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Trumpton Review

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by Simon Crust Jun 6, 2006 at 12:00 AM

    They say time travel is impossible without an immense power source. Not true, I managed it last night, all I needed was a DVD player and my ears. It was the theme tune to Trumpton, and then the fire brigade's theme tune (known as Firemen Bold) that transported me back to the past, back my childhood. There was a time when Trumpton ruled the TV air waves, repeated many, many times, adults around their mid thirties have a common factor (aside from their knowledge of Joey Deacon) they can all recount the firemen's names, “Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb”. Trumpton was Gordon Murray's second stop motion animation series of what has become know as Trumptonshire, the first was Camberwick Green, the last Chigley. Of the three series' it is perhaps Trumpton that is the most vividly remembered; why? The aforementioned fire brigade. With their big red fire engine, their familiar theme tune, their appearance in every episode to sort out any problem and their closing of every episode by playing the band in the park. Which brings us back to the music, written by Freddy Phillips, he wrote the music, co-wrote the lyrics for and performed all of instruments for the three Trumptonshire shows; while Brian Cant might was the voice, Phillips was the music.



    Each episode of Trumpton started the same way, "Here is the clock, the Trumpton clock. Telling the time steadily, sensibly, never too quickly, never too slowly. Telling the time for Trumpton", and then the brass figures of Sir Rufus and Lady de Trompe emerge from their housing to strike the time in accompaniment to the music; once they return the busy town square comes to life and the episodes events would begin to unfold. The show is very similar to its predecessor in both format and style; thirteen episodes, each about a specific character or incident, with enough recycled material to see the day out. Filmed and delivered within nine months after Camberwick Green, Murray brought on board experienced children's writer Alison Prince without whom the series would never have been made in such a short space of time. Her remit was simple, create thirteen episodes centred around the town square to include the fire brigade but the proviso that there is no water, steam or fire, because the animation would be too complex. Thus episode scenarios include getting the Mayor's hat stuck in a tree or the town clock mechanism getting jammed by a tin of paint. However, these 'trivial' emergences just add to the overall charm of the series; everything is sorted in time for the beginning of the bandstand. This being the main town of Trumptonshire it necessarily follows that there be a bigger cast and indeed there was, some twenty four characters not including the seven firemen. Not all had their own specific episodes, of course, but all manage to get involved with the daily comings and goings in the town. Busy it may be, but it is still the easy going nature that comes across. Rural life where everyone knows you name, and where everyone will help out in a crisis, even if that crisis is just to affix the crown back to Queen Victoria's statue.



    But above all it was the music the told the story, each character has his or her own theme song that expanded their character and told of what they did. Endless reparation that becomes so ingrained in the mind that you can't help by whistle the tune for days afterwards. In what is an obvious film saving trick the repartition of already filmed material adds a sense of stability to the show that younger viewers find so absorbing; modern day equivalents use the same trick. But Trumpton is in a class of its own, more technical in language than Camberwick Green (terms such as 'elevate' and 'descend' used by Captain Flack to order the fire engine crane) and much bigger in scope it is the quintessential children's TV show. Instantly recognisable and just as unforgettable; as lovable to watch today as it was forty years ago. Even the repartition was a joy. It's time for Trumpton.