John Cunliffe, the writer and creator of the popular children’s TV shows Postman Pat and Rosie and Jim, has died.
The 85 year old author died at his home in Kendal, Cumbria, an area of the Lake District from which he took inspiration when creating Greendale, the home village of his most famed creation Postman Pat.
The show’s first episode was broadcast on September 16th, 1981 and the animated series has appeared in more than 50 countries. The hugely popular character became a staple of children’s television and found a home on the BBC for nearly 40 years.
News of his death has prompted an outpouring of tributes to the Lancashire born author.
Director of BBC Children’s, Alice Webb said that Postman Pat had been a “hugely popular character” thanks to the genuine charm and warmth that John imbued in all of those that populated Greendale.
“It’s a world you’d like to be a part of – a community that cares, full of heart and full of fun. I count myself lucky to be one of the millions of children whose childhoods were enriched by John’s creations.”
His creation also became the focus of a wide licensing programme that engaged pre-schoolers and families across the generations. It continues to do so today.
Pink Key’s Richard Pink, who had the pleasure of working with the Postman Pat license early on in his career, wrote the following:.
“I never met John Cunliffe, but I like millions of others knew his work and I’m the parent of children who loved what he did.
In an age of celebrity superstars, five minute wonders and people who shout the loudest John Cunliffe was an anomaly. Bearing in mind he was the creator of two of the most successful children’s programmes in the last twenty years years, his profile was lower than other creators of the same ilk.
“I’d hazard a guess that very few people could spontaneously say who the creator of Postman Pat and Rosie and Jim was, but my first experience of John was when I was told that ‘John who drives the boat’ on Rosie and Jim (which my kids were obsessed with) was not only the writer of the series but also the creator of Postman Pat – a brand I was about to start licensing.
“Surely, I thought, a brand with that kind of profile was written by committee or by some household name; but no, it was indeed John.
“The brand changed a lot in its transition to the TV programme and film based property it has become, but my understanding was always that John was there in the background to ensure that it never strayed too far from the principles that were behind his original writings.
“My impression, rightly or wrongly, was John was a man happy with his lot, he’d written some children’s stories and he was more than happy for them to be as widely appreciated as they possibly could be, by handing them over to people who could bring them to a much bigger audience.
“But that world wasn’t for him, he was content to be ‘John who drives the boat’. However whenever upstarts like me were trying licence his brand, you would always know that although he wasn’t present in the meetings, his hand was always on the tiller to make sure that no one moved his creations too far away from what he intended.
“A clever, caring, creative man, born out of a gentler time.”