Jackanory is a BBC children's television series which was originally broadcast between 1965 and 1996. It was designed to stimulate an interest in reading. The show was first transmitted on 13 December 1965, and the first story was the fairy-tale "Cap-o'-Rushes" read by Lee Montague. Jackanory continued to be broadcast until 1996, with around 3,500 episodes in its 30-year run. The final story, The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne, was read by Alan Bennett and broadcast on 24 March 1996. The show was briefly revived on 27 November 2006 for two one-off stories, and the format was revived as Jackanory Junior on CBeebies between 2007 and 2009.

A title frame from the 1960s (top, the same font continued to be used throughout the 1970s)
GenreChildren's television
Created byJoy Whitby
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes3640 (2330 missing)
Running time15 minutes
Original networkBBC1 (1965–96)
CBBC (2006)
Picture format405-line (1965–69)
PAL (576i) (1969–96)
Original release13 December 1965 (1965-12-13) 
24 March 1996 (1996-03-25)
Related showsJackanory Playhouse
Jackanory Junior

The show's format, which varied little over the decades, involved an actor reading from children's novels or folk tales, usually while seated in an armchair. From time to time the scene being read would be illustrated by a specially commissioned still drawing, often by Quentin Blake. Usually a single book would occupy five daily fifteen-minute episodes, from Monday to Friday.

A spin-off series was Jackanory Playhouse (1972–85), which was a series of thirty-minute dramatisations. These included a dramatisation by Philip Glassborow of the comical A. A. Milne story "The Princess Who Couldn't Laugh".


The show's title comes from an old English nursery rhyme:

I'll tell you a story
About Jack a Nory,
And now my story's begun;
I'll tell you another
Of Jack and his brother,
And now my story is done.[1]

The rhyme was first recorded in the publication The Top Book of All, for little Masters and Misses, which appeared about 1760.[1]


In November 2006 Jackanory briefly returned with comedian John Sessions as the revived programme's first narrator reading the Lord of the Rings parody Muddle Earth, written by Paul Stewart (and illustrator Chris Riddell). The second narrator was Sir Ben Kingsley, reading The Magician of Samarkand by Alan Temperley. They were broadcast in three 15 minute slots on CBBC and BBC One and later repeated in their entirety on BBC One on consecutive Sundays.[2] The readings of Muddle Earth were heavily accompanied by animation and featured John Sessions speaking the lines of all the animated characters (and occasionally reading those of Joe whenever he wasn't on-screen), leading to criticism that the spirit of the original programme, a single voice telling a tale with minimal distractions, had been lost. (The original series had occasionally included dramatised material, in e.g. 1984's Starstormers by Nicholas Fisk, and increasingly so towards the end of its run in the mid-1990s.) The Magician of Samarkand was a similar production, without additional actors speaking lines; Ben Kingsley read both the story and the lines of all the characters. Both of these stories were produced and directed by Nick Willing.[2][3]

Both stories were released on DVD in their entirety with added bonus features (galleries with images from the stories and a behind-the-scenes film for Muddle Earth).

Jackanory Junior

A version of Jackanory for younger children—called Jackanory Junior—was shown on CBeebies between 2007 and 2009.[4] The CBeebies Bedtime Stories strand continues the tradition of well-known actors and personalities reading stories directly to camera.[5]


A partial list of stories includes:

List of Jackanory episodes from 13 December 1965 to 21 January 1972

List of readers

Cultural influence

Philip Glenister, in character as Gene Hunt, made an appearance on Jackanory as the guest reader in the Ashes to Ashes series 2 finale, set in 1982, which Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) imagines being transmitted to her television set.[7]

"Jackanory, jackanory" said by someone in the sing-song tones of the theme tune indicates that they think that someone else is making up or "stretching" a story, i.e. lying.[8]

In 2013 the UK TV Network Dave launched Crackanory as an adult version Jackanory. Each Crackanory episode features two 15-minute tales narrated by contemporary comedians and actors, containing a mix of live action and animation as per the original.[9]


  1. I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd ed., 1997), p. 233.
  2. "BBC NEWS - Entertainment - Jackanory to return with Kingsley". bbc.co.uk.
  3. "Nick Willing". IMDb.
  4. "BBC - Press Office - Who's reading the story on Jackanory?". bbc.co.uk.
  5. "CBeebies Bedtime Stories". bbc.co.uk. 7 January 2018.
  6. "Stories from Russia (Jackanory Story Books): Amazon.co.uk: unknown: Books". amazon.co.uk.
  7. Jackanory With Gene Hunt. YouTube. 9 June 2009. Archived from the original on 18 December 2015.
  8. Cassell's Dictionary of Slang. Jonathon Green. Pub. Cassel & Co. ISBN 0-304-35167-9
  9. Powder Blue Internet Business Solutions. "Crackanory". chortle.co.uk.
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