Thursday, 6 August 2015

Theme Time : UB40 - You and Me

A BBC Schools programme that ran from 1974 to 1995, You and Me consisted of various segments intending to educate and entertain young viewers and aid their development in terms of literacy and numeracy, emotional and social education as per the 1978 Warnock Report into Special Educational Needs and from lessons learnt with the American children's series Sesame Street.

Being born in 1979, it was the 1980s era of You and Me that I recall the most and with great fondness. It was early January 1983 that heralded the arrival of the puppets Cosmo and Dibs to the show and the Radio Times described it thus; "10.00 (New series) You and Me. A series for 4 and 5-year-olds. The new puppets Cosmo and Dibs introduce themselves to Maggie Ollerenshaw and we find out about living on a narrow boat." 

Cosmo and Dibbs probably mean nothing to anyone under the age of 30, so allow to explain. These were two puppets of an an uncategorisable animal species; Cosmo, a female, hailed from the North East of England, and Dibs, was a male, from London. Great friends, they lived on a street market in the capital. They were voiced and puppetteered by Frances Kay and Francis Wright and the puppets themselves were created by Muppets-maker Tim Rose. Presenters of the show, ie the adult companions of Cosmo and Dibs, were regularly rotated and included the likes of Annette Badland, Harry Towb, Larrington Walker (who played Ezra in recent Theme Time offering The Chinese Detective), Maggie Ollerenshaw, Gary Wilmot and Jeni Barnett to name but a few. YouTube has a great 10 minute video of Wilmot and Barnett filming on the studio floor which I'll share here;

The set was based on a street market in London’s Shepherd's Bush which the Lime Grove studios that the show was originally filmed at had overlooked. Each 15 minute programme would feature a 5 minute sketch with Cosmo and Dibs on an area that would specifically interest, inform, entertain and educate a child in a non patronising way, with topics including sharing, eating,  arguing, bullying, sleeping, bereavement, dressing up, being silly, having a row, make-believe, making poetry  and safety (with one aspect boldly focusing on child abuse to the acclaim of children's charity Kidscape) Songs and stories were always included, with an emphasis on cultural diversity which marked You and Me out as special, as this was one of the few programmes at the time to do this with documentary films on the like of the Notting Hill Carnival that helped explore the contemporary ethnically diverse UK of the 1980s on such subjects as the Notting Hill Carnival. 

The theme tune's simple lyrics were;

"You and me,
Me and you,
Lots and lots for you to do,
Lots and lots for you to see,
Me and you, you and me..."

The show's theme was written by Charley Dore, Julian Littman and Karl Johnson and an acoustic version was used up until Cosmo and Dibs' arrival in 1983 when the theme was revamped as a reggae version performed by chart toppers of the day, UB40; a cache for infant kids to have their programme's theme tune provided by a group in their big brother or sister's record collection. Indeed it was heavily redolent of their Cherry Oh Baby from the same year.

Their version of the theme remained until the programme's end in 1995. Also that year, Oasis riffed on the lyrics with their song She's Electric which included this refrain;

"Cos I'll be you and you'll be me
There's lots and lots for us to see
Lots and lots for us to do"

By the 1990s the programme became an independent production and the last two series, the street market disappeared and was replaced by a less adventurous, more adult-controlled colourful domestic home setting, with two additional characters called Baxter and Spike joining the programme. The format changed with the episode length reduced to 5 minutes and dealt with more common everyday matter. It was time for You and Me to come to a close.

1 comment:

  1. Being well over 30, I don't recall this at all, even though my eldest would have been the right age for it. Thanks for the info, though. Nice.