talking mince in glasgow

BERNARD CRIBBINS has had many memorable roles in film, on TV and on stage.

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n Bernard Cribbins stars in a new CBBC series, Old Jack's Boat,
n Bernard Cribbins stars in a new CBBC series, Old Jack's Boat,

But one of the strangest, he admits, happened in Glasgow city centre.

"I had to stand in the middle of Sauchiehall Street, with my recording unit and microphone, and ask people what kind of meat they ate at home," he recalls, with a grin.

"It was in the 50s - I think it was for a promotional advert for British Meat, or some such thing." He breaks into the familiar laugh. "Ha! And the most popular answer? Mince."

The veteran actor who has battled Daleks in Doctor Who, appeared on Never Mind the Buzzcocks and, for a generation of children growing up in the 70s, was the voice of the Wombles, is returning to children's television later this month.

He will star in Old Jack's Boat, a kind of Jackanory for the new generation.

"It was lovely to be asked," he says.

"It is a bit like Jackanory - it's me, sitting telling stories, with my dog Salty beside me.

"And it has the bonus of a few extra characters and some animation, and we got the chance to wander about Staithes, a lovely fishing village in North Yorkshire."

The show, which airs on CBeebies, the BBC's children's channel, on January 21 also marks a bit of a Doctor Who reunion.

Bernard played Wilfred Mott (grandad to Catherine Tate's character Donna) alongside 10th Doctor David Tennant. Freema Agyeman, who played the Doctor's companion Martha, appears in Old Jack's Boat, and two of the episodes have been penned by Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies.

"I asked them if they had all the stories in place and when they said no, I approached Russell to ask if he would do it," says Bernard.

"It was a change for him, to write for such a young audience but his stories are lovely."

It is hard to believe that Bernard, who is 84, celebrates 70 years in "the showbiz" on January 4.

"I know - 70 years as a professional artiste," he jokes.

"I'm just glad people still employ old actors."

It was one of his school teachers who suggested he take up acting, and at the age of 13, he was offered a job at Oldham Rep in his home town.

"It was assistant stage manager, plus any small parts that came up, and I got paid 15 shillings a week," he says.

"That wouldn't happen nowadays, would it? There would be letters to parliament and everything."

His career has encompassed everything from Carry On Films to novelty hit records, from Fawlty Towers to, of course, the Wombles and Jackanory.

"Children's television – all television – is much noisier than it used to be," he smiles.

"Everyone's rushing around, everything's so busy and it's all CGI and animation and graphics. But I love being back and Old Jack's Boat is a smashing series.

"I think there will always be a place for storytelling – that idea that you are sitting down, talking to one child.

"The illustrations on the series are wonderful too – and I get to show off all my voices, of course."

Apart from the British Meat-inspired appearance on Sauchiehall Street, and a few early runs of stage shows before they opened in London, Bernard admits he has not appeared on stage much north of the border.

"I did do the Edinburgh Festival once, with a small company called the Piccolo Players," he recalls.

"We did a play about Mary Queen of Scots, at the Pleasance Church, and it was a very poor time of our lives.

"We slept in the church attic, and ate white pudding and chips for dinner. But I'd love to come back and work in Glasgow."

Bernard admits he is regularly recognised and asked to do the Wombles voices.

"It's very gratifying that people loved the show so much, and remember it," he smiles.

"It's the same with Jackanory – you don't realise just how much impact these shows had on the children watching them.

"I remember getting into a taxi once in east London, and the young driver telling me that it was Jackanory that had made him want to learn to read."

He adds: "That just stopped me in my tracks. And I thought – it works. Which is why I think shows like Old Jack's Boat are still relevant and important."

Bernard plans to continue working and says he will "see what the new year brings" in terms of future projects.

"It's called ducking and diving," he laughs. "Don't stop moving, and they can't catch up with you! I love what I do, and I have been very lucky to be able to do so many different things. I hope that continues."

He smiles: "I'm not planning a big party to celebrate my 70th year in acting. Just being in work on January 4, and still enjoying it, is reason enough to celebrate, don't you think?"

n Old Jack's Boat starts on January 21 on CBeebies.


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