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Sesame Street characters© 2019 Sesame Workshop

How do you get to Sesame Street? Now we know

At last, the legendary children’s show has a real home

Dave Fawbert
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The air is sweet, everything’s A-OK and friendly neighbours abound - yes, there’s no place that sounds quite as idyllic as Sesame Street. But, of course, while it's the setting for the longest-running national US children’s television series in history, it’s not actually a real place.

Until now, that is.

Because, after 50 years, it’s finally been revealed how you get to Sesame Street - and the answer is to head to West 63rd Street and Broadway in New York.

The city officially named the intersection 'Sesame Street' on Wednesday in honour of the show’s 50th anniversary year, with a public event featuring characters from the show including Big Bird, Elmo, Grover and Count von Count.

It wasn’t just furry celebrities in attendance, however, with the Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, on hand to oversee proceedings. Bill, nicknamed “Big Bird” by mayoral rival Bo Dietl in 2017 due to his 6ft 5in frame, joked to the crowd that he hoped to be “formally introduced to a long-lost relative of mine - his name is Bird Bird, you may have heard of him, never met him in person”.

He got his wish, saying that it was “such an honour after all these years”, in the process discovering that the bright yellow canary was the biggest bird in town (officially, he stands 8ft 2in tall).

Residents were delighted about the development, too, with photographer Jon Carmichael saying on Twitter that it was the “best morning ever”.

The show has been filmed at the Kaufman Astoria Studios in the New York borough of Queens since 1993 but, in the end, Manhattan was chosen to be the 'home' of Sesame Street.

The event is part of a planned year-long celebration by Sesame Workshop, the production house behind Sesame Street, for the show’s half century. The first episode of the show was broadcast on 10 November 1969, just under four months after the first moon landings.

The subsequent years saw the show gain popularity and acclaim in the US, and across the world, as it combined traditional educational goals like spelling, counting and reading, with tackling issues like racism, poverty and disability.

In 2002, Takalani Sesame, the South African edition of the show, introduced the first HIV-positive Muppet, Kami, in order to reflect the country's AIDS crisis.

After initial outcry from some US politicians, reaction died down while figures such as Kofi Annan, then Secretary-General of the UN, and US President Bill Clinton appeared on screen with the character.

In 2017, a new character called Julia, a four-year-old girl with autism, was introduced, to widespread praise, while Lily, a seven-year-old bright pink muppet, who has been on the show since 2011, became the first character to experience homelessness, at the end of last year.

However, the show sometimes came under fire as it tried to move with the times, being criticised early on for its portrayal of women and lack of Hispanic characters, which it subsequently addressed.

It even had a brief impact on British rave culture, when a 1992 remix of the show’s iconic theme tune, entitled Sesame’s Treet, went to number 2 in the UK singles chart. The video even featured a Sesame Street-style A to Z of the rave scene, with A apparently standing for 'Ardcore', H for 'Handz in the Air' and X for 'X-Press Yourself'.

The show was also in the news last year when one of the show’s former writers “confirmed” that the characters Bert and Ernie were gay - after many years of speculation by viewers. However, Sesame Workshop denied this, saying that the pair “do not have a sexual orientation” and “remain puppets”.

However, this isn’t the only children’s TV location that now exists in the real world - although not all of them are officially recognised on a map.

Teletubbyland might be a faraway place where the Teletubbies live, but it’s actually located in rural Warwickshire, England - at Sweet Knowle Farm in Whimpstone, a settlement near Stratford-upon-Avon. Since filming of the original series ended, however, the fixtures and fittings have been removed, and it appears to have been flooded to form a pond.

In The Night Garden, too, makes use of the Warwickshire countryside, being filmed in woods just outside Stratford-upon-Avon, near to the home of its creators, Ragdoll Productions.

For those who grew up following the goings-on at Grange Hill, a pilgrimage to the real schools used for external filming shots would take you a while - a host of schools located in London, Hatfield and Liverpool were used during the show’s 30-year run.

The famous Blue Peter garden was established in 1974 at the rear of Television Centre in London’s White City, designed by the legendary horticulturalist Percy Thrower. Despite an infamous vandalism incident in 1983, the garden was maintained until 2011, when the programme’s production moved to Salford and a second garden was officially opened in February 2012, featuring elements of the original, including a bronze statue of Petra the dog, the show’s first pet. The new garden is open for the public to visit outside MediaCity in Salford.

The original garden was sadly the victim of redevelopment work, with former presenter Konnie Huq tweeting her condolences in 2015.

Finally, the Island of Sodor that is home to Thomas the Tank Engine and his many friends, located in the series between the English mainland, near Barrow-in-Furness, and the Isle of Man, does not exist physically, but does exist in real life by name - as part of a religious area: the Diocese of Sodor and Man.

The Rev Wilbert Awdry, who created the series in 1945, then took this 'dormant' name and decided to use it to create his fictional island, with its capital Suddery, mountain named Culdee Fell (modelled on Snowdon, in Wales) and largest town, Tidmouth.

But, just to be clear, probably best not to try and visit Sodor in real life - unless you’re a very good swimmer.