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Trumpton Comes Alive!
Published on Saturday, 26 May 2012

3 stars

Latest Music Bar (venue website)
Run ended
Reviewed by Darren Taffinder

For those who didn’t grow up in the seventies, Trumpton was part of a trilogy of children’s programmes (alongside Camberwick Green and Chigley) – all set in the county of Trumptonshire, probably somewhere north of us. Not much happened in Trumptonshire; basically people went to work, and came home again. The show makes Postman Pat look high-octane. But its charm lay in its puppetry animation, and Freddie Phillips’s stripped-back, lo-fi music – each member of the Trumptonshire community had their own theme song that would play when they appeared.

Trumpton Comes Alive! is a great way to experience this music once again. There’s a strange, sad yearning about hearing the songs of your childhood, and during the show I could almost taste the Dandelion & Burdock my granny used to have delivered every week from the pop man. Camberwick Green starts with an image of a music box slowly spinning. “Here is a box, a musical box, wound up and ready to play. But this box has a secret inside. Can you guess what is in it today?” And one of the show’s characters – Windy Miller or Mickey Murphy the baker – would slowly emerge from out of it. If you want to see a grown man weep for his lost childhood just repeat these lines (and if you really want to see him break down, follow it up with the opening of Bagpuss).

Like the TV series itself, this is a gentle show – just two guitarists, a drummer and a vocalist. As an interesting side-note, one of the guitarists, Adrian Oxaal, was a member of indie band James in the late 90's to early noughties – a strange meeting of two bookends to my childhood, Camberwick Green and Madchester. Peppered throughout the show there are some interesting facts about Trumptonshire, and even though some of the songs felt a little underrehearsed, there was a nice easy vibe that I found really pleasant.

It’s easy to mock or add a layer of irony to these types of shows. After all, the seventies was a grim time for the UK, with strikes, punk, stagflation (a bit like now, in fact, except that punk’s turned into The X Factor). And there’s a lot to mock about Trumpton. As vocalist Glen Richardson pointed out, the county of Trumptonshire never really existed, and yet it now forms the basis of UKIP’s manifesto. In one episode it’s revealed that Windy Miller has a liking for his home-made very strong cider; I think they manage just the right knowing balance.

Interestingly, I remembered more of the music than I thought I would, as if it had tapped into some subconscious internal iTunes of the soul. But I’m not sure what it would be like if you hadn’t watched the show growing up. There were some children in our audience, and I overheard the women next to me admitting that they didn’t remember it at all.

Still, here’s the best compliment of all: after coming back home I spent an hour on YouTube looking at old clips.  So, great if you’re forty, and spent a lot time in front of the TV. If you were born in the eighties or grew-up in the sixties, bring your children or parents.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.