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28 October 2014

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Cumbria on film

You are in: Cumbria > History > History features > Cumbria on film > Postman Pat

Postman Pat

Postman Pat

Read author John Cunliffe's account of finding inspiration for his stories in Kendal.

Greendale, the village where Postman Pat delivers his mail, may be a model but it’s based on Longsleddale near Kendal. The narrow, twisting roads and sheep frequently featuring in storylines are a giveaway that it’s Cumbria.

Postman Pat's creator, John Cunliffe, dreamed up the stories while he lived in Kendal.

John Cunliffe has become a local celebrity and had a room at Kendal’s Museum of Lakeland Life devoted to him. This was closed down but Cunliffe still has a presence in Kendal - you can see him in the centre of the Millennium Frieze on display in Kendal Library.

Postman Pat is nearly 25 years old. In November 2001, Ivor Wood sold his company which produced the show for £5.1m.

Postman Pat and Jess

Postman Pat and Jess

John Cunliffe tells us about the creation of Postman Pat.

I love Cumbria, and every part of the Lake District, and wish I still lived there. I'm not so far away, in Yorkshire, but I still dream of the days I spent walking over the hills and mountains of Cumbria.

An education in Kendal

I lived in a small terraced cottage on Greenside, up the hill from Kendal Town Hall. There was a little post-office at the end of my street in Kendal, and I often chatted to the friendly man who kept the shop.

He told me quite a bit about how the country postmen go about their work, and that went into my writing.

But it was Molly Clifton who gave me most help. She was a teacher at Castle Park School, where I was in my first teaching job, and she had many friends in farming.

Real life research

She spent a day, taking me around farms in the Kendal area, introducing me to the people, giving me a wonderful insight into their way of life.

I soon saw what wonderful people they were; friendly and hospitable; always ready to help, or to offer a cup of tea to the thirsty traveller.

Postman Pat stage show

They were very much in my mind when I sat down to draw the map of Greendale, and to people it with farmers and their families, the post-mistress, Ted Glen, Granny Dryden, and all the others, and to write my stories about them.

Delivering a service

Thirty years before I wrote Postman Pat, I ran the Wooler mobile library service in Northumberland. This experience contributed a great deal to the TV series as well.

Like Pat, I travelled around a rural area, and met a great many farmers and other rural dwellers, who were kind and generous in the way that the people of Greendale are. It was all there, in my memory.

So Greendale is Northumberland as well as Cumbria; but Cumbria takes the lead, as that is where I set it, and where I wrote it.

Push in the right direction

There was another person in Kendal who was even more important in the birth of Postman Pat. She was the parent of one of the children in my class. (I've forgotten her name.)

One day, she came into school, and said to me,
"You write stories for children, don't you ?"
"Yes," I said. "I do."
"Well, I heard a talk last night, given by a lady from the BBC. She said they were looking for new writers, for a new TV series. Why don't you send her some of your books?"
So I did just that.

Then, there was a job advertised for a producer for children's programmes, and I applied for it.

Wrong job but the right time

To my surprise, I was invited to London for an interview. This turned out to be with the same lady from the BBC, Cynthia Felgate.

She did not offer me the job, but she said,
"We would like to work with you as a writer. We want to start a new series for pre-school children, set in the countryside. Do you think you could write it ?"
"Yes," I said, wondering if I could..."What about having a post-man as the central character ?"
"Sounds good," she said.

I went back to Kendal, and sat down to create Postman Pat... and the rest is history! That's how it happened.

last updated: 20/05/2008 at 15:42
created: 30/03/2006

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