Brian Cant has managed to be an integral part of no fewer than five television shows that are now part of modern folklore: Play School, Camberwick Green, Trumpton, Chigley and Play Away. He was a fundamental, and fondly remembered, part of the early years of millions of children in the UK and around the world. He was, for most of the 1970s, the nation’s storyteller. And that isn't just my view, his has just been voted the best loved children's television voice of all time in one of those polls that mean nothing unless they come up with a result you agree with.
A printer by training, Cant was playing around at amateur dramatics when he was offered a professional acting job and quit work the next day. After some time as a jobbing actor he auditioned for a new BBC children’s show called Play School and there began his stint in living rooms across the land.
Following an early period of heavily scripted shows, Cant got more involved in the production of Play School and ended up writing whole weeks of episodes. These were never live, as many people assume, but recorded a week ahead.
His appearances on Play School landed him some voiceover work for Gordon Murray and Freddie Phillips who were putting together an animated series for the BBC called Camberwick Green. This was such a success that he was asked back to do the same for Trumpton and Chigley. Recording his material in a converted broom cupboard, Cant didn’t get to see the animations at the time and, to this day, has not seen every episode from the series.
Play Away evolved from Play School and was aimed at older children and recorded in front of a live studio audience. During his time on that show he worked alongside actors such as Jeremy Irons and Tony Robinson, both of whom went on to enjoy success with an adult audience, but Cant will stay remembered for his work in children’s television. Still acting today, he appears regularly on stage up and down the country.
Personally I think it is about time that his significant achievements, and his place in the memories of millions, were recognised with an honour. Perhaps a knighthood is out of his reach but an OBE or something like that wouldn’t be too much to ask, would it?