Play School presenters were stoned, claims Johnny Ball
A generation’s childhoods suddenly became a little less innocent with the revelation that Play School presenters were often stoned when they made the classic shows for pre-school kids.
While children delighted in guessing whether the story would be through the round, square or arched window, it seems that the presenters of the show were having a few kaleidoscopic trips of their own.
The story emerges in a new documentary called Tales of TV Centre, to be screened on May 17. Spilling the beans was Johnny Ball, father of radio presenter Zoe. Play School ran from 1964 to 1988, but the "druggie years" started in the 60s.
"There was Rick Jones, Lionel Morton and myself," Ball recalled. "They got stoned on the biggest joint you've ever seen - in the studio. We were in silhouette as the three shepherds with our crooks. Lionel purposefully held his crook so the joint didn't show. They were absolutely stoned out of their minds." Ball, naturally, just said no. "I couldn’t work with it. I really couldn't."
The documentary reveals that Television Centre was a teeming hive of dope-smoking and bed-hopping for much of the 60s and 70s, with visiting bands rolling joints, Doctor Who cast members having sex in their dressing-rooms, and David Attenborough politely asking guests to waft their marijuana fumes in the other direction.
The Play School revelations are the most shocking though. Whether Humpty, Little Ted or Jemima were experimenting with mindbending substances is not revealed in the documentary, although Jemima’s chic hairstyle suggests she wasn’t unfamiliar with the counterculture.