Sunday, 18 January 2009

Tony Hart 1925-2009

It's been a week where people who influenced the popular culture of the world in which I was born and grew up have been dying - 'head Dalek' John Scott Martin, Patrick McGoohan, Angela Morley (composer of the ATV logo music, and much, much else), John Mortimer, David Vine, Ricardo Montalban. Now, Tony Hart has gone. I first remember him as a largely silent presence on Vision On, where only presenter Pat Keysell spoke for any length of time and with her microphone turned on, and where Tony Hart was the most respectable-looking of the anarchic forces of communication which Pat kept under the barest level of control. Later on, there were Take Hart and Hartbeat - Smart Hart was after my time and I hadn't realised that it had existed, though I knew that Smart continued the BBC children's television art tradition, including the Gallery. His contribution to Blue Peter as designer of the ship logo is well-known, but he was a guest presenter in that programme's early years as well.

Tony Hart visited the Oxford Union in early 1991, and kept a packed debating chamber of students absolutely rapt. We were the end of the Vision On generation, the first to know Morph, and listened to tales of his move from the army into television graphics - "Every few mornings I wake up thinking 'You're an officer, man! Is this any way to spend your life?' " (Yes! his listeners cried telepathically) - with recollections of how nice a person Colin Bennett was to work with, and carefully making sure that Peter Lord and David Sproxton received credit and praise as creators of Morph, often misattributed to Hart, including by the BBC today until Hart's former producer Christopher Pilkington corrected them on air. At one point, before telling an anecdote with post-watershed content, he asked "Are there any children in the audience?" and of course we all laughed self-consciously, because when he was there we were children again. A great communicator, who will be missed.