Stop, Look, Listen
Stop, Look, Listen is an ITV and later Channel 4 schools TV series from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, covering various topics for primary school pupils.
An extremely popular series, originally conceived to provide slices of life, experience and stimulus to children beyond their usual experience and encourage them to literally stop, look and listen at things happening around them.
There is a full, general overview of the whole series below, plus separate pages covering:
1971: ITV Schools
During the 1970s, 80s and early 90s almost 200 of these ten-minute films were made by the midlands ITV company ATV and its successor Central TV, looking behind the scenes at factories, shops and safari parks, and the work of the police, hospitals and the fire service.
The majority of the episodes were narrated in jovial and captivating style by Chris Tarrant, and the style of the programme gave it wide appeal. Originally envisaged for 7-9 year old children from deprived areas or holding less interest in what was happening around them, the age range was expanded significantly to include 5-7 year-olds by the mid-1970s, and as the teacher's notes acknowledged, "the story of the banana [...] or the story of what happens to the rubbish collected by the dustman [...] can be interesting to quite old children (or even adults) as well as to younger children."
Every one of these episodes is being documented on this site's pages about series one (1971-72), presented by Harvey Higgins and series two to seventeen (1975-93), narrated by Chris Tarrant and others.
1990: National Curriculum
“Not so long ago, a programme like Stop, Look, Listen would have been judged solely on its merits as a piece of educational broadcasting. Now it needs to be measured for fit to the national curriculum.”— Times Educational Supplement, 1992
Changes came in 1990 following the introduction of the National Curriculum in England & Wales, when general 'stimulus' and awakening children's interests was no longer a sufficient reason to show a programme in the classroom or spend time on a topic. Although broad themes like transport, food and the natural environment had linked consecutive programmes since Stop, Look, Listen began, these were made more overt and explicit with themed units like 'People Who Help Us', 'How Things Work' and 'Then and Now' in place from 1990.
At around the same time producer/director Dilys Howell, who had been with the series since the very beginning, retired and Chris Tarrant moved on as narrator to be replaced by Matthew Kelly and later Bryonie Pritchard, plus others including children presenting individual episodes. Programmes also moved from being made on film to videotape, updating the look and feel of the series.
1993: Channel 4 Schools
In 1993 responsibility for schools programmes moved from the ITV companies to Channel 4, and Stop, Look, Listen was completely repurposed as a general topics series for infants, in which form it lasted for another decade. At first this still included some of the traditional documentary programmes in units such as People Who Help Us and How to Find Out, but also a broader range of presenter-led and dramatised programmes.
Stop, Look, Listen was merged with Our World, Yorkshire Television's infants series which in its original form as My World had actually been running since the 1960s, for even longer than Stop, Look, Listen, but had become a similar topic-based series in the early 1990s. In reality this merging amounted to one unit of Our World programmes on How Things Are Made being repeated as part of Stop, Look, Listen, once, in 1993, and Channel 4 only needing to make one instead of two separate infants series from that point forwards.
As a topics series the scope of the programme was expanded significantly, with episodes increased to 15 minutes from spring 1994 and some simpler, shorter episodes aimed at 4-6 year-olds introduced from autumn 1997. Although very wide-ranging, Stop, Look, Listen in this era had a particular line in programmes covering infant religious education (Stories of Faith, Animated Bible Stories, Dottie and Buzz and Water, Moon, Candle, Tree and Sword) and creative arts topics (Music, Magic and Mystery, The Arts Cart, Jack and the Beanstalk and Okey Cokey Karaoke).
The last new episodes were shown in early 2002 then there were the usual repeats until 2006. However the 1997 Animated Bible Stories unit lived on, revived first for a general audience over Christmas 2004 shown amongst Channel 4's early morning childen's programmes, it was brought back again and repeated for schools seven more times between 2007 and 2009.
Titles and Theme Music
Version 1: the playground
The programme's first title sequence shows boys playing football in a school playground before the film stops and we see the word 'stop' imposed; then a boy's face zooming into his eye and we see the word 'look' imposed; and finally children running and shouting in the same playground with the word 'listen' imposed.
Beneath the playground noise is the jaunty theme tune, a piece of library music called Cock of the Roost by Don Jackson, performed by the Pandora Orchestra. The music was released on a CD compilation called Girl in a Suitcase in 2001, which is out of print but may still be available from Amazon.
These titles were used for first series (1971-72) with Harvey Higgins, and the second series (1975-76) which was narrated by Chris Tarrant, 54 episodes in total. They continued to be shown when these episodes were repeated and so the last airing was in June 1985.
Version 2: the flying words
The next title sequence is accompanied by a lively piece of library music called High Life by Tany Turens, played by The New Regency Players. This music was released on a CD compilation called Watch with Teacher in 2008, which is also out of print but may still be available from Amazon.
On a plain black background the words 'stop' in red, 'look' in yellow and 'listen' in green zoom into the screen in time to the flourishes of the music, followed by all three words together.
These titles were used for episodes shown between autumn 1978 and summer 1981, the third, fourth and fifth series, all narrated by Chris Tarrant and a total of 29 episodes. They also continued to be shown when the episodes were repeated, even after the 'ATV' logo at the start had been edited out and replaced with a 'Central' logo, so they were last seen in March 1988.
Version 3: the traffic light face
The most ubiquitous title sequence was also accompanied by the High Life theme tune.
A large red circle (suggesting 'stop') moves onto the screen. It gains red, orange, yellow, green and blue stripes and turns into the eye (or spectacles) of a simple smiling face. The other eye is similarly striped, and then the eyes open and the pupils dart around (suggesting 'look'). We move to the face's left ear (suggesting 'listen') which turns into another stripey circle, with the words 'stop', 'look' and 'listen' shown all at once.
These titles were used for episodes shown between autumn 1981 and early spring 1993, a total of 106 episodes mostly narrated by Chris Tarrant, but latterly by Matthew Kelly, Bryonie Pritchard and some children as well. They were repeated until autumn 1993. In that 12 year period Stop, Look, Listen was so ubiquitous with four or even more transmissions per week at its peak that I calculate this title sequence was broadcast approximately 640 times!
Version 4: the scrapbook
The empty pages from a computer animated scrapbook are seen, and then slowly filled with memorabilia from early 1990s episodes of Stop, Look, Listen (although ironically the traffic light titles were still the ones used on many of the episodes actually covering these topics, which had already been produced before the scrapbook titles were introduced!): a postage stamp showing Penny Farthing bicycles, a ticket to Beamish Living Museum, a photograph of circus performers, a drawing of a sailing boat, a colourful football, an old coin, a stopwatch, an arrow fired from a bow, a butterfly and finally a sheep. The page full, the scrapbook is closed and the words 'Stop Look Listen' appear on its cover.
These titles were introduced in late spring 1993 and used until spring 1997 on a total of 45 episodes. They were repeated until spring 2001.
Version 5: the miscellany
A fast-moving sequence using different styles of animation. Four chattering faces of different colours are revealed to be part of the tapestry to a flying carpet, which moves off into a cloudy sky as the music starts. A clay model of the globe appears and unfurls to show a full world map. A drawn scene of round houses next to a bridge over a river appears, and then fades into a night-time street scene with buildings of many different shapes and styles, and a board bearing the programme title rolls towards us.
The title is set out in animated capital letters, with the 'o' of 'stop' resembling a red stop sign, the 'o's of 'look' having flashing pupils like eyes, and 'listen' set in blue text on a yellow background.
This sequence was used from autumn 1997 until the series ended in 2002, on a total of 65 episodes, and repeated until 2009.
Up to 1993: the ITV Schools era
The broadcast history of Stop, Look, Listen up to 1993 is difficult to summarise, since it consisted of well over 100 individual episodes, only very loosely organised into units, with different episodes updated, replaced or re-ordered each year, and during the 1980s there were two parallel sets of broadcasts each week!
Nevertheless the table below is an attempt to convey the series history in some meaningful way. Each row represents a year of broadcasts (or, from 1983-1987, one of two parallel Sets of broadcasts) and each column is a week - the first 10 weeks are the autumn term, the next 10 spring and the final 10 the summer term. Episodes are shown in bold on their first appearance. The table is very wide and will need to be scrolled across.
Details including a full description of each episode, broadcast dates, previews for teachers, filming locations and the sequence of replacements can be found on the individual pages for series 1 and series 2-17.
|Year||Autumn week 1||Autumn week 2||Autumn week 3||Autumn week 4||Autumn week 5||Autumn week 6||Autumn week 7||Autumn week 8||Autumn week 9||Autumn week 10||Spring week 1||Spring week 2||Spring week 3||Spring week 4||Spring week 5||Spring week 6||Spring week 7||Spring week 8||Spring week 9||Spring week 10||Summer week 1||Summer week 2||Summer week 3||Summer week 4||Summer week 5||Summer week 6||Summer week 7||Summer week 8|
|1983-84 Set A|
|1983-84 Set B|
|1984-85 Set A|
|1984-85 Set B|
|1985-86 Set A|
|1985-86 Set B|
|1986-87 Set A|
|1986-87 Set B|
From 1993: the Channel 4 Schools era
From 1993 the series was organised into distinct units:
- Autumn 1993 - How Things Are Made
- Spring 1994 - How To Find Out
- Spring 1994 - Where You Live
- Spring 1995 - People Who Help Us
- Spring 1995 - Places and Journeys
- Summer 1996 - Stories of Faith
- Autumn 1996 - Music, Magic and Mystery
- Spring 1997 - Animals
- Autumn 1997 - The Lunch Bunch
- Autumn 1997 - Streetwise
- Autumn 1997 - Animated Bible Stories
- Summer 1998 - Look After Yourself
- Autumn 1998 - The Sensations
- Autumn 1998 - Famous People
- Autumn 1998 - The Arts Cart
- Autumn 1999 - Dottie and Buzz
- Autumn 1999 - Jack and the Beanstalk
- Spring 2000 - Water, Moon, Candle, Tree and Sword
- Summer 2001 - Tales From Wales
- Autumn 2001 - Famous People 2
- Spring 2002 - Okey Cokey Karaoke
The following summary credits follow the series through to the end of the ITV Schools era in 1993. From 1993-2002 the series was arranged into units with separate production companies, and credits for those units will be added if this site ever gets round to creating pages for the individual units.
|Presenter||Harvey Higgins (1971-72, repeats to 1975)|
|Adviser||Ronald Gulliford (1971-90)|
|Script||Glynn Christian (1971-72)|
|Researcher||Patricia Newman (1975-76 & 1989), Pam Edwards (1978-84), Nigel Duckers (1981), Vikki Worthington (1984-93)|
|Film editor||Brian Hollins (1971-72), Kevin Lester (1975-76), Chris Rickard (1979-87), Sue Massey (1980-81), McDonald Brown (1980-82), Bob Woodward (1983-85), and others including Mycal Miller, Andrew Denny & Adrian Tuck|
Videotape editors include David Blackmore
|Director||Dilys Howell (1971-89)|
|Producer||Philip Grosset (1971-72)|
Not for Kids
Sources & References
- Channel 4 Schools and 4 Learning annual programme guides, wallcharts and listings, 1993-2009
- Edwards, Roy (1975) 'Fools' Lantern or Aladdin's Lamp?' in Independent Broadcasting issue 6, November 1975, pp.19-21
- Edwards, Roy (1976) 'Special Children, Special Teachers and Television' in Visual Education January 1976 pp.13-14
- Davies, Yvonne (1991) 'Review Article: Television Programmes of Study?' in Education 3-13 volume 19 no 3, October 1991, pp.61-64
- Gulliford, Ronald Stop, Look, Listen teachers' notes 1971-72 to 1989-90. Birmingham: ATV and Central TV
- Harrison, Paul (1992) 'Stopping to Think' in Times Educational Supplement 11 September 1992 p.31
- ITV Schools annual programme guides and wallcharts, 1971-93
- Mares, Cherry (1975) 'Television and radio as resources in special education' in Educational Broadcasting International, June 1975
- Noble, Paul (1992) 'Homes of the Past' in Times Educational Supplement 25 September 1992 p.18
- Porter, Pam (1978a) Television with Slow Learning Children: Attention to Educational Television Programmes, IBA Fellowship Scheme 1977/8
- Porter, Pam (1978b) 'The Reactions of Slow Learning Children to Educational Television' in Independent Broadcasting issue 17, August 1978
- Rose, Geoffrey (1976) 'IBA: Keeping in Touch in Visual Education, May 1976, pp.23-24
- Times Educational Supplement television listings, 1991-2000
- TV Times television listings, 1971-1992
- Wade, Barrie & Moore, Maggie Stop, Look, Listen teachers' notes 1990-91 to 1992-93. Birmingham: Central TV
- Wade, Barrie & Moore, Maggie (1994) Stop, Look, Listen teachers' guide summer term 1994. Warwick: Educational Television Company
- Wynn Owen, Jane (2017) 'Dilys Howell Obituary' in The Guardian, 26 September 2017, available online: (accessed 15 June 2021)
- Visual Education (1971) 'Stop, Look, Listen' item in Visual Education, August/September 1971 p.3
- Visual Education (1972) 'Stop, Look, Listen' item in Visual Education, March 1972 p.4
- Wills, Steven (2001) Girl in a Suitcase CD sleeve notes, Winchester Hospital Radio (partially reproduced at Discogs)
- Wills, Steven (2008) Watch with Teacher CD sleeve notes, Winchester Hospital Radio (partially reproduced at Discogs)
- with thanks to Roddy Buxton, Simon Collins, Simon Luxton and Stephen Thwaites
- Stop, Look, Listen teacher's notes 1977-78 stated that "This wide range of appeal seems valid because many of the topics, processes and situations presented can be enjoyed and comprehended at different levels. For example, the story of the banana (programme 11) or the story of what happens to the rubbish collected by the dustman (programme 4) can be interesting to quite old children (or even adults) as well as to younger children." The programme numbers refer to the position of those topics in the weekly sequence during 1977-78 specifically.
- Noble (1992) provides the quote that the series "needs to be measured for fit to the national curriculum" and concludes that the episode under review (Homes (1992)) fits well into several study units.
- Credits for the Cock of the Roost theme tune were given by Wills (2001).
- Credits for the High Life theme tune were given by Wills (2008).
- The Making a Living episode Two Weeks Clear (26/02/79) from the Looking at Industry unit includes footage of miners frolicking in communal showers, as does the My World episode Down a Coal Mine (01/03/1982) from the unit The Work People Do.
- Quote from Butcher (1981) taken from the soundtrack to that episode. Quotes from Café taken from the teacher's notes describing the episode: "One of the attractions at lunchtime is the big pork baps. Joanne puts the leg of pork in the oven to roast. At lunchtime there is always a queue to buy these pork baps containing the freshly carved pork." I don't know whether or not the same phrasing appears in the episode soundtrack.
- The Stop, Look, Listen teacher's notes 1990-91 p.10 gives the subject of the Café episode as "Leo and Joanne own Bunter's Diner, a busy little cafe in the High Street." The article "Butcher turned drugs mobster 'left to rot' in Panama prison" by Mike Lockley in the Birmingham Sunday Mercury, 29th November 2020 pp.4-5 (also available online) describes its subject Leo Morgan having opened "Cotteridge eatery Bunter's Diner, an à la carte restaurant" and further describes him as "underworld cocaine kingpin."
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