Almost 70 years ago to the day, broadcast television in the UK took its first steps into a revolutionary department of program making. Having launched the first high definition television service on 2nd November 1936, BBC transmissions from Alexandra Palace, north London, ceased at 12.35pm on 1st September 1939, half way through a Mickey Mouse Gala Premiere. There was no announcement as to why. Those working at what has been dubbed ‘the birthplace of television’, were presuming the hostilities of World War II would make them an easy target. "We were expecting death to rain from the skies, and Ally Pally would have been the target for it. It was the strongest and clearest signal in Europe."
But Ally Pally survived, along with a desire to push a radical form of home entertainment into new territory. At that time there were only around 20,000 television sets in the whole country, with reception reaching no more than 20 miles from Alexandra Palace. But on 20th October 1946, during a live broadcast of ‘For the Children’, Annette Mills introduced adolescent London to an animated, coltish string-puppet mule called “Muffin”. What we now term Children’s Television had begun; Children's Hour making a timely debut.
Photo: Elliot and Fry.
Broadcast by the BBC at the Alexandra Palace studios from 1946 to 1955, Muffin the Mule would dance across a piano played by Mills, often accompanied by his friends Mr Peregrine Esquire the Penguin, Louise the Lamb, Oswald the Ostrich and Grace the Giraffe. Here was the genesis for an enduring format - human host interfacing through the spoken word with animal associate, or counterpart.
Muffin the Mule
Here comes Muffin, Muffin the mule,
Dear old Muffin, playing the fool,
Here comes Muffin, everybody sing:
Here comes Muffin the mule!
In memory of Meg
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