Listen with Mother was a BBC radio programme for children which ran between 16 January 1950 to 10 September 1982.[1] It was originally produced by Freda Lingstrom although for the majority of its run it was produced by George Dixon, and was presented over the years by Daphne Oxenford, Julia Lang, Eileen Browne, Dorothy Smith and others.[2]

History edit

It was first broadcast on 16 January 1950 on the BBC Light Programme in a fifteen-minute slot every weekday afternoon at 1.45, just before Woman's Hour. Consisting of stories, songs and nursery rhymes (often sung by Eileen Browne and George Dixon) for "mothers and children at home", at its peak it had an audience of more than a million listeners. Roger Fiske assisted with the music. From 7 September 1964 the programme moved to the BBC Home Service (later BBC Radio 4).

Listen with Mother's final week's programmes (widely reported in the press) featured Wriggly Worm stories, presented by Nerys Hughes and Tony Aitken and directed by David Bell. These stories were broadcast on the Listen with Mother programmes throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.

Listening Corner, which replaced Listen with Mother on 13 September 1982, began with repeats of the Wriggly Worm stories. Collections of Listen with Mother stories have been published by Hutchinsons/Random House. Two collections of Wriggly Worm stories ('Wonderful Wriggly Worm' and 'Wonderful Wriggly Worm Rides Again'), by Eugenie Summerfield, have been published by Book Guild. Listening Corner continued until 24 August 1990, ending three days before the launch of BBC Radio 5, which became the new home of children's radio programmes.

Theme music edit

At the start of each programme a short introduction on piano was played. The tune went to the rhythm of the words quarter to two, which of course was the time of the broadcast, and many children were helped in learning to tell the time by this ingenious device.[1]

A piece for piano duet, the Berceuse from Gabriel Fauré's Dolly Suite, Op. 56,[2] was played at the conclusion of each broadcast and became synonymous with the programme. It was recorded for the programme by Eileen Browne and Roger Fiske,[3] However Julia Lang, in an Anglia Television interview in the 1990s, said that during her tenure when she finished reading the story she had to get up (noiselessly), rush across to the piano in the studio and play the Berceuse live.

"Are you sitting comfortably?" edit

Each story on Listen with Mother opened with the phrase "Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin" (sometimes "...Then we'll begin").[4] The question, originally an ad lib by Julia Lang on 16 January 1950, became so well known that it appears in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations[1] It has been incorporated and sampled by many artists and musicians; for instance,

See also edit

  • Watch with Mother
  • Sandmännchen The West German equivalent to Listen with Mother, which starts with the opening "Nun, liebe Kinder, gebt fein Acht. Ich habe euch etwas mitgebracht" (Now, dear children, pay attention. I have brought you something) in the same way that Listen with Mother started "Are You Sitting Comfortably? Then I'll Begin".

References edit

  1. ^ a b "January Anniversaries: Listen with Mother 16 January 1950". The BBC Story. Archived from the original on 2014-01-09.
  2. ^ Whirlygig nostalgia site - Accessed 25 Jan 2011
  3. ^ Biddy Baxter. 'Eileen Browne obituary' in The Guardian, 5 May, 1999
  4. ^ "Are You Sitting Comfortably?". Random Radio Jottings. 8 August 2011. Retrieved 31 August 2015.

External links edit