Look and Read: Cloud Burst

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started24th Sep 1974
ended3rd Dec 1974
last rpt25th May 2007
33 school years
duration20 mins
subject 📚EnglishLanguage & Reading
age rangeAge 7-9
languageenIn English
Look and ReadHierarchyPrevious.gifPrevious story: Joe and the Sheep RustlersNext story: The King's DragonHierarchyNext.gif

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"[1] 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.

The Story

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."[2]

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.

Richard and Wordy

Episode Guide


# Title Broadcast
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

Num Title Broadcast
1. Out of Control 24 Sep 1974
Jenny and Tim with their plane
Somewhere in the Fens, a figure on a motorbike is looking at the big lock gates and examining a map. The motorbiker drives off as two children come bicycling along. They are Jenny and Tim Barber, and their Dad is in charge of the river and the flood gates. The children go up to the flood gates to talk with their Dad and tell him about the man on the motorbike, whom they'd spotted around the area several times. Mr Barber is busy controlling the water level in the river, and comments that they are already at high water level and don't want any more rain.

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.
The man on the motorbike following Jenny and Tim following their plane
Production notes
  • Because Cloud Burst's teaching segments were filmed sequentially, this first appearance of Wordy for the viewer was genuinely the first Wordy scene ever recorded - on Wednesday 11th September 1974.
  • Wordy bobs up and down a lot when talking to Richard in order to hide the lack of eyeline contact between the two.
  • The fantasy environment which Wordy goes into when presenting his teaching comments was referred to by the production team as 'Wordyland'. Although that phrase was never used on TV, it will be used in this story guide as a shorthand.
  • The cutaways of the plane flying around the airfield (plus the shots of the plane from episode 10) were the first footage filmed for this story, in early February 1974. The plane was built and flown by Mick Charles, who ran http://www.mickcharlesmodels.co.uk/ with his sons and provided model work on several film and television projects, including the Battle of Britain film.
2. Ram Pandit 1 Oct 1974
Tim and Jenny at the house
The man on the motorbike, who has a helmet with a number 3 painted on it, calls up 'Number Two' on his radio and says he is standing by for a report. Then he walks off with the motorbike towards a small shed.

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.

Two ways of saying the same thing
Richard reminds us about the light that Tim saw in the window, and points out that something funny happened to Jenny's plane. He then decides to contact Mr Watchword, and so tries typing on his typewriter a bit. Wordy soon pops up carrying a net. Down in Wordyland, he uses the net to catch "e"s and put them into words: get, let etc. What sound does that letter make? He then points out the apostrophe in Jenny's statement "I didn't like to get over the wall."

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:
Silly Sam sits on the sand on Sunday.

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.

The computer is standing by
"Can I help you?" asks the man, pleasantly but firmly. Jenny explains about her lost plane, while Tim justifys his looking in the window by saying that he didn't think anybody lived in the house. The man advises the children that they shouldn't go around climbing over walls and looking in at windows, and accepts their apologies. The man introduces himself as Ram Pandit, and asks abou Jenny's plane, saying that he built one himself long ago. Jenny is proud to say that she built the plane herself and mentions that the control unit isn't working. Ram unscrews the back of the control unit and has a look inside, looks up at the aerial on his roof, and says that he thinks he knows why it didn't work.

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.

Production notes
  • The house and garden that the children enter was a real, isolated Fens property, whose owners were asked to let their lawn grow wild in order to give the impression that the house wasn't lived in! The wall which Jenny and Tim climb over was also part of the property but it ws in a completely different place than presented in the episode.
  • Wordy's handing of the word-watcher badge to Richard Carpenter - filmed live with no stopping-and-starting - established an important interaction between the two presenters, and was achieved through the use of four cameras. As Wordy hands over the badge, the picture cuts to a close-up of Wordy's hand, then immediately cuts back to the wide view of the scene, Richard having quickly picked up a badge hidden on his lap. Finally as the scene returns to normal, we see a close-up of Richard putting the badge on his jumper.
  • As the scenes outside the laboratory were being filmed, a nearby army base had American bomber planes on regular manoeuvers. The production team had to ring up the base and request the flight plans in order to carefully schedule filming in the brief intervals between the deafening fly-overs.
3. RAV1 8 Oct 1974
Who is Jenny Barber? No data.
Ram is showing the children how to work the computer. He indicates the data input unit (a slot) and puts in a program. He says that the computer is much faster at sums than humans, and challenges Tim to work out a sum that he taps into the computer: 12345 × 12345. As Tim sits down to puzzle it out, Ram tells Jenny to push a yellow button at the top of the computer keyboard. When she does so, the computer instantly displays the correct answer: 152,399,025.

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.

Wordy and the word-building computer
"Things are hotting up," comments Richard, still wearing his word-watcher badge. Richard has built his own word-building computer and explains that pupils can do the same using a shoebox with a window cut in the front. He has cut a slot into the top and bottom of his shoebox as the input unit, and runs a strip of paper through the slots as a data strip. To finish it off, he's added an aerial, some control knobs and painted it silver. Wordy pops up and wants to know where the program is. Richard says that he's the program - he tells it what to do.

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:
Polly Parrot put a pin in my pocket

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?

Production notes
RAV 1 number plate
  • Ram's computer is an elaborate set design full of miscellaneous flashing lights and an impressive, huge main screen. At the time, any realistic design could be used because, outside of a few boffins in top universities, nobody knew what a computer actually looked like. The screen display could not have been genuinely achieved in 1974, and was really a set of pre-filmed animations being brightly back-projected - the same technique used for the screen in Richard Carpenter's writer's studio.
  • Jenny and Tim comment that their mum is working the late shift, explaining why we never see her in the story. The real reason, of course, was that they couldn't afford to hire another actor but needed to exhibit good family values. Seven years later, Dark Towers happily got away with a family containing only a father and son.
  • Ravi's car is seen driving along public roads throughout the story, and therefore the registration number RAV 1 had to be legally registered to the BBC. The production team took out newspaper advertisements asking for the owner of 'RAV 1' to contact them. Luckily the owner of the registration DID write to the BBC, and Look and Read was able to officially place the plates on their rented black Mercedes.
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 Two and Number One
Inside the factory is a laboratory very like Ram's, right down to the big computer. A man is already working here, using a big map with 'Plan A' marked on it, and doing complicated sums on the computer. Number One comes into this control room and gives the program to his associate, called Number Two, saying that now they have the firing program, Plan A will begin tomorrow. When Number Two puts the program in the computer though, it turns out to be a flood control system and not the firing program. Number One is livid: I CAN'T HAVE MISTAKES! I'VE GONE TO FAR FOR MISTAKES!

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.

Wordy and the friendly dragon
Richard tries shouting at Wordy, asking why he's not come out yet. Down in Wordyland, Mr Watchword replies that he doesn't feel like coming out today. Wordy is actually busy talking to a friendly dragon (made of egg boxes, toilet roll tubes & yoghurt pots), who breathes out rings of smoke which become the letter "o" and which Wordy puts into words such as 'got', 'lot' and 'long'.

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 Three gasses Ram
Number Two is preparing to set off from the factory. Number One reminds him what to do if Ram gets in his way. Number Three is also around in the woods near Ram's lab. Ram meanwhile is pottering about in his laboratory. He has a look at Jenny's control unit and seems to have got it working again - the rudder turns properly when he presses the button. Ram replaces the control unit in his pocket, places the plane on top of a cupboard and goes back to work on his computer - on the firing program.

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.

Production notes
Ravi Stavro Pandit
  • At the factory evil genius Ravi Pandit idly strokes a cat whilst issuing orders to his subordinates - a very obvious pastiche of Blofeld out of James Bond. The cat makes no other appearance in the story at all and is never referred to by Ravi, the scene was written just to see if it would be spotted during production, and it wasn't! The cat itself belonged to the producer and was named Scruffy.
  • The scenes featuring Number One driving his car were rather hampered by the fact that Renu Setna couldn't drive. Later in the story, Number Two and Dick Turner respectively take over the driving duties for the Pandit brothers, but for this episode the camera cuts away before the car starts moving.
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.
Jenny and Tim are nearly run over
Jenny and Tim are idly peddling up the drive towards the house when RAV1 comes charging up the road towards them, knocking them into the ditch. Jenny is saved from indignity by the box on the back of her bike acting as a stabiliser, but Tim falls on his behind. The children get up and dust themselves off, seemingly unharmed.

Segueway to Wordyland
Richard is worried that the kids may be in danger, and recaps on what has just happened in the story, emphasising the plot words. Wordy pops up, carrying a "wordwatcher mug" with a 'u' written on the side and says that there's a secret inside, but won't tell Richard what it is.

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.

The Thingamies
Wordy introduces an animation sequence featuring the Thingamy characters saying 'th' words at each other, concluding with 'three' and 'thumbs'. Wordy is thinking about this: "three thumbs? crumbs!"

Back outside, Richard decides to get on with the story. At the moment, he is narrating it.

Mrs Green turns the computer off
Jenny and Tim have arrived at the house. They think that there must be someone in because the door is slightly open, but nobody comes when they ring the bell. Just then Mrs Green arrives on her bike. The kids explain that they've just come to collect their plane, and Mrs Green invites them in to look for 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!

Production notes
Sheltering from the rain
  • The standard procedure for creating the illusion of rainfall in film or television production would be to call out the fire brigade and have them shower the entire scene with water throughout filming. Look and Read, however, needed to do things on the cheap. These scenes were produced simply by pouring water all over the ground to make it look saturated, then getting two men on ladders either side of the camera, using watering cans to give the rain effect for viewers.
  • The children's bikes almost impact with the car, and this effect is emphasised to the viewer by having the car hurtle towards the camera at full speed. This was achieved safely and without smashing up an expensive film camera by recording the scene in reverse - the car started off next to the camera, and was reversed very quickly away from view. The film was then simply played backwards.
  • In this episode we hear the voice of Number Three talking to Number Two over the radio, and it definitely sounds like a man's voice. Throughout the story Anne Ridler really was walking about in full motorbike gear playing Number Three, and her name appeared in the end credits of each episode, even when Mrs Green did not appear, which might have given a clue to an especially astute viewer about the secret identity of Number Three! Apparently the actress was a perfectly capable motorbike rider, but a stuntman did the riding scenes for the film, for safety reasons.
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 and a sad e
Wordy arrives carrying a handkerchief. Down in Wordyland we find out why: he is comforting a poor letter 'e' which is crying because it can't make the 'e' sound. Wordy shows how the letter can do something special though - it is a magic e. Not a poor silent letter any more, the magic e makes a letter say its name, not its sound. A lengthy song on the subject follows (Tim makes lots of time with magic e, etc).

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.

Introducing the rain gun
Back in the lab Tim spots where Ram left the plane, on top of the cupboard. He fetches it down, but they still can't find the control unit. They work out that Ram must have taken it, and also that Ram must have gone off in the black car, and the key must have fallen from his pocket. Dick takes the key from Tim and storms out of the room. He rushes round the back of the house and peeks inside another room there, looks relieved and quickly locks the door with the key.

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".

Production notes
  • The rain-gun prop - absolutely central to the story - was essentially built of cardboard and tinfoil, with strong lights directed at it to give the impression of a hefty piece of hardware (you can actually see the lights in shot!). Only one was ever built, and it was vital that it didn't get wet, because it would go soggy. This made things especially tricky when filming the exteriors for the final episode, when it comes very close to flooding!
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.
Sir Robert Blain of the World Food Plan 1980
Meanwhile Ram is still a prisoner in Ravi's control room. Ravi starts explaining his plans to Ram while Number Two looks on smugly. Ravi is going to use the rain-gun over the Fens, purely to discredit his brother. Ravi is also going to ring up Ram's boss, Sir Robert Blain of the World Food Plan, pretending to be Ram, and announce his evil scheme.

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.

Ravi shows Ram his own, van mounted rain-gun

"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:
Mr Turner turned into a turkey
There is a song about the sound (ur is in the turn of the tide / and it turns and it turns with ur and ur inside).

Reading the story, told by Number One
Back outside, Richard hopes that Wordy brings his computer back, pointing out that Ravi got someone to steal from Ram's computer. We continue to read about Ravi and his evil plans.

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 - not Ram - on the phone to Mr Turner
Dick is still trying to understand how Mrs Green could have turned off the computer. He also wonders where Ram's got to, and decides to ring up Robert Blain to see if he's heard from him. Before he can dial out, however, the phone rings. "Are you all right, Ram?" asks Mr Turner. But it's not Ram on the phone - it's Ravi Pandit calling from a phone box.

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.

Production notes
Split-screen shot of Ram Pandit, Number Two and Ravi Pandit
  • There were no real-life twins involved in this story, just one actor playing both Ram and Ravi Pandit. The split-screen filming which this necessitated was of course a common procedure in film production, though normally it would involve extensive post-production wizardry to match-up two separately-shot sequences. Cloud Burst did not have the convenience of long post-production sessions and all special effects had to be accomplished on location, directly as the scenes were filmed. It was already quite common for production using sophisticated 35mm film to run two separate exposures as one scene - recording first one half of a split-screen scene, then cranking back the film and exposing the other half. Cloud Burst however was filmed on 16mm film, and the accepted view was that such a technique would not work in this medium. Cloud Burst did have the advantage of cameraman Peter Chapman - since director of photography on many high profile film and televsion projects - who simply went ahead and did it anyway. The scenes came off flawlessly.
  • Richard describes in his comments how he was originally going to title the story The Rain-Gun rather than Cloud Burst. This is entirely true. He then explains that he realised this would give away the secret from the beginning, and that he needed to keep the secret just like Ram. This is also true - it was pointed out to him by the producer, Sue Weeks. He also says that he thought a lot about items used to do good as well as bad whilst writing the story. This is also true - he apparently spent weeks if not months agonising about the issue!
  • The story uses the American spelling of 'program'. This is because the Engligh version, 'programme' is an awfully difficult phonic structure to explain, and not one that Look and Read was able to go into detail about. The production team carefully explained about the use of realistic technical language and the infomation-technology application of the word 'program' in order to justify this to any teachers who wrote in to complain. The teacher's notes stated "this spelling of program is now standard throughout the computer industry." (BBC (1975) page 3)
8. The Signal 19 Nov 1974
Arriving at the mill
Number Two manhandles Ram into the van, and drives him out of the factory to a mill. When they arrive, Ram is led out of the van, into the mill, up a step-ladder and through a trap-door. He is left here in the mill room, and the trap door locked. Number One, now positioned on look-out some distance from the mill alongside Number Three, radios Number Two to check on Ram.

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.

A simple crossword
Wordy pops up with the computer, and shows off the magic e which he has fitted to it. He allows Richard to change 'mad' to 'made'. He gives us some more magie e examples in Wordyland - pin-pine, tap-tape, plan-plane and fin-fine. An apostrophe arrives, meaning it's missing letter time, and we look at a quote from the story featuring 'do not'.

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.

Number Two with the gas-gun
Dick comes round, to find Number Two standing over him with the gas-gun still in hand. He silently indicates that Dick is to get up, walk through the mill, and ascend the steps to the top room, where he is locked in with Ram. Ram explains that this is all Ravi's doing, so Dick finally works out that Ram has a twin brother.

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.

Production notes
  • All of the gun imagery in Cloud Burst had to be rigorously justified in order to be shown in schools, of course. Notice that every time it is seen or referred to, we are left in no doubt that this is a gas-gun and is, of course, not lethal. Ravi later expresses an intention for the flood water to "put an end to" Ram and Dick, though this is left ambiguous, and according to the producer, Ravi should be seen as megalomaniacal rather than murderous.
  • They also had to check whether it was alright to have an Indian as a baddie. The Race Relations Board not only allowed it, but warmly welcomed a programme which emphasised Indians as being both very good and very bad - a balanced image rather a one-sided view.
9. Escape 26 Nov 1974
Dick and Ram as prisoners in the mill
Ravi and Three drive away from the house, shortly followed by Jenny and Tim, on foot - Jenny still clutching her model plane. Tim still doesn't understand who the man they just saw could be, and Jenny says that's what they're going to find out. They set off running down the road.

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.

Tim and Jenny sneak round the mill
Jenny and Tim run up to the mill, still carrying the plane. They sneak about, tiptoeing past the car and the motorbike, and hide behind some old rubbish. The three baddies come out of the mill and start talking. Ravi tells Number Three to wait at the mill to look after "my dear brother and Turner." After the last rocket has been fired, they will come back to collect Three, but Ram and Dick will be left at the mill - "the flood waters will put an end to them!" Ravi also refers to the "cloud burst" for the first time. Ravi and Two get into the big van and drive off.

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.

Wordy shows Richard the word lot, then changes it to clot
Meanwhile Richard has got his computer out again and shows us the word 'lot'. Wordy pops up and wants to get on with the story. He changes the word to 'clot' and accuses Richard of being one. Richard hurridly gets back to the story.

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.

Production notes
  • This episode contains another example of Look and Read using professional feature-film type techniques which would normally be far beyond the means of schools television: the shot of Jenny and Tim dodging behind the car and running up the steps was accomplished using a circular track - the camera run along a curved railway-line thingy rather than held static.
A lot of people crammed in a car
  • Similarly, at the end of the first story bit of this episode, we get a point-of-view shot of the motorbike - the camera goes a bit wobbly so it looks like you're seeing what Tim's seeing. Used sparingly, these little touches are extremely effective.
  • As the car goes driving off here, and when it shoots around the countryside in the next episode, it contained not only the four actors, but also a cameraman - sticking a camera out of the window to film back inside - and a sound recordist huddled in the boot. A complete mobile television studio in a standard family car!
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.

Ram spots the rain-gun
The shock of the rocket explosion is felt in the car, and Dick thinks he knows which direction it came from. In the lab, Ravi and Two are simply waiting and watching as the computer has now taken over the firing process. A second rocket is fired. Number Three pulls up outside the van; he climbs inside and tells Ravi and Two what's happening.

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 pilots the plane
Jenny fetches her plane out, and asks if they could hit the rain-gun with that. Tim thinks that's a silly idea, saying that it'll take more than a little plane to destroy a huge rain-gun. Ram is thinking about it, and declares that if they hit the aerial, that should stop the gun. Tim doesn't think the plane will manage to hit the aerial, but Ram reckons that it will be drawn towards the aerial, just like it was drawn to the aerial on his house yesterday. Jenny says that it's the only thing they've got left to try, as a sixth rocket explodes in the clouds. She sends the plane off flying.

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.

Number Three revealed
Jenny removes Three's helmet and they are all shocked to discover that it's not a bloke at all, but Mrs Green the housekeeper. She had been giving Ravi the secrets of the rain-gun all along! Luckily the police arrive and take care of the remaining criminals.

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.

Production notes
  • Even in the height of excitement, the characters were obliged to talk slowly and deliberately. The series was designed to be viewed by large classes of children watching it at once in large school halls, and it was important that they could all catch what was being said. Unfortunately this did produce unnaturally formal conversations and was gradually eliminated from later stories.
  • There were actually two of these model planes hired by the series. Mick Charles (see episode 1 for details of his involvement) piloted one of them within a few centimetres of the rotating aerial, and then the plane was taken into the studio, tied to a string and crashed precisely into the aerial - completely destroying both props.
  • Anne Ridler genuinely had been playing Number Three in his motorbike helmet throughout the story. The only times that a stuntman was used was when the character was seen riding a motorbike. The actress was in fact an experienced motorcyclist, but for safety reasons she was not allowed to perform her own stunts here.
  • The police seen at the end of this episode were genuine local officers who had been on hand to monitor the filming. They were absolutely delighted to join in and appear in the programme!

Goodbye wordwatchers, bye bye!


Presented by Richard Carpenter
Starring Tina Heath as Jenny Barber

Nigel Rathbone as Tim Barber
Renu Setna as Ram Pandit and Ravi Pandit
Miles Anderson as Dick Turner
Michael Sheard as Number Two
Anne Ridler as Mrs Green
Kenneth Watson as Mr Barber
Bill Gavin as Sir Robert Blain
Charles Collingwood as Wordy

Singers Jane Carr

Derek Griffiths

Accompanied by Gerald Down
Written by Richard Carpenter
Music by Roger Limb
Designer Chris Robilliard
Reading consultant Joyce M. Morris
Studio director Peter Craske
Producer Sue Weeks
Costume designer Mary Woods
Make-up Jane Speak
Graphics Peter Jones
Eddie Newstead
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
Cliff Moon

Theme Tune & Music

The rain gun in the title sequence

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.


Pupil's Pamphlet

Pupil's pamphlet, 1974
Pupil's pamphlet, 1975

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"[3]!

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[4]. 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?"[5]

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

Teacher's Notes

Teacher's notes

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."[1]

Suggestions for follow-up work were credited to Bridie Raban and Cliff Moon.

Craft Leaflet

Richard Carpenter demonstrates the craft leaflet

A leaflet with pictures and instructions for making the word-watcher button, a "Cloud Burst" mug, badges, model rain-guns and more[6] 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

Information about the radio programmes from a termly wallchart

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.

Model plane flying


  • 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.

MARCH 1974

  • Mon 25th - Final location recce by the production team

APRIL 1974

  • 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.

MAY 1974

JUNE 1974

  • Sat 1st - The radio programmes to accompany the series were recorded, carefully arranged while all the actors were still under contract!

JULY 1974

  • 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.


Animation wih poor contrast


  • 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)

Richard Carpenter in episode 8, recorded late October 1974


  • 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.

VT clock with details of the final post production of episode 10


  • 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.

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
  1. 1.0 1.1 All review quotes from Mares (1974).
  2. Richard Carpenter quote from Killick (1993) p.19 (all of 7 words on Cloud Burst!)
  3. "Film of the book" phrase used in BBC (1975) page 2
  4. New purpose of the pupil's pamphlet described in BBC (1975) page 4
  5. 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
  6. Contents of the craft leaflet described in BBC (1975) page 21



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