Look and Read: Cloud Burst
Cloud Burst is a unit of the BBC schools TV series Look and Read from the 1970s, covering Language and Reading for primary school pupils.
Look and Read's golden era begins with this classic cautionery tale, the first under producer Sue Weeks - drafted in at quite short notice to begin work on the series she would guide for the next 18 years.
Three great Look and Read staples were introduced in this story - the teaching segments introduce a funny little orange man called Wordy; the lead singer for the first time is Derek Griffiths; and each episode is introduced by the famous "Look and Read Eyes" animation ending with the programme's logo displayed in a large circle, which would also last for the next 18 years.
Some of the teaching content was dismissed as "ponderous and less than memorable" even when the series was first shown in 1974, but the thrilling adventure story is filmed in such an ambitious and visually interesting way that Cloud Burst is a viewers' favourite.
Two kids go looking for their crashed toy plane on the fens and meet a foreign scientist - Ram Pandit - who is working on a secret invention. The kids step in to help when some baddies, including one very familiar face, resort to subterfuge and kidnapping in their attempts to get hold of the invention.
A more detailed guide to the story - giving away the whole plot including the ending - can be read in the episode listings below.
Thematically the story considers the idea that technology could be used for good or evil purposes, as Ram Pandit wants to use his rain-gun to make land fertile in India and feed the starving, and Ravi Pandit wants to use his rain-gun to destroy the Fens and hold Britain to ransom. In an interview years later the writer Richard Carpenter said that he "was getting at nuclear energy, really."
The Teaching Middles
The story's author Richard Carpenter, also a seasoned actor and regular presenter of Merry Go Round programmes, introduces the story from his study. He has a television screen (actually a prop done with back projection) on which to watch clips from the film and documentaries. He also has a typewriter where a little orange man called Mr Watchword, or Wordy for short, lives.
|1.||Out of Control||24 Sep 1974|
|2.||Ram Pandit||1 Oct 1974|
|3.||RAV1||8 Oct 1974|
|4.||The Gas-gun||15 Oct 1974|
|5.||In The Hut||22 Oct 1974|
|6.||The Secret||5 Nov 1974|
|7.||To The Mill!||12 Nov 1974|
|8.||The Signal||19 Nov 1974|
|9.||Escape||26 Nov 1974|
|10.||Fire The Rockets!||3 Dec 1974|
And more detail
|1.||Out of Control||24 Sep 1974|
The children set off again on their bikes, with a large wooden box attached to the back of Jenny's bike. They ride to an old, disused airfield near Downham, where Jenny checks the wind and declares it to be just right. Then they open the box from Jenny's bike and begin assembling it's contents - a big red model plane that Jenny had built.
Watching the story from his study is Richard Carpenter, the author. He shows us the "book of the film" (the pupil's pamphlet) with his name on it and the title. He isn't going to tell us what the title means at the moment, but for a clue reminds us of the big flood gates which keep the Fens safe from floods. He remembers the floods in the area from when he was a boy.
Richard goes to get on writing the story at his typewriter, but a funny little man suddenly appears from out of it. The man introduces himself as Mr Watchword - Wordy for short - and says he has been keeping a close eye on the words from the story, and wants to show us some examples. So we follow him into his typewriter world.
After introducing us to the sound "i" with a song, Wordy starts taking some words out of his Big Box. All the words begin with B, and Wordy notices that one of the words (Burst out of the title of the story) begins with a capital letter - though we still pronounce it just the same as a small "b".
Wordy pops back out to tell Richard that he is tired and going to sleep. Richard decides he'd better not use the typewriter for a bit, so he takes us back to reading his book, pointing out that Jenny is telling the story.
Jenny is explaining to Tim how the radio control unit (not control box as he vulgarly called it) for her plane works: the control unit sends signals to the plane to make the rudder turn. To get it going, they have to start the motor by rotation the propeller blades. They eventually get it to start but the control unit doesn't seem to be working and it soon crashes. Jenny thinks the radio signal isn't getting to the plane, but when Tim fetches it over, the rudder seems to be turning perfectly.They send the plane off again and this time it works perfectly. Tim has a go on the controls. He tries to make it turn, but the plane flies straight on and out of sight beyond some trees and an aerial on the top of a house. The children hurridly get on their bikes and dash off in the direction of the plane. They don't notice that the man on the motorbike is watching them from a distance.
|2.||Ram Pandit||1 Oct 1974|
Jenny and Tim meanwhile are snooping around in the trees looking for the plane - Jenny is very upset. Tim thinks he's spotted it at one point, but it just turns out to be an old bit of orange paper - Jenny is still very upset.
A lady bicycles past the children along the lane. They go on looking for the plane and come up to a wall around the garden of a house. Tim reckons the plane must have gone inside and climbs up the wall to have a look. Jenny is at first outraged that he would go trespassing, but is persuaded to join him when Tim says that no-one lives in the house. They split up to investigate the garden, and Jenny spots it at the bottom of a tree.
Tim meanwhile has gone to have a look at the house - which has the big aerial on top. He peeps into one of the windows and sees a light inside, showing that someone is living there after all. Jenny comes over to fetch him, but as they turn around they find a man standing behind them.
On the subject of Jenny: she's got a "y" in her name. There's a song about the "y" sound as well. Next, Wordy's got hold of a radio control unit and starts sending signals and controlling words like 'suddenly' and 'Sunday' - which has a capital letter but makes the same sound. He puts all his "s" words together into a tongue twister:
Finally there is a 'word puzzle' for us to try - a crossword to assemble. Richard says that crosswords are fun, and that there are some more to try in the teachers' notes.
Wordy pops back up with a special badge with his picture and the motif "I AM A WORD WATCHER" which he hands to Richard. Richard is pleased to accept it, then returns to reading his book, where Jenny is telling the story.
Just then a woman walks up - the woman they had seen on her bike outside the wall - saying that she can't get into the laboratory to do the house work. Ram gives the lady a key and she walks off, then he explains to the children that she is Mrs Green from Fenham, their housekeeper.
Next a man comes walking up and starts talking to Ram about an idea he's had while out walking, until Ram shuts him up with a finger to the mouth and a nod towards the children. Ram introduces the man as Dick Turner, his friend, and reveals that both of them are scientists. He invites the children to come inside and meet the other scientist, whom they keep locked up in the laboratory.
Inside the laboratory, Mrs Green is busy sweeping up. The children look around the laboratory and Tim remarks that this isn't the room with the light - drawing a worried glance between Dick and Ram. Ram shows them the other scientist: it's a huge computer taking up one wall of the laboratory. He presses a button on the computer and they read the message on screen - standing by.
|3.||RAV1||8 Oct 1974|
Mr Turner explains that the computer only knows what it's already been told. Ram types in "Who is Jenny Barber?" as an example, and when Jenny presses the yellow button this time, "no data" flashes on the screen. Then Mr Turner shows how the computer can store messages: He presses a red button above the keyboard and a message appears on screen "Don't forget to lock up when you go out." He turns the computer off by pressing the "power off" button, then back on again by pressing the (guess what?) "power on" button. Pressing the red message button again makes the computer display the message about locking up.
Mrs Green has finished for the day and leaves the laboratory, and Mr Turner goes after her with some letters that he wants her to post. Ram offers to mend Jenny's plane and invites the children to come back tomorrow, then he waves to them as they set off on their bikes. The man on the motorbike watches the children ride past from his shed and, as they cycle home, he rides along behind them on the other side of the river.
He gets the computer to make one word - 'him' - then changes the letters at the sides to alter the word to 'hill', then 'will'. By pulling the data strip in the middle, he can change the word into 'well.' Wordy thinks that's a "pretty good" computer, but he's got his own stuff to do.
Down in Wordyland, Wordy has a big heap of words to sort through, with help from Polly his pet parrot. Polly squawks when the word begins with a "p", and manages this job until we get to the word 'Pandit', because she's confused by the capital letter. Wordy puts together another tongue twister with his words:
Then we get another crossword containing 'Read' and 'Ram', and a wonderful song about the "a" sound (it needs an "a" to understand Pandit).
Stop, wordwatchers! It's time for another song, this one about "s" and "t" (stop around and hear that sound, stop around and stand your ground). Wordy sticks his "s" and "t" together with glue and puts the resulting pair into some words - 'stand', 'still' and 'burst'.
Richard takes us back over the last bit of reading, and when we return to the story this time, Tim is narrating.
The man on the motorbike suddenly charges past the children on a bridge and dives off across the countryside. When they get home, they mention their meeting with Ram and Mr Turner to their dad, but he is still busy working the lock gates and can't stop to talk. Jenny and Tim go in and start laying the table for dinner. They talk about the scientists that they met - Jenny thinks Ram is OK, but Tim wants to know more, especially about the room with the light.
The man on the motorbike is waiting by the side of the road when a big black car pulls up with the registration number RAV 1. The man takes one of the computer programs from Ram's laboratory out of his pocket and goes over to the car. As the window begins to open... could that be Ram Pandit inside?
|4.||The Gas-gun||15 Oct 1974|
|Number Three hands over the stolen computer program to the man in the car, who is identified as 'Number One'. Number One is now ready to begin Plan A. He drives off across the Fens, into town and through the gates of a large factory.
Number One says that Number Two and Number Three will have to go and get the firing program tomorrow. Number Two is worried about Ram Pandit, but Number One takes a silver gun out of his desk drawer. He passes this 'gas-gun' to Number Two, saying that no-one will stand in his way if he has the gun - not even Number One's 'dear brother Ram'.
A gas-gun? Nasty! Richard is interested to know who Number One really is - he looks and sounds like Ram Pandit, but he referred to 'my dear brother Ram.' So Number One is Ram Pandit's brother; a special kind of brother - Ram Pandit's twin brother. There is a clue for identifying Number One - he always wears a medallion with a big 1 on it. There is also a clue to Number One's real name - the registration plate RAV 1, but Richard leaves it to us to work out what that means. He also reminds us how to identify Number Two and Number Three.
There's a quick look at the apostrophe in Number One's phrase 'I can't have mistakes', then the song about the letter "a" again (it needs an "a" to understand Pandit).
Wordy gets his net out again and starts catching "e"s to put in words like 'fell', 'well' and 'get'. There's a story about two friends called "f" and "r" followed by a song about them (let's get together) then we return to Richard reading his book.
The next morning, Jenny and Tim talk to their dad, working on the locks as usual. Tim notices that the water level is up again, and Mr Barber says that he expects it to rain again. The kids set off for the scientists' house, while Mr Turner is setting off for a walk.
Number Two arrives in the car at the top of Ram's drive. He meets Number 3 and tells the motorcyclist to keep a look out, and radio him if anyone comes. Then Number Two drives on to the house.
Ram hears the car pulling up and goes to the window to have a look. He notices the registration number, and becomes very worried, gasping Ravi! to himself. He dashes back to the computer and starts typing in a message. Number Two bursts into the lab, sticks the gas-gun in Ram's face and pulls the trigger. A cloud of gas bursts out of the gun, and Ram collapses on the floor.
|5.||In The Hut||22 Oct 1974|
|With Ram Pandit collapsed and unconscious on the floor, Number Two begins searching around the lab for the firing program (still without removing his helmet). Outside, Number Three is crouching behind a tree on look-out duty and spots the children riding towards the house on their bikes. He urgently radios Number Two, who picks up Ram in a fireman's lift and dumps him in the car, not noticing that a key had fallen out of Ram's pocket on the way. As he drives off, Number Two stops to tell Number Three that he couldn't find the program, and tells him to get rid of the kids.
In Wordyland he reveals the secret to us - the mug is full of words with 'u' in them: cup, hut and so on. He also gets a gas-gun out and starts waving it about, pointing it at his words "just for fun". Next there's a song about the letter 'i' (hidden in the middle / it's a little i / it's a little, little thing).
Wordy has another look in his mug and gets some more words out of it, some of them quite long - such as rudder. He indicates the letters 'er' at the end of the words, and we get a song about that too (now the word is over, that is where they are / save 'er' until the end, to finish off forever).
There's a short animation sequence featuring a cat sat on a mat, gently purring to itself. A dog sits down and starts growling back at it, the sounds eventually forming themselves into words such as pretty, prince, growl and grunt. A crossword follows, featuring (Mrs) Green and (the plane's) rudder, and explaining the crossword technique of using already filled-in letters to work out unknown words.
Back outside, Richard decides to get on with the story. At the moment, he is narrating it.
Mrs Green thinks Ram and Dick may have gone to Cambridge, so they may be some time. They also mention the car which nearly killed them. The three go into the laboratory, but can't see the plane. Tim notices with suspicion the mess of computer programs on a table, and also that the computer is still turned on. Mrs Green turns it off, then tells the children that they will have to come back tomorrow to look for their plane, and ushers them out. As they are leaving, Tim spots the key on the floor. He picks it up and posts it back through the letterbox.
The children set off home, but it suddenly starts raining. They see a little hut close to the road and decide to shelter in it. As they open the door, they think that the man on the motorbike is hiding behind some boxes staring at them, but it turns out just to be his helmet, biking gear and motorbike. Afraid in case the man should return, the children decide to leave, but as they open the door they are confronted by Mr Turner!
|6.||The Secret||5 Nov 1974|
|The children accuse Mr Turner of being the man on the motorbike. Turner says he can't ride a motorbike, and asks what they're talking about. They explain that they've seen a man about who they think is up to no good. Mr Turner decides they had better tell Ram about it.
Ram himself is still unconscious and is driven in RAV1 into the factory complex. Number Two picks him up and carries him inside.
The kids tell Dick about the black car which nearly ran them down, and describe how the computer was left on but Mrs Green turned it off. Dick looks confused and thinks hard about what they've said. As they set off back towards the house (it's now stopped raining), they don't notice someone watching them from the bushes.
Richard has noticed the person in the bushes - could it be the man on the motor-bike? He also points out Dick Turner's confusion about Mrs Green turning the computer off, as she said she knows nothing about science.
Wordy goes to see his string-puppet baby dragon friend again, who blows out lots of smoke rings which form into words: lot, long, stop, concluding in an exclamation of "flippety-gimmet!" from Wordy.
There is a feature on the use of quotation marks to show speech, also emphasising the elisive use of the apostrophe, and an explanation of how to read long words like laboratory: la, labo, labora, laboratory.
Wordy pops back out to show off his wordwatcher badge, and Richard mentions that we can write in for instructions for how to make our own badges - teachers will find the address in the teacher's notes. Then it's back to the story, which Tim is currently narrating.
Mrs Green has already left when Dick and the kids arrive back at the house. Tim picks up the key as the enter and puts it in his pocket. Dick expresses his bemusement at the kids' story of Mrs Green turning the computer off - how could she? Jenny wonders if Ram left a message on the computer, so Dick turns it on and finds that there is a message. They slowly try to make sense of the text which appears. "RAV 1 is?"; "RAV I is?"; "Ra-vi is..."
"... my brother!" exclaims Ram Pandit, now a conscious prisoner of Number Two and Ravi Pandit, aka Number One. Ravi explains to Ram that he has been following his estranged brother since he left India and has been keeping up to date with Ram's experiments. Now Ravi wants the power of Ram's latest invention too.
Jenny and Tim follow Dick and ask about the room he's just locked, saying they want to help. Tim realises that this is the room with the light that he saw from outside. Reluctantly, Dick starts to explain.
He explains that the part of India that Ram comes from is very dry and it hardly ever rains, so there is little food. Ram has been working to find a way to make food grow, with the help of Dick and the World Food Plan organisation. Now they have come up with a solution. He opens the door and lets the children into the room, where they discover a huge, shining "rain-gun".
|7.||To The Mill!||12 Nov 1974|
|Jenny and Tim are examining the rain-gun while Dick explains some more about it. The gun fires rockets into the air containing a "very new kind of gas". When the rockets burst, the gas turns the water in the air into rain clouds.
Robert Blain is too flabbergasted to respond to "Ram's" threats. The real Ram does try to shout a warning, but Number Two sticks the gas-gun in his face again, which shuts him up. After the phone call, Sir Robert gets on his other phone to an assistant: "Bill, I've just had a call from Pandit, get down there and find out what's happening."
Ravi continues to explain to his brother that they have stolen Ram's firing program and the plan to flood the Fens will begin as soon as Number Three gets back. Ram says that the baddies may have the firing program, but they will never get his rain-gun.
Ravi takes Ram down into a warehouse which has a large blue and yellow truck parked in the middle of it. Ravi gives a signal and a rain-gun and aerial emerge from the top of the van, exactly like Ram's own. Ravi says that they got all the information about how to build the gun and what to put in the rockets from Ram's computer.
Ravi starts ranting about how he is going to flood the Fens, and when the world sees what he is capable of they will give him anything he wants to prevent further flooding. And nobody will be able to stop him.
"You wait and see!" says Richard to Ravi. The big secret is not a secret anymore - it's all about a rain-gun. Ram's built his to do good work, but Ravi is using the same object to do bad. Can children think of any other objects that could be good or bad? Richard doesn't give any examples, but we see a picture of a motor car on screen.
Wordy arrives carrying an 'e'. He wants to borrow Richard's word-building computer. Richard says OK, so in Wordyland, Wordy demonstrates what he's going to do with it. First he makes a word - plan - then he puts his magic e under a hidden flap. When he opens the flap, the word changes to become plane. He does this same trick a few more times: mat-mate and mad-made.
Wordy talks briefly about "little marks" (hyphens) which join two words together, then moves on to showing off his 'ur' wheel, which turns. He shows us some relevant 'ur' words, such as turn, burst and Turner. He assembles a tongue twister:
Outside the factory, Number Three pulls up on the motorbike and talks to Number Two. Number Two comes running into the warehouse and tells Ravi that they couldn't find the firing program. Ravi is furious and demands that Ram gives it to him. Ram simply shrugs and turns away. Ravi tells Number Two to take Ram to the mill, he will go and find the program himself, and will also get rid of the kids.
Ravi tells Dick that he and Sir Robert are waiting at the mill to run a test of the rain-gun (Dick has obviously forgotten that the rain-gun is still safely locked in the back room) and invite him to join them. He tells Dick to send the children home then hangs up. But Jenny reminds him that they still don't have the control unit to her plane, so Dick lets them wait in the house as he sets off for the mill.
Outside the phone box, Ravi tells Number Three that Dick fell for the deception, and they set off to get the firing program.
|8.||The Signal||19 Nov 1974|
Dick has made his way up to the mill. He notices the van parked in front, but doesn't pay it much attention. He climbs inside the mill and starts calling for Ram or Sir Robert. Number Two is lurking behind a wall with the gas-gun ready. As Dick approaches, he has the gas-gun fired in his face and collapses on the floor.
Richard comments that Dick has walked straight into a trap. He wants us to recall where all of his characters are at the moment, and goes through them all in turn - at the mill, on the way to Ram's house and in the laboratory. He finally reminds us that the control unit is in Ram's pocket.
We get another crossword to fill in (compèred by Charles Collingwood doing a take-off of Hughie Green), containing the words 'Blain' (as in Sir Robert) and 'Plan' (as in World Food). Noticing the 'ai' in Blain - just like 'rain' - we are then treated to an animation and a song about the digraph. Out of Wordyland again, Richard decides it's time to read, and this time Dick Turner is telling the story.
Ram explains about Ravi's plan to retrieve the firing program from the house, and Dick mentions that the children are still waiting there. Which they are, sitting about close to the model plane. Ram has the idea of using the control unit, which he thinks will still work as they are only about a mile from the house. He presses the button, and the plane's rudder turns, but the kids fail to notice it.
Ravi and Number Three arrive at the gates to Ram's house. Ravi says that if the children do see him, they will think he's Ram.
In the house, Tim suddenly spots the plane's rudder twitching. Jenny realises that it can't do so by itself, and works out that Ram must be doing it.
The children hear a car drawing up outside and are at first delighted, especially when they see 'Ram' get out. But Jenny is confused by the rudder still turning, and she looks back and notices the car's registration number. RAV... 1? She realises that something's wrong and hurridly beckons Tim to hide.
Just as they dive behind one of the desks, Ravi bursts in. Tim thinks it's Ram, but Jenny holds him back. Ravi gets on his radio and says that the kids have gone, so Number Three pulls up on his motorbike and comes into the lab. Ravi presses 'Power On' on the computer, and discovers that the firing program is still in the machine.
Ravi berates Three for not having checked in the computer before, and the two dash out of the laboratory, shouting "let's get back to the mill!"
As soon as they've gone, the kids come out of their hiding place. "That's not Ram Pandit!" says Jenny, and she and Tim set off for the mill.
|9.||Escape||26 Nov 1974|
In the mill, Ram is still doggedly pressing the button on the control unit. Finally Dick asks him "what's the point?" and reluctantly he stops and puts the control unit away.
Number Two is lounging about at the bottom of the stairs, but straightens up when he sees that Ravi and Number Three have arrived back, with the firing program.
Ram and Dick watch them go from up in the top room. Ram is now panicking and despairing at Ravi's actions - he just wanted to do good and to help the world.
Outside, Jenny is formulating a plan. She wants Tim to get Number Three's motorbike started, then when Three comes out to see what's going on, they'll make a dash for the door. Reluctantly, Tim edges forward towards the bike.
Richard does a quick resumé of what's happened in the story - but where's Wordy? He shouts up that he's too busy to come out of the typewriter at the moment.
In Wordyland we see him playing with 'ee'. He gets a song going about them (two little ee's / two little ee's in three). There's another two-letter combination in 'three': 'th'. The thingamies make a return, talking about 'this', 'that', 'the' and 'other'.
There's exposition of the elision that Jenny used when she said "let's hide", followed by a song about '-ing' (nothing keeps you speeding like the super ing). We also get a story about the letter 'l', which is lovely and long to begin with, but ends up with 'f', and sounds rather flat, just a flop.
Tim creeps round to the motorbike and starts fiddling with it. Number Three - still wearing his helmet - bursts out of the mill doors and looks round, but the kids have ducked down and he doesn't see them, and goes back inside. Tim goes back to the motorbike and kicks the peddle several times, until eventually the motor starts and it makes a huge noise.
Three dashes out of the mill and down the steps to see what's happened to his bike. The kids creep round Ravi's car and head for the door. Three spots them and gives chase, but the kids make it inside the mill and lock the door shut.
The kids start running through the mill, shouting for Ram and Dick. The scientists hear them and start shouting back, and the kids soon locate them and get the trap door unlocked. Number Three is jumping about in anger outside, then he gets on the motorbike and drives off.
Jenny, Tim, Dick and Ram come out of the mill to see Number Three making his getaway. Ram realises that Three is going to contact Ravi, so they all pile into the black car. Jenny dashes back to fetch her plane, then they set off in pursuit of the baddies.
|10.||Fire The Rockets!||3 Dec 1974|
|Richard does a recap of what's happened so far to begin this episode. He wonders what will happen if the rain-gun is fired, and talks about the cloud burst: yes, that is the title of his story, and it means that it will rain harder than anyone can imagine, and nobody will be able to stop it. He also reminds us that Jenny collected her plane before they all set off.
Wordy is having some trouble with a mouse in Wordyland. He warns us not to make a sound, then punches the thing to get his own back. There is a song about the 'ou' sound (it's time to shout it all out / let's count together now).
Wordy finally reminds us how words can finish off with 'ed', then he and Richard return to the story book for the last time.
Dick is driving the car, as the kids, he and Ram give chase to Number Three. They speed over a lock and a railway crossing, then Three turns off into a field beside a long dyke. Dick turns down a nearby road, but a bend in the dyke prevents them from following the motorbike very far, and Three gets away.
Ravi's big van is chugging down a small road, when he chooses a suitable place to stop. The back of the van is a big portable laboratory, where Ravi and Number Two are working away. They send the aerial and the rain-gun out of the top, and point the gun towards the sky. Ravi starts a countdown - ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one - and presses a button in front of him. A rocket comes out of the rain-gun and hurtles up into the sky, exploding a few seconds later.
Another rocket comes out of the rain gun, and Dick stops the car, thinking that they are being fired from just the other side of the river. A fourth rocket is fired, and Ram runs up the river bank, spotting Ravi's van on the other side. Ram, Dick and the children look on as another rocket is fired, and the clouds above the area start to get heavier.
Jenny tries steering the plane towards the aerial, but it's turning around so much that she can't aim it properly. Another rocket explodes in the sky. Number Three, who has been hanging around outside, notices what's happening and bangs on the van door, showing Number Two the plane and the kids flying it. Ravi is maniacal by this time and beyond caring about his brother and a few kids, as an eighth rocket gets fired.
Jenny finally turns her plane in just the right direction, and it comes crashing down into the aerial. This seems to cause a massive electrical fault, as the rain-gun spins out of control and things start exploding all over the place in the lab. Ravi is hit by an explosion and falls out of the back door, right on top of Number Two who was standing outside. Ravi gets himself up, knocks Number Three out of the way, and jumps onto the motorbike. He speeds off, almost running over Ram, Dick and the children, who are running up to the scene. Number Two is dazed, but Number Three tries to make a run for it himself, until Dick tackles him to the ground.
No-one knew where Ravi went, and he was never seen again. But because of Jenny and her plane, there was no cloud burst. No rain. No floods. The Fens were safe.
|Presented by||Richard Carpenter|
|Starring||Tina Heath as Jenny Barber|
Nigel Rathbone as Tim Barber
|Accompanied by||Gerald Down|
|Written by||Richard Carpenter|
|Music by||Roger Limb|
|Reading consultant||Joyce M. Morris|
|Studio director||Peter Craske|
|Costume designer||Mary Woods|
|Film camerman||Peter Chapman|
|Film recordist||Bob Roberts|
|Film animation||Adrian Dobinson|
|Film editor||Peter Orton|
|Visual effects||Tony Oxley|
|Scientific consultant||Dr Kit Pedler|
|Background material||Bridie Raban|
Theme Tune & Music
The theme tune is an all instrumental composition by Roger Limb of the BBC Radiophonic Workshops.
In the title sequence, the newly introduced Look And Read Eyes fade into the disc of the sun and images of desert and dry earth. A clap of thunder, accompanied by the 'Cloud Burst' caption, is followed by rainfall and crops growing from the earth and rapidly multiplying. Everything is accomplished with sequences of still images.
From episode seven onwards, once the rain-gun has been revealed, the gun is included in the sequence, pointing up towards the sky where it has started to rain.
The closing titles generally had a reprise of the theme tune, but in episodes 2, 4 and 7 we hear the hum of Ram's giant computer at work instead. This makes sense in episodes 2 and 4, which end in Ram's laboratory, but is curious at the end of episode 7 which ends in the quiet country lane outside the lab.
A 48-page pamphlet containing the text of the story for children to read themselves, printed in green and black, with illustrations by Trevor Ridley.
This was the "book of the film", but in Look and Read's case it is more accurate to think the other way around - the reading is the most important thing, so the television programme is the "film of the book"!
For the first time the pamphlet was a pure storybook, and did not contain extra activities for children to attempt after each episode, as earlier Look and Read pamphlets did. The move from workbook to story book was deliberate and was mentioned in the teacher's notes. For one thing it meant that teachers could now reuse the pamphlets from year to year if they wished, as children were not expected to write in them.
The story is told by various characters including Jenny, Tim and - when we witness the secret activities of the criminals - by Number One. The writer occasionally interjects to move the story on, and his sections are printed in green. This was to help introduce the concept of narration to children, which was explained in the teacher's notes and was one of the key things teachers were asked to report back to the producers about, specifically "do the children find that the pupils' pamphlet is clearly laid out? Are they able to understand the change of narrator?"
There was a significant problem with the first printing of the pamphlet in 1974 - the green printing was extremely dark and practically indistinguishable from the black print. This meant that the pictures looked less interesting, it was very hard to tell when the writer's text - meant to be identifiable in green type - began, and some text such as "A Look and Read Book" on the front cover was completely illegible. The next editions, from 1975 onwards, used a much lighter and nicer shade of green, and the text on the cover was redesigned so that it could be read.
1974 edition - ISBN 0 563 13032 6, originally priced 11p
1975 edition - ISBN 0 563 13818 1, originally priced 23p
A 40-page booklet with a pink-coloured, cardboard cover, giving context information about the story, hints about the linguistic content of each episode and detailed suggestions for follow-up work.
There were many elaborate crosswords included in the notes, including several picture crosswords like those shown in the teaching segments of the TV episodes.
The notes for programme 3 included details plans to build your own word building computer, as used extensively throughout the programmes, from an old shoe box.
For the first time the notes also included full lyrics to the educational songs featured in the episodes, which could be duplicated and given out to children, especially useful when they were listening to the radio recordings of the songs without the animations from the TV episodes to help them understand.
Also for the first time, the notes did not include full vocabulary lists noting the frequency of use of every word throughout the story - these had been a common feature of all earlier Look and Read teacher's notes. Instead, teacher's were able to send in a stamped addressed envelope to be sent the vocabulary lists separately.
The notes were strongly praised in a general review of Cloud Burst in the Times Educational Supplement: "thoughtful and realistic, and particularly helpful for teachers who have not previously worked with children with reading problems."
A leaflet with pictures and instructions for making the word-watcher button, a "Cloud Burst" mug, badges, model rain-guns and more was shown by Richard in episode 6. Teachers were invited to send a large stamped addressed envelope to the address given in the teacher's notes (BBC School Television, Villiers House, London W5 2PA) to obtain a free copy.
The response to this offer was overwhelming. Thousands of requests were received, all of which had to be handled personally by the Look and Read production office, and the sheets duplicated on the office photocopier. The response was in fact so massive that they were later asked to edit out this sequence for repeat screenings.
I do not have a copy of the leaflet, so if you do and you can provide a scan or copy, or just describe the contents in more detail, please get in touch by email.
Radio Resource Material
Whilst the earlier story The Boy From Space had issued a cast recording of the story book on LP, the idea was extended here and Cloud Burst was the first story to be accompanied by its own radio programmes. The programmes were designed to be tape recorded by teachers and used in the classroom in short segments.
The radio programmes contained a reading of the story by the actors in role, and replays of several of the phonic songs. It wasn't always possible to read all the the assigned chapters within one radio programme, so they just started from the beginning and kept going as far as possible before the programme ended.
Three episodes were produced:
1. Covering television programmes 1-4, broadcast 30 September 1974
2. Covering television programmes 5-7, broadcast 11 November 1974
3. Covering television programmes 8-10, broadcast 25 November 1974
They were repeated in the same pattern in subsequent years that Cloud Burst was shown on TV.
Production of Cloud Burst began shortly after the completion of Joe and the Sheep Rustlers, when Richard Carpenter was hired to provide a new story for the series. He was not briefed on a specific theme or topic to write about, and the story was also given a new producer who had not worked on the series previously, so finding the inspiration for a plot was a major initial labour.
The producer and writer spent a lot of time thinking and driving around near Carpenter's childhood home in Norfolk, until he eventually pieced together the elements of a story based in the area. Carpenter then went to work on a script and pupil's story book, which was meticulously edited by hand to ensure that every single word and every piece of punctuation occurred the correct number of times in the correct places, and the vocabulary was limited to the 250 Key Words to Literacy and other necessary plot-words only. With this early work complete, production itself began in the spring of 1974.
The following timeline covers filming and recording the programmes, editing the programmes, transmissions (TX) of the programmes (only the first TXs are noted), the radio programmes, including recording and transmission, and other random stuff.
- Wed 6th or Thu 7th (not sure which) - The first material put to film for the story, the model plane flying scenes for the first and last episodes, long before the rest of the filming begins.
- Mon 25th - Final location recce by the production team
- Mon 1st - Location filming with all the actors began, in and around the town of Downham Market in Norfolk and including nearby Denver Mill. Filming continued over Easter a fortnight later. Cast and crew would travel between London and the location on their days off, which made it quite a disjointed affair. The initial drafts of the pupil's pamphlet and teacher's notes were also produced at this time, and checked by the producer whilst on location.
- Mon 29th - With all filming for the story bits complete, editing of these segments formally began - though it is possible that film editor Peter Orton had previously begun work alone whilst the rest of the production team were still on location. At this point only the filmed story was edited - the teaching segments were written over the summer and recorded close to transmission in the autumn.
- Sat 1st - The radio programmes to accompany the series were recorded, carefully arranged while all the actors were still under contract!
- Thu 18th - A meeting between Joyce M. Morris (educational advisor), Roger Limb (musician) and Adrian Dobinson (animator) marks the beginning of work on the series' songs.
- Wed 11th - First studio recording session, with lots of Wordy sequences - in fact the first appearance of Wordy ever. Early on this morning, just before recording began, someone decided that the puppet didn't look quite right and stuck an old yoghurt pot on for his nose, and the Wordy face we all know was created.
- Mon 16th - Second studio recording, with Richard Carpenter segments.
- Tue 17th - Middle of episode 2 recorded.
- Wed 18th - 4th studio recording session.
- Thu 19th - First batch of animations delivered. These song animations were intended to highlight specific letters within words which were being taught by the songs. Unfortunately there was little contrast between the different colours used and it was difficult to see which bit was being highlighted. Since it was less than a week to transmission, there was no time to have the animations revised, so they simply had to crank up the contrast as much as possible while editing the episodes, though the end result was still far from perfectly distinct.
- Fri 20th - First editing session, covering episodes 1 and 2. The programmes were edited at the Television International facility in London, since the BBC didn't have enough of the necessary 3-machine suites of its own to go around.
- Tue 24th - TX episode 1, 10:00am
- Wed 25th - Middles of episodes 3 and 5 recorded.
- Fri 27th - Block editing session of all the radio episodes.
- Mon 30th - 6th studio recording.
- Mon 30th - TX Radio programme 1, 11:40am (chapters 1 - 4)
- Tue 1st - TX episode 2, 10:00am
- Tue 8th - TX episode 3, 10:00am
- Fri 11th & weekend - Episode 4 edited. These editing sessions combined the previously completed filmed story with the teaching middles, which were recorded roughly sequentially and so didn't require extensive editing. When assembling the programmes, one of the last things to be done would be the story recap at the beginning of each episode, which was assembled in the final dub since it could last however long or short was needed to fill up time. Then the narration was the very last thing edited on.
- Mon 14th - Script for the teaching segment of episode 10 approved by the reading consultant, meaning all writing for the series was now complete.
- Tue 15th - TX episode 4, 10:00am
- Wed 16th - 7th studio session, recording most of episode 6.
- Thu 17th & Fri 18th - Editing episode 5.
- Tue 22nd - TX episode 5, 10:00am
- Wed 23rd - 8th studio, with Richard Carpenter.
- Thu 24th - 9th studio session.
- Fri 25th - Episode 6 edited.
- Fri 1st - Episode 7 edited.
- Tue 5th - TX episode 6, 10:00am
- Wed 6th - 10th studio recording.
- Mon 11th - Rest of episode 7 & a bit of 8 edited.
- Mon 11th - TX Radio programme 2, 11:40am (chapters 5 - 7)
- Tue 12th - TX episode 7, 10:00am
- Thu 14th - Final studio recording (postponed from Wednesday 13th).
- Tue 19th - TX episode 8, 10:00am
- Fri 22nd - Episode 9 edited.
- Mon 25th - TX Radio programme 3, 11:40am (chapters 8 - 10)
- Tue 26th - TX episode 9, 10:00am
- Wed 27th - Episode 10 edited.
- Fri 29th - After a final editing session at 10am, production on Cloud Burst was officially completed.
- Tue 3rd - TX episode 10, 10:00am
All dates and details here are taken from private sources and unreliable records (apart from broadcast information, obviously, which is taken from published sources) and is neither complete nor necessarily correct. I have not had any access to any internal BBC paperwork in compiling this list - so if anybody has any more information or can corroborate or refute any of this stuff, please get in touch.
Here is a list of all of the broadcasts of this story on the BBC. Unless your teachers managed to get the video recorder to work, this is when you would have seen it in school. See the Schedules section for precise dates and times.
- Summer 2003, CBBC
- Autumn 2003, CBBC
- Spring 2004, CBBC
- Summer 2004, CBBC
- Autumn 2004, CBBC
- Summer 2005, CBBC
- Spring 2006, CBBC
- Summer 2007, CBBC
Sources & References
Sources used in compiling this page:
- BBC (1975) Look and Read Teacher's Notes, Autumn 1975
- BBC TV (1974) Cloud Burst television programmes
- Carpenter, Richard (1974) Cloud Burst London: BBC, Autumn 1974 & Autumn 1975
- Killick, Jane (1993) "Richard Carpenter: A Catweazle Start..." in TV Zone, issue 46 September 1993, pp.17-19
- Mares, Cherida 'Reviews - ETV - Noses to the Grindstone' in Times Educational Supplement 15 November 1974 page 95
- With thanks to Andrew K. Shenton
- All review quotes from Mares (1974).
- Richard Carpenter quote from Killick (1993) p.19 (all of 7 words on Cloud Burst!)
- "Film of the book" phrase used in BBC (1975) page 2
- New purpose of the pupil's pamphlet described in BBC (1975) page 4
- Explanations of the role of the narrator in the pupil's pamphlet mentioned in BBC (1975) page 4, and page 40 for teacher feedback quote
- Contents of the craft leaflet described in BBC (1975) page 21
Some random programmes for age 7-9 from the 1970s
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