Tickle On The Tum DVD review

An 80s children’s TV staple, how does Ralph McTell’s Tickle On The Tum, a mixture of storytelling and toe-tapping songs, stand up today? Here’s Mark’s DVD review…

When I mentioned Tickle On The Tum to DOG’s editor a while back, there was silence on the line. He genuinely had no idea what I was talking about while I sang “Tap tap tap with the hammer” down the phone, which was a shame as a) it made me sound like a blithering idiot and b) left me wondering if I was the only one who had fond memories of the show.

To the unitiated, Tickle On The Tum was an 80s children’s television series presented by folk singer Ralph McTell, who had previously appeared in kids’ show Alphabet Zoo alongside the mighty Nerys Hughes. Each episode took the same shape. Focussing in and around a convenience shop in the fictional country village of Tickle-On-The-Tum, a guest presenter would appear in the shop every week and recount a story to the viewers relating to an incident that had happened to them that week.

Then, Ralph’s musical brilliance would kick in as he sang a number relating to the story or the character. Putting those together with the excellent theme tune, McTell’s influence can be heard throughout.

At just ten minutes per episode, this is quick, instant gratification stuff, and highly memorable too. The reason behind that lies largely in McTell’s way with a tune, having you tapping your feet and humming along in no time at all.

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Truth be told, it was always the songs which I remembered most of all and on watching this first series again, I couldn’t help but smile at how quaint it all is. The show stands up well because it’s basically an exercise in storytelling and singing, something that all young children respond to. The stories too are solid, again harking back to an age when kids’ TV wasn’t all about loud bangs, lots of shouting and ultra bright colours.

Beyond those songs, there’s an awful lot of joy to be had star spotting, this first series featuring Bill Oddie, Penelope Keith and Kenny Lynch, among others. Each one has a natural capacity for storytelling, much in the same way as those appearing on Jackanory did. Indeed, the show owes much to the stripped-back charm of Jackanory and it’s hard not to feel enchanted by the episodes included here.

If you want to witness British children’s television at its very best, you can’t go far wrong with spending a tenner on this collection and your kids will love you for it. My only criticism would be that this doesn’t feature Tim Healy as Barney Bodger, the chap behind that genius hammer song, as he stars in later series. Shame.


Precious little extras are included, I’m sad to say. A documentary about the series would have been nice, as would an interview with Ralph or any of the guests about their time on the show. But there’s nothing like that here, or even the lyrics to some of the songs featured. Instead, there are print biographies of Ralph and the guests plus an image gallery. And that’s it.

What a missed opportunity.

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5 stars

Tickle On The Tum – The Complete Series One is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.


5 out of 5