Another in the occasional blog posts celebrating my heroes of television. Those people who have, in one way or another, made an outstanding contribution to the medium. This time around it’s the turn of everyone’s favourite artist…
For over fifty years he inspired generations of children to become artists and even inspired novices like me to attempt a sketch or two. After serving in the 1st Gurkha Rifles during World War II, Hart joined a course at Maidstone College of Art. He graduated in 1950 and soon became a freelance artist.
It was a chance meeting in 1952 with BBC TV producer and a quick demonstration of his art skills on a napkin that secured his on-screen career. He became the resident artist on Saturday Special before other shows came along. Playbox (1954-1959), Tich and Quackers, Vision On (1964-1976), Take Hart (1977-1983) and Hartbeat (1984-1993). From the 1970s, Hart was joined on screen by his infamous, plasticine co-star Morph who soon became a firm favourite among fans.
A regular feature of Hart’s programmes was The Gallery, a slot during which viewers’ artwork was displayed accompanied by one of the most famous pieces of easy-listening music ever recorded – “Left Bank Two” composed by Wayne Hill and performed by The Noveltones. Hart also created the original design for the Blue Peter badge which was used as the show’s logo.
Over the course of his career he received two BAFTA awards. One for Best Children’s Educational Programme for Take Hart in 1984. His second was a Lifetime Achievement award which he accepted in 1998. Hart retired from his regular television work in 2001.
Following a number of strokes he lost the use of his hands which he commented was “the greatest cross I have to bear”. He passed away peacefully in January 2009 at the age of 83.
His soft-spoken presentation and engaging style showed that television presenters didn’t have to be loud and brash to get children to listen and learn. He was, quite simply, one of the best presenters ever to grace our television screens.
TONY HART 1925-2009