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if you were me

The second instalment of ’56 Up’ tonight (ITV1) catching up with ‘Nick’ and ‘Suzy’ reminds me of another tv show that has the potential to be followed-up.

In early 1971, BBC children’s tv showed a 6-part documentary series called ‘If You Were Me.’

A second 4-part series followed in 1975.

The simple premise was that children from the UK visited a child of their own age in another country – a sort of tv version of having a pen-friend as did I and many of my friends of the same age.

If the series doesn’t ring any bells, then you might remember the theme tune sung by Lionel Morton, a 60s pop star with the Four Pennies and later presenter of children’s tv programmes including’Play Away.’

Bizarrely, Morton was in the news last week in the publicity surrounding a documentary about BBC television centre.

Not surprisingly perhaps, given the post-Flower Power era, fellow presenter Johnny Ball alleged that Lionel and another children’s presenter Rick ‘Fingerbobs’ Jones went on air ‘live’ to do a nativity play having indulged in a little recreational smoking.

At the time of writing Lionel Morton has yet to add his four penn’orth (if you’ll forgive the terrible pun).

I digress.

Even now, I can sing the theme tune of ‘If You Were Me,’ which owed a little to the folk song ‘Tom Hark,’ covered in 1980 by The Piranhas.

Extracts of the lyrics that I can remember are:-

‘If you were me, see the things I see, do the things I do, if you were me……’

‘I’ll go to your school, you’ll come to my school, I’ll go to your house, you’ll come to my house.’

I was hoping, copyright permissions allowing, to reproduce the correct lyrics word for word thanks to a vhs copy of an edition of the programme that I once had.

But it seems to have left the building without my permission – or perhaps I never thought I would be writing this blogpost about it, and have thrown it out.

In the mid 1990s, while working as a producer for the BBC, I spent quite a lot of energy tracking down several of the participants in the hope of making a tv programme about the show.

Sadly, and not for the first time in my career, I failed to arouse the interest of anyone with the power to commission said programme.

But as it took me over 10 years to get my idea for a documentary about singer-songwriter Nick Drake off the ground and onto British radio, I haven’t given up hope.

The most poignant story that I uncovered involving one of the participants was that of Keith Powell from Rawmarsh in South Yorkshire.

In the programme, he was linked with a boy from Tunisia – an edition that I remember well as it seemed incredibly exotic for someone of my age to travel outside Europe.

Keith’s own story though ended in tragedy when as a member of the Royal Green Jackets, he was one of 7 bandsmen who died in the IRA bombing of a bandstand in Regent’s Park, London in July 1982.

Bandsman Keith Powell – tribute website

The shock of discovering how his life ended has stayed with me in the years since.

I’m also intrigued to find out what happened to all the other people involved, some of whom I did contact and were delighted to talk about their memories of ‘If You Were Me.’

Perhaps you know or have come across the other participants from ‘If You Were Me,’ or have memories of watching the original programmes.

If so, I would appreciate it if you would post a comment – if you would prefer me not to publish it online, then please say.

To finish on a musical note, here’s what was at Number 1 in the UK the week that the series launched in February 1971.

7 Responses to “if you were me”

  1. There was a feature about If You Were Me on BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House this morning, including the them tune and a catch up with two participants. See the link from 53’20”.

  2. Gavin Williams says:

    I remember the series well. Made a big impression on me. It was years ahead of its time, possibly one reason for its later obscurity. It was gold-dust to any young enquiring mind at the time. And, yes, I’m never forgotten the theme tune, which had the merit of explaining what it was all about in a catchy, accessible way. Back in the days when “intelligent” was not a dirty word when it came to TV programming

  3. nick says:

    I remember the first programme being about a lad who lived near the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol, and was a member of a marching band or something – the bridge looked very scary as I recall…

  4. Campbell Aiken says:

    Stumbled across this blog when trying to explain to my son what I did as a kid. I was the only one from Scotland, and thoroughly enjoyed my time in Holland. My work took me over there a few years ago, and I did visit the old house where Jan lived, but the neighbour told me he now lived 70km away and I had no more time, so that was that. As for me, I now live in Oman.

  5. Jane Walker says:

    It is a long time since “If You Were Me,” but it only seems like yesterday. Unfortunately, I am no longer in contact with Steffi Kranz, but often think about her and wonder where she is and what is she up to. I was only sharing the other day with some work colleagues my trip to Germany and promised that one day I would show them the video I bought from the BBC some years later of my little claim to fame.

    Several years ago, my husband and I and my two children, Helen and John, were extras in the film ‘Iris’ shot in Southwold, starring Dame Judi Dench. The video of ‘If You Were Me’ is very special to me because of my father being on it – he has been dead now for thirteen years. I have been happily married for 31 years to a dairy farmer. If ever you are able to persuade anyone to “do” a follow-up, please remember me. With best wishes, Jane Walker (nee Curtis)

    • mick dias says:

      ohh, i stumbled across this- pleeeeeeaseee upload this onto you tube, i’ve been trying to find something about this series for donkey’s years and i was beginning to think that i may have only dreamt this series- but i even remembered the theme tune,sung by lionel morton and played possibly on a kazoo? i would absolutely love to hear this theme again!!! please i implore you!! thanksss

      • kytle says:

        Your best bet is to try and track down a copy of the original ‘Lionel Sings For The Children’ LP (Contour 2870 324). Various online sites seem to have copies available.

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