CBBC Memories – Hart Beat.

Hart Beat (CBBC, 1984-1993)

Long before Bitsa, long before Smart, and long before even the great Art Attack, the most well-known figure who hosted shows about art on children’s TV was Tony Hart. He hosted a trilogy of memorable shows on CBBC, they were Vision On (1964-1976), still seen by many as the quintessential TV art show, Take Hart (1977-1983), and Hart Beat, which is the one that I remember watching, which just about carried on where the others left off.

By this point, Tony had worked in TV for many years, going all the way back to being the designer of the Blue Peter ship symbol. The basic idea behind Hart Beat was to show viewers how to be creative and offer some exciting ideas on how to make pictures using all kinds of materials in an entertaining way. All of the shows were based around a particular theme, and among the highlights was the opening sequence where the letters in the show’s name were spelt out in different artistic styles. vlcsnap-00545

Tony would also be joined by some female co-hosts, and over the years these included Gabrielle Bradshaw, Joanna Kirk, and Margot Wilson (who went on to host the similar CBBC show Artifax in the early-90s). Some of the most fondly-remembered features on the show included The Gallery, where viewers sent in their pictures to be reviewed (but sorry, none of them could be returned), and the animated adventures of the Plasticine character Morph. There would also be lots of other short animations shown from various artists. vlcsnap-00544

Most editions would also feature Tony creating a big picture from all types of things which was always a pleasure to watch as he was clearly a great talent. And of course, viewers could send off for a factsheet. There was also a rather unlikely comedy element to the show, as editions often ended with someone from behind the scenes, including Mr Bennett the bumbling caretaker or Elvira (not that Elvira!) having something of a mishap, meaning that Tony’s satisfaction at completing another great piece of work would be rather short-lived. vlcsnap-00504

Hart Beat would run for ten series, and it would be a big success. It definitely succeeded in the “I’d like to have a go at doing that” element with viewers. But when it came to an end, Tony still wasn’t done. In the mid-90s he returned with another CBBC show called The Artbox Bunch, and this was followed by the Smart spin-off Smart Hart, meaning that he was still appearing on children’s TV into the early-2000s, almost 40 years after the launch of Vision On.

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