September 27, 2018
Author who created children’s TV shows including Rosie and Jim dies aged 85
Postman Pat creator John Cunliffe dies
John Cunliffe, the author and creator of the much-loved children’s TV shows Postman Pat, and Rosie and Jim, has died, aged 85.
Cunliffe’s family placed a death notice in their local newspaper, the Ilkley Gazette, announcing that he died on 20 September and was buried after a private funeral on Wednesday.
“[John Cunliffe] left his Ilkley home in a deluge of rain on Thursday 20 September, never to return,” read the notice. “Even the skies wept for John, the gifted creator of Postman Pat, Rosie and Jim and author of many earlier published collections of poetry and picture story books for children.”
Cunliffe created the character of Postman Pat Clifton and his black and white cat, Jess, who lived in the fictional village of Greendale after being inspired by his time living in the Lake District. He wrote the show on an old Triumph typewriter in the back bedroom of a house in Kendal and teamed up with the animator Ivor Wood, who had worked on the Magic Roundabout, The Herbs, The Wombles and Paddington Bear.
Cunliffe presented the BBC with 13 stories about Pat and Jess, which eventually aired in 1981 and would be the start of a children’s TV franchise worth millions. He continued to write books about Postman Pat but signed a deal which meant he didn’t have control over merchandising or the way the character would be developed on screen.
In 1994, Nick Davies wrote that when Cunliffe raised concerns about the direction his creation was going and the volume of promotional merchandise being created, he “protested quietly and was told to face commercial realities”.
Cunliffe was bullied as a child growing up in Colne, Lancashire. He created the idyllic life of Postman Pat and “a community where everyone was happy and nobody broke anybody else’s spectacles for the sheer pleasure of it”, in part as a response to his childhood.
His other major success was Rosie and Jim, a show about a pair of rag dolls “who gently meandered around the British countryside on a canalboat”. It was produced by Ragdoll, the same company that went on to produce Teletubbies.
Cunliffe is survived by his wife, Sylvia, and son, Edward.
A spokesman for Royal Mail said: “Royal Mail was saddened to hear of the death of John Cunliffe.
“He created a character loved by young and old alike, while highlighting the unique role that postmen and women, in their red vans, play in communities across the country.”
Director of BBC Children’s Alice Webb said: “We are saddened to hear the news of John’s death. Postman Pat has been a hugely popular character on the BBC for nearly 40 years and was an absolute favourite from my own childhood. Postman Pat’s enduring popularity speaks to the genuine charm and warmth that John imbued in the characters that populate Greendale.
“It’s a world you’d like to be part of - a community that cares, is full of heart and full of fun - and that is a lovely thing to show audiences, both young and old.
“John created a real and relatable world that will continue to entertain our audience for a long time to come and I count myself lucky to be one of millions of children whose childhoods were enriched by John’s creations.”
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