2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Television

Jackanory is a long-running BBC children's television series that was designed to stimulate an interest in reading. It began on 13 December 1965, the first story being the fairy-tale Cap o' Rushes read by Lee Montague, it was believed that the last ever episode was on 24 March 1996, clocking up around 3,500 episodes in that time, but the series returned on 27 November 2006.

The show's format, which hardly varied over the decades, involved an actor reading from famous children's novels or folk tales while seated in an armchair, although later episodes took the radical step of allowing the presenters to stand up. From time to time the scene being read would be illustrated by a specially-commissioned still drawing, often by Quentin Blake. Usually a single book would occupy five daily fifteen-minute episodes, from Monday to Friday. A few Jackanory stories took the form of a play rather than stories being read, in a series of 30-minute fully-cast and costumed dramas entitled Jackanory Playhouse. These included a dramatisation by Philip Glassborow of the comical A A Milne story, "The Princess Who Couldn't Laugh."

Origin of title

The show's title comes from an old English nursery rhyme:

I'll tell you a story
about Jack-a-nory;
and now my story's begun.
I'll tell you another
'bout Jack and his brother;
and now my story is done.


In November 2006 Jackanory returned with comedian John Sessions as the revived programme's first narrator reading The Lord of the Rings parody Muddle Earth, written by Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart. The second narrator was Sir Ben Kingsley, reading The Magician of Samarkand by Alan Temperley. They were broadcast in three 15 minute slots on CBBC and BBC One and later repeated entire on BBC One on consecutive Sundays The readings of Muddle Earth were heavily accompanied by animation and featured actors speaking lines, leading to criticism that the spirit of the original programme, a single voice telling a tale with minimum distraction, had been lost. (The Magician of Samarkand was a similar production, although without the actors speaking lines.)

Rather than a series of books taking a particular time slot consecutively for a number of weeks in the year, it is envisaged that new readings will be dropped into the schedule as specials from time to time at irregular intervals.

CBeebies will run a series of Jackanory Juniors daily .

List of readers

  • Tom Baker
  • Floella Benjamin
  • Alan Bennett
  • James Bolam
  • Helena Bonham Carter
  • Brian Cant
  • Bernard Cribbins (111 programmes)
  • Peter Davison
  • Judi Dench
  • Denholm Elliott
  • Clement Freud
  • John Grant (55 programmes reading his Little Nose stories)
  • Joyce Grenfell
  • Wendy Hiller
  • Michael Hordern
  • Jeremy Irons
  • Martin Jarvis
  • James Robertson Justice
  • Arthur Lowe
  • Joanna Lumley
  • Alfred Marks
  • Trevor Martin
  • Rik Mayall
  • Sylvester McCoy
  • Geraldine McEwan
  • Paul McGann
  • Ian McKellen
  • George Melly
  • Paul Merton
  • Spike Milligan
  • Lee Montague
  • Patrick Moore
  • Jon Pertwee
  • Miranda Richardson
  • Tony Robinson
  • Margaret Rutherford
  • Willie Rushton
  • Prunella Scales
  • Peter Sellers
  • Elaine Smith
  • Maggie Smith
  • Patrick Stewart
  • Elaine Stritch
  • H. E. Todd
  • Patrick Troughton
  • Billie Whitelaw
  • Kenneth Williams (69 programmes)
  • Wendy Wood ("Auntie Gwen")
  • and even Prince Charles (reading his own book The Old Man of Lochnagar).


  • Blur frontman Damon Albarn made reference to the show Jackanory in their first number one hit " Country House" in 1995. The lyrical passage is "He's got morning glory, life's a different story, everything's going jackanory"
  • Some master copies of Jackanory Playhouse were irretrievably disposed of by Adam Lee of the BBC archives in 1993.
  • Six actors who have played the Doctor in Doctor Who have recited Jackanory: Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davidson, Sylvester McCoy, and Paul McGann.
  • The series was cartoon-parodied on the 1989-1991 CITV series " Round the Bend", in a segment titled Nursery Crimes.


"Jackanory, jackanory" said by a someone in the sing-song tones of the theme tune indicates that he/she thinks that someone else is making up or "stretching" a story, i.e. lying.

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