Beginning in November 1950, Whirligig was billed in the Radio Times as "the first Children's Variety Magazine Programme." The series was broadcast live from the BBC's Lime Grove stuios and alternated every other Saturday afternoon with, at first, Telescope, and later, The Saturday Special. Whirligig was devised by Michael Westmore and fronted by Humphrey Lestocq with the help, or more precisely, the hinderance of a string puppet called Mr Turnip, who was manipulated by puppeteer Joy Laurey and voiced by Peter Hawkins (Laurey, Lestocq and Hawkins are pictured with Mr Turnip).
The series pinned its faith in the love of children for fun, magic and blood-and-thunder thrills. For the latter of these children were invited to write their own potted thrillers in a section called (appropriately) Write It Yourself. Other features included Box of Tricks (a conjuring slot) and a Western strip cartoon Hank Rides Again. Other Whirligig regulars were Steve Race at the piano and Edmundo Ros featuring in Room for Music while Rolf Harris made his TV debut with Willoughby, a drawing board character which sprang to life. There was also a helicopter-themed travel quiz called Flying Visit which transported viewers over seas as well as through years gone by.
(The above picture shows puppeteer Joy Laurey, Mr Turnip, Humphrey Lestocq and Peter Hawkins).
Published on February 12th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.