Tuesday 9 August 2022

Random Episode: Our Backyard (19/06/1985)

In this edition of Random Episode, Ben Ricketts sniffs out an elusive episode of the mid-1980s lunchtime children's programme Our Backyard.

Produced by Granada Television for ITV, Our Backyard ran for 52 episodes over the course of two series between 1984 - 85. And yet, despite a healthy a number of episodes airing, very little is known about the programme. All that exists online are a handful of vague recollections and the opening titles on YouTube. But surely I, with my curious memory, remember Our Backyard and have a rich set of memories with which to expand on its story. Well, no. Although it's plausible I sat in front of the TV and watched it, I can't remember a single thing about Our Backyard.

Curious British Telly, however, doesn't like to leave its readers bereft of hard evidence and insights regarding forgotten shows. Therefore, I decided it was high time I dug deep and presented something on Our Backyard. Unfortunately, footage is scarce, very scarce. But not non-existent. I have, in fact, had contact with someone directly involved in the production, and they've confirmed they still hold copies of multiple episodes. At the moment, though, no copies have exchanged hands, but there's a chance something will happen in the future. Thankfully, the BFI hold a single episode in their archives and, yesterday, I headed down there to watch it.

The episode of Our Backyard which features at the heart of this edition of Random Episode is entitled The Picture Show, an episode which kickstarted the second series on 19th June 1985. As with all episodes, it centres around the goings on in the backyard of a Northern household where Jean Burston and her young daughter Laura live with their friend Peter Lorenzelli.

The Picture Show starts with Peter taking the washing off the line and folding it up ready to iron. Peter's folding antics don't go unnoticed by Jean and Laura who are doing some painting. With this inspiration in place, Jean instructs Laura to fold a piece of paper in half and cover one half in blobs of paint. This alone would be rather unremarkable, but Jean then reveals that the magic comes when you press the two halves together to create a butterfly effect. Peter, not to be outdone, then demonstrates that by dipping pieces of string in paint, sandwiching them between a piece of paper folded in half and then pulling the string out, you can create some wavy patterns - or what Laura says looks like "mittens".

Peter takes these paintings to hang up on the washing line, so they can dry, and whilst he's busy with a pair of pegs, it's time to introduce the puppet section of the series. Boris and Doris Macaroni are an elderly pair of puppets - operated by the black light puppet maestros Susan Kodicek and Ros Cerny - who either live next door or in Jean and Peter's house, it's not entirely clear from this episode.

Anyway, Doris is intrigued by the paintings that Peter is hanging up and resolves to head inside and paint a picture. However, disaster strikes when she knocks her green paint all over a cushion and Doris is left distraught. Luckily, Boris soon turns up and, with all the expertise of a seasoned spouse, firstly cheers her up with a quick hand puppet show and then reassures her that the stain is, in fact, a rather pretty pattern and a sense of joy returns to their lives.

Back to the yard, and Peter is now busy ironing with, what must be said, a rather splendid Morphy Richards iron of the era, all whites, browns and chunky orange buttons. We have to watch Peter ironing for probably a minute too long, but this chore soon turns into a wonderful song entitled The Ironing Song with choice lyrics such as "Iron to the left, iron to right, see the washing clean and bright". As Peter sings and irons, two members from The Band Next Door emerge from underneath a wooden table in the background to wreak havoc with Peter's ironing - covertly sneaking ironed items back into Peter's 'to iron' pile.

With Peter's ironing, eventually, completed, it's time to wrap up the episode. Laura and Jean just have time to demonstrate another method of painting, this time it's the old 'blowing paint across a piece of paper with a straw' technique. Peter hangs this final picture up on the washing line and then it's time for the end credits, over which a cheery "Goodbye from Our Backyard" song plays.

Our Backyard, judging by this episode, is a typical mid-1980s pre-schooler's programme and provides a nice accompaniment from the big hitters of the era. I've always been a big fan of Kodicek and Cerny's puppetry, so it's fantastic to see some more of their work, especially when it's ingrained with their idiosyncratic charm. But Our Backyard is more than just this puppet interstitial. There are songs to sing along with, activities which can easily be transferred into the hands of any young viewers at home and, most importantly, a pair of leads who bring a familial charm to the series. Hopefully, one day, I'll get to see a few more episodes and write a more in-depth article.


  1. Interesting fact, the drummer John from the Band Next Door was John Mylett from NWOBHM band Rage, who sadly died in a car crash in 1984. He was a good friend of Fish from Marillion who memorialised him in the song Blind Curbe on their Misplaced Childhood album (the one with Kayleigh on it)

  2. Hi Ben, there are a few episodes of Our Backyard available on YouTube. ADC Collection recorded 13 episodes from series one…👍🏻

    1. Yes, I saw them a while back, but thanks for mentioning it. I think they came from a repeat run on a cable channel many years ago, I had no idea they'd received another airing so long after the original run!