celebrity status. He once said, rather poignantly, that he could walk down the street unrecognised. Nobody pointed and said there’s Zippy or asked him to say ‘Exterminate!’  Sometimes he’d sometimes rather wished they had.  

Roy’s face may be largely unknown, and his name not readily recalled, but the characters his voice gave life to will live on, for many, for some time to come.





One response

2 07 2012

I am searching for a zippy puppet similar to the original (as getting that would seem impossible unless the thief that took it owns up and it’s re auctioned at Christies) and wondered if you have any leads?

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