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28 October 2014
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    Inside Out - West: Monday September 19, 2005



Plasticine animated by Aardman and Nick Park

For many of us Plasticine is a toy which we grew up with during our childhood.

Its malleable form meant that it helped shape our growing imaginations.

Plasticine was invented in Bath and made famous in Bristol, but where is it now?

Inside Out West uncovers the fascinating history of one of Britain's most enduring toys.

It all started with the frustrations of a Victorian art teacher, William Harbutt.

He invented an oil based modelling clay for his sculpture students to stop their work drying out too quickly.

It was only when his children started playing with plasticine at home that he realised it might have wider appeal.

Small scale production began in a basement in Bath, using a garden roller to flatten out the clay.

Within four years, production moved to Harbutt's first factory in Bathampton.

Hundreds of uses for plasticine were found, but it was TV producers in Bristol who brought it international fame.

The animated children's character Morph was modelled from plasticine.

The same techniques are still being used today by Aardman to create the characters in the new Wallace and Gromit feature film.

In the early 1980s Harbutts were taken over and the Bathampton factory was closed down.

The Harbutts name disappeared from the packaging and production was moved overseas. Sales plummeted.


Some claim Plasticine was invented by Franz Kolb of Munich, Germany in 1880. He sold "Kunst-Modellierton" ("art-model-hone"). His invention was similar, but not the same.

Plasticine was invented by art teacher William Harbutt of Bathampton, near Bath, as a substitute for clay, in 1897.

Plasticine is popular as a teaching tool for its soft and non-hardening characteristics.

Plasticine has been on sale to the public since 1908.

Now though, a deal has been struck with a company that specialises in breathing new life into classic toys.

Plasticine is being re-marketed to try to bring about a nostalgic revival.

The new look Plasticine should soon be reappearing in toy shops across the country.

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Land yachting

If you've ever been to the beach at Brean, you'll know it can be a nightmare when the tide goes out.

The Somerset resort is quite a challenge for swimmers who sometimes face a long walk just to reach the water's edge.

But the vast expanses of empty sand are perfect for the burgeoning sport of land yachting.

The club at Brean has been going since September 1970 and meets every Sunday.

The club is home to some of the best sailors in the country.

Inside Out West follows husband and wife team Ron and Caroline as they compete in the British Championships on the Wirral.

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Junior Saunders
Junior Saunders - face of the Bristol foster carers campaign

Inside Out West reports on the campaign to find more foster carers for Bristol's teenagers.

Fostering is a way of providing a family life for children who cannot live with their own parents.

It is often used to provide temporary care while parents get help sorting out problems, take a break, or to help children or young people through a difficult period in their lives.


Types of foster care include:

* Emergency - where children need somewhere safe to stay for a few days.

* Short-term - carers look after children for a few weeks or months, while plans are made for the child's future.

* Short-breaks - disabled children or children with special needs or behavioural difficulties enjoy a short stay on a regular basis with a new family whilst their parents or carers have a short break.

* Remand fostering - young people are "remanded" by the court to the care of a specially trained foster carer.

* Long-term - not all children who cannot return to their own families want to be adopted, especially older children or those who continue to have regular contact with relatives. These children live with long-term carers until adulthood.

* "Family and friends" or "kinship" fostering - where children who are looked after by a local authority are cared for by people they already know.

* Private fostering - where the parents make an arrangement for the child to stay with someone else who is not a close relative for more than 27 days.

Source: British Association for Adoption and Fostering

There are more than 300 teenagers in care in Bristol but not all of them are looked after by “in-house” council carers.

Often children will return home once the problems that caused them to come into foster care have been resolved and it is clear that parents are able to look after them safely.

Others may stay in long-term foster care, some may be adopted, and others will move on to live independently.

Foster carers are needed from all walks of life as long as they are over 21.

Carers can be male, female, single, married, living with a partner, employed, unemployed, a house owner or a tenant, with or without children, gay or straight.

Becoming a carer...

Fostering is a unique way of making a positive difference to the life of a young person.

It can be both rewarding and challenging.

Anyone interested in becoming a foster carer with the skills to look after a teenager should contact the following number:

Bristol City Family Placement Team on 0117 954 8545.

Alternatively visit the City Council's website below.

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