'Jackanory' still has a story for today's child

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The Independent Online
The classic children's storytelling programme Jackanory - suspended by the BBC last year - is to return as "heritage" repeats.

Jackanory Gold, with stories told by Dame Judi Dench, Bernard Cribbins and the late Kenneth Williams, will be part of this autumn's schedule on Children's BBC, it was revealed yesterday. Stories are still important to modern children, Anna Home, head of BBC Children's Programmes, said.

Last year, when production of the story-telling programme ceased after 29 years, the BBC said stories from books had "a limited appeal" as modern children were more interested in youth soaps such as Byker Grove and magazine shows such as Live and Kicking.

However, Ms Home laid emphasis on the classic drama in yesterday's autumn schedule.

A Sunday tea-time dramatisation of Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper stars Keith Michell playing Henry VIII for the fifth time in his career.

Launching the BBC's autumn children's season, Ms Home said there would also be new series of old favourites The Queen's Nose, telling the adventures of feisty Harmony Parker, and The Demon Headmaster, the baddie who wants to take over the world. "One of the things which was proven last year with the success of The Demon Headmaster and The Queen's Nose is the way today's children are deeply traditional and enjoy good stories well told," she said.

"It surprised all of us. We did a couple of shows last year which were computery and electronic and they were not particularly popular, and there's a show on ITV called Bad Influence, again to do with new technology, and that wasn't very successful.

"In a way, that restores my faith, in as much as The Demon Headmaster and The Queen's Nose couldn't be more traditional in terms of children's books, yet there's a real appetite for them. There's a kind of feeling that today's children are only interested in soundbites and quick fixes, that they could sit down and concentrate on a story was very cheering."

The BBC's decision to go back to basics includes Sir Arthur Quiller Couch's children's story True Tilda, in which 10-year-old Morgan Bell becomes a circus girl.

Old favourites continuing include Blue Peter, Byker Grove, Newsround, Grange Hill and Record Breakers. Asked why so few new series had been commissioned, Ms Home said: "These are back by popular demand. You don't get rid of your bankers."