Vision On

Vision On

"Vision On" was a British children's television programme, shown on BBC1 from 1964 to 1977 specifically for deaf children. It was conceived by BBC Producers Ursula Eason and developed by Patrick Dowling to replace a monthly series "For The Deaf", a programme paced slowly enough for children to read captions and subtitles. It was noted in surveys that a favourite for deaf children was "Top of the Pops" – not really surprising because it was lively and fast moving and even the profoundly deaf could still enjoy the music's thump. There was also disagreement as to whether lip-reading or sign-language was the more appropriate. But the replacement was to be entertainment not education, so a decision was made, except for one repeated statement, to abandon speech altogether, to severely limit the amount of text and to communicate in vision only.

The title "Vision On" referred to the illuminated sign in studios indicating that cameras were live. Normally, another sign - "Sound On" - would follow, but the titles for "Vision On" deliberately did not show this.

The aim was developed to entertain but also to encourage imaginativeness, with a fast paced flow of contrasted ideas, both sane and silly. This mixture was an apparent success as the series ran from 1964 to 1976 and, while retaining a commitment to the deaf, attracted a wider following and gained several awards including the international Prix Jeunesse and the BAFTA award for Specialised Programmes.

The presenters were Pat Keysell, an actress who also taught deaf children, and the artist Tony Hart who made pictures large and small in every conceivable medium and encouraged children to submit their own paintings to "The Gallery", which they did in their thousands. Others in vision included Ben Benison and Sylvester McCoy, both of whom specialized in mime in the series, and Wilf Makepeace Lunn, who appeared as an eccentric inventor of equally eccentric machines and David Cleveland who appeared in film sequences as the Prof. Many other contributors are listed in the [ "Vision On" website]

The programme logo is made up from the words of the title and its reflection. It was called “Grog” because it was not clear if it resembled a grasshopper or a frog.

Patrick Dowling who produced the series throughout eventually found the flow of new ideas became more and more difficult to sustain and after twelve years decided to close the programme down while it was still at its height. He continued with Tony Hart to make an arts programme called "Take Hart" retaining "The Gallery", which is still showing in the current BBC Children's programme SMart.


Vision On was co-produced in France with Radio-Diffusion and with CBC under the title "Déclic" and in Sweden as "Ögon Blik" - which were both equally wacky shows.

Elsewhere in the world

It was shown in Australia and New Zealand and many other countries as well.

In the USA many PBS stations, as well as a few commercial stations, aired "Vision On" during the 1970s. Some of these stations, such as KOMO-TV in Seattle, taped their own episodes, which were seen along with the BBC-produced shows.

In Ontario, Canada, episodes were often shown on TVOntario, which could also be shown in the US.


Besides the scenes with Hart, Keysall and the others doing artwork (which in later years appeared on the screen as the artwork being made without any hands), Vision On had many memorable skits:
*"The Gallery" - A section consisting of artwork sent into the show by viewers. Often the artwork shown on a specific show coincided with the theme of the show, plus the name and age of the artist is shown. Often after the show is finished showing the Gallery, Keysall would thank everyone for sending in their pictures, and apologize for being unable to return them.
*"The Burbles" - A couple of unseen people living inside a grandfather clock who converse in speech bubbles, mainly telling puns. Occasionally you'll hear them speaking the lines like they're underwater, but other times it's just the speech bubbles.
*"The Prof" - A man in a white lab coat who is usually outdoors doing various humorous things.
*"Humphrey the Tortoise" - Much like the Burbles, Humphrey talks of something specific (usually a pun or joke) either to himself or someone else, however, it is only his words on the screen and never any kind of voice.
*"The Digger" - A cartoon man on a construction site digging far down into the dirt with a shovel until something interesting is dug up.
*"The Animated Clock" - An animated cuckoo clock that is either showing signs of trouble or whose parts come to life like a human being.
*"The Fuzzy Worm" - One running gag in later episodes involved one of the cast members frantically chasing a fuzzy worm trying to catch it to no avail and occasionally messing up the artwork of Hart and Keysall.


Despite its intended hearing-impaired audience, the show made extensive use of music for the benefit of hearing-enabled viewers watching the show. Notable themes included:
* The "Gallery" - "Cavatina" until "The Deer Hunter" adopted it. From this point "Left Bank Two" (Wayne Hill) was used instead.
* "The Burbles" theme, "Goofy" (Johns)
* "Humphrey the tortoise" theme, "Merry Ocarina" by Pierre Arvay
* Animated Clock scene used "Gurney Slade" by Max Harris.
* The opening theme was "Accroche-Toi, Caroline" (Vasori)
* The closing was "Java" recorded by Al Hirt


"Radio Times", 1964–1977

External links

* [ "Vision On" tribute site]
* [ British Film Institute Screen Online]
* [ Wayne Hill - "Left Bank Two"]

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