Last Saturday I was fascinated – and surprised – by a BBC Radio 4 programme, with a hard-hitting title that I could not have imagined just a few years ago: “Broken Banking.”

The BBC’s “iPlayer” website introduces the programme as follows:

“Big British banks are widely accused of damaging the economy by failing to support their customers. Michael Robinson reports on initiatives to do without banks altogether.

With peer-to-peer lending, borrowers and lenders are matched directly through sophisticated websites promising better returns to investors and cheaper loans to borrowers. Could such direct contacts form a significant part of the future financial landscape? At least one senior Bank of England official thinks it might.”

The programme talked about two such lenders: Zopa for personal lending and Funding Circle for business loans.

I’ve written before (LINK) about this peer-to-peer idea, i.e. “cutting out the middle-man” as we used to say back in the day. Just in case you missed it, here’s that LINK again.

The key question is: how can both investors and borrowers get a better deal? The answer lies in a word: spread.


If you were planning an overseas holiday, have you noticed those ads for “no commission” foreign currency; and wondered “how can they do it? How do they make their money?” Well, you know that Thomas Cook, Travelex, etc are not charities; nor is your friendly high street bank, of course.

They all make their money on currency from the difference between the rates at which they buy and sell currency, i.e. the “spread”.  For example, if you ask your bank their latest tourist rates, there will be selling rates at which they sell you Euros, dollars etc; and also buying rates for any you bring back. If you work out the difference as a percentage of the buying rate, that’s the spread and that’s how they make their money. If they charge commission as well, that’s a bonus for them (or maybe I shouldn’t use that ugly word nowadays). Maybe they’ll say “commission-free” as an inducement, because they can make enough money on the spread.


Exactly the same thing happens, of course, when banks take in deposits and grant loans. The “spread” between their deposit rates and their lending rates, (or between the rate at which they can borrow in the money market, the now-notorious LIBOR, and the rates they get on loans), is a major part of their income. It’s what would be called margin in most businesses. Fair enough; the banks have to generate margins to sustain their services. But then I got a shock.

According to this BBC programme, the AVERAGE spread at UK banks in mid-2007, just before the credit crunch, was 2%. By 2009 it had risen to 7%.

“That was a rise of over 5%”, the presenter said, but that greatly understates the case. Yes, it was five percentage points, but it was an increase of 250% on the 2007 figure, if I’m not mistaken … in just two years.

This year, the average has dropped to a more “reasonable” 6%. That’s still a rise of 200% on the 2007 spread.

In the clamour for greater transparency about banks’ account charges, the spread figure is another (and probably much larger) area on which the public is mostly in the dark.


What’s the connection with peer-to-peer lending, you may ask. Peer-to-peer lenders simply put two parties in touch, and never handle the money, so they take a commission for the service, instead of a spread. That commission, according to the BBC, averages 1%. Yes, you read it right: 1%. That’s why the borrower and the lender can both get a better deal.



For BBC iPlayer, to access the Radio 4 programme, click here:

(Note: most programmes on iPlayer are available only for a week or two but this one is apparently available until 1 Jan 2099!)




In my last post I referred to an upcoming interview on BBC Radio 4’s “The World This Weekend” with Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi economist and Nobel Laureate.

35 years ago he more or less invented microfinance (or microcredit or microloans, whatever you want to call the idea). The occasion: Yunus’ brainchild Grameen Bank (the name means “Village Bank”) was about to open its first UK branch, inGlasgow.

Since then I’ve heard the interview – several times, thanks to the BBC’s wonderful iPlayer – and I am just as much a fan of Yunus as I was.

Grameen Bank’s model

Grameen’s loans are for small amounts; they are short-term and unsecured; they tend to be to poorer, “non-creditworthy” people. In the early days especially, in many cases they were to self-employed women, to get loan sharks off their backs. However, some critics have said that Grameen also charged high interest rates; and two years ago some microfinance lenders (not Grameen) were shut down by the authorities in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

So naturally I thought I needed to test my opinion. In the past I’ve been critical of the UK’s growing “Payday Loans” industry with its very high interest rates; many financial journalists have urged the Government to outlaw them, especially Simon Read in the Independent. So … was microfinance just a payday loan with the added credibility of a Nobel Laureate / economics professor? Was this just the acceptable face of payday loans?

In my view; it’s not the same thing at all. The interview, and what I’ve read since around the subject, has confirmed me in the view. Although Grameen has not existed in the UK up to now, we do have credit unions, which are comparable in many ways.

Soundbite time …

Here are some soundbites that give a flavour but I urge you to listen to the BBC piece in full.

Shaun Ley (Presenter, “The World This Weekend”): “A crisis has gripped capitalism … here’s Muhammad Yunus, one of the world’s leading economists.”

 “Grameen encourages small entrepreneurialism”

 Professor Pamela Gillies (Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Glasgow Caledonian University; and Prof. Yunus’s host here): “this reminds me of self-help groups I’ve seen in Dundee.”

 Vox pop, asked about the possibility of bad debts: “if I owe money to several people including a credit union… I feel part of the credit union, so I’d pay them first.”

 US author David Roodman: “the microfinance model appeals to both left and right, despite limited objective evidence that it transforms lives.”

 Yunus: “If the microfinance industry grows too fast, you can get a bubble, as happened in Andhra Pradesh.”

 Prof Gillies: “If this works in Glasgow it could work everywhere in the UK”

 Shaun Ley: “Should we encourage people to take on debt?” Yunus: “We don’t encourage, but we say if you are stuck, we can help. Our loans are all for the purpose of income generation. Our aim is to facilitate.”

 Ley: “What happened in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh?” Yunus: “We have no intention of making money from microcredit. Others found this profit source attractive, got backers onboard through an IPO, and were aggressive in promoting loans. That was a derailment of the original idea. Making money out of poor people is not a new idea – that’s what loan sharks have been doing for years.”

 Yunus (asked about the microfinance industry in general) “If I could concentrate on Grameen specifically; we are owned by our borrowers. Two thirds of the money we lend comes from our borrowers.”

In conclusion …

Yes, Prof. Yunus and Grameen Bank may well have come in for criticism. Anyone who challenges financial orthodoxies and massive vested interests for 35 years will attract opposition. But it’s fair to say that the West’s banking sector has not covered itself in glory recently. Thus anyone who tries to develop an alternative financial model, especially when they do it from what seems to me an altruistic motive, deserves respect and support.

I’ll certainly be following the progress of the UK’s first Grameen Bank branch with interest; but I’ll also be following other alternative finance sources that are already established in the UK, e.g. credit unions and peer-to-peer lenders such as Zopa.

Watch this space!



 BBC interview with Muhammad Yunus; available only until Sunday 18 March 2012 at 12.59: (starts at 16 mins)

Grameen Bank:

Glasgow Caledonian University, Yunus visit:

Daily Telegraph, Nick Stace, “Yunus resigns from Grameen Bank”:

The Independent, Simon Read, “Time to crack down on payday loans”:




A couple of years ago I was privileged to hear a talk, here in Bristol, by the groundbreaking and unassuming Bangladeshi economics professor Muhammad Yunus, the pioneer of the “microcredit” movement. The way he had lifted thousands of people out of poverty, by lending small sums without collateral, was inspirational. I loved too the fact he had just ignored the negative advice and nonexistent support of traditional bankers and set up his own bank. He has subsequently stepped down from the bank’s chairmanship after some negative publicity (buck the trend and that’s inevitable in our world, surely?) but what he achieved was impressive in the extreme.

Later, telecoms companies wouldn’t support him in his idea of supplying mobile phones to wannabe entrepreneurs in remote villages, so he just set up his own telecoms company and Village Phone Program. (“No mains electricity? No problem: solar power. No shortage of sunlight in Bangladesh; and solar panels are cheap here!”)

I had to smile when I saw the ICC (cricket) World Cup on TV a few years ago; the Bangladesh team were wearing the name of Grameen Telecom (the market leader, above all those global brands) on their shirts.

Grameen and its founder were jointly awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. The man himself will be talking today on BBC Radio 4 (“The World This Weekend”, 1pm) about the setting up of the first UK branch of his Grameen Bank, in Glasgow. I’ll be listening.


Wikipedia on Grameen Bank: LINK


Rail is again in the headlines but not for the right reasons. That nice Mr Hammond has been defending the fact that Bombardier, our last train maker,  has announced redundancies at its Derby factory.

To what extent this was because Thameslink had decided to buy “1200 new trains” from Siemens, according to the FT, is  not clear. It’s not even clear how many trains are involved; the Guardian on the same day said 1200 carriages, which is rather different; unless, of course, these are single-carriage trains, which we sometimes have to tolerate on some routes here in the rail-deprived West Country.

Who’s the guilty party?

The FT’s coverage went on to say that “insiders attributed the (Siemens) decision to a procurement process set up by the previous Labour Government” and in a radio interview that day I definitely heard Philip Hammond espouse that view. However he has also flagged`up his concerns about the EU procurement directive,an unequal implementation of which meant that you get German-built trains on German railways and French-built trains on French railways but we’ll get (mostly) German-built Thameslink trains, though some of the components for the latter will be UK-sourced.

Mr Hammond should decide which to blame; although the answer is probably not simple (it rarely is), it’d make better copy if he blamed just one party.

That nice Mr Hammond

By the way, the minister seemed surprised that the level-playing-field concept is not universally accepted throughout Europe. When I worked in the chemical industry, I remember it was often said that some of our European partners (no names, no pack-drill) would always press for the strictest possible regulations on safety, environment etc, knowing that they would be less strictly policed in their own countries, thus giving them a cost advantage. So the concept is not new; if it was a surprise, that justifies my having called him that nice Mr Hammond.

Bombardier: post hoc ergo propter hoc?

The Transport Secretary did, however, point out robustly  to a Radio 4 interviewer that the job losses at Bombardier were not totally, or even primarily, caused by the Thameslink decision. And he persisted in his defence even when the interviewer (no names again) pressed him with the traditional “so you are saying that …”, followed by a summary that was totally at variance with what had actually been said. Who’d be a government minister?


For the Guardian story:

For the FT story:  (but you may have to register)



My local paper, the Bristol (UK) Evening Post, has thrown its influential weight behind a cause in which I believe strongly; the need for better public transport. The first five pages of yesterday’s issue (30 June) focus on the theme and the first two sentences on the front page sum it up:

“It’s time Greater Bristol had a transport system fit for the 21st century.

Most experts believe the key to this is railways, and our map shows a bold vision for the future.”

(I would have reproduced the map but my editing skills are yet up to it)

The paper also states its support for the creation of an Integrated Transport Authority for the Greater Bristol area; an area covering four different local authorities that don’t at present all agree on the rail option.

See below for link to their full story.

Scotland takes the lead

About a week ago I heard a fascinating programme on BBC Radio 4, about the recent trend to expand railway services in Scotland: reopening lines that had been closed during the Maudling / Beeching cuts of the 60s and since.

There was talk of the “business case”, e.g. reconnecting St Andrews, with its university, golf and tourism, but also much talk of the social case, when there was not a strong business case. Strangely to my ears, it seemed that the social case had more traction in Scotland than it does in England. Or am I wrong about that?

High-speed rail interesting; local rail boring?

However … the coalition has restated its commitment to HS2, the high-speed line from London to Birmingham, subsequently to Manchester and Leeds. The cost? £37bn, maybe. But wait … Philip Hammond, the Minister responsible, said in the Financial Times (June 24) that it will probably be much less than that. Why? Because we don’t have to pay for the whole project ourselves. In other words, we can move most of the cost off-balance sheet. So, to summarise: it could be £37bn. It could, of course, be much more, judging by our track record in such projects. Or it could be less; but only if we hand the private sector a “licence to print money”. Sorry, I meant a PFI project.

When it comes to rail, it seems that the Westminster village can only get interested if the project is big enough and the sums are eye-watering enough. Improving services and reducing fares on 95% of the country’s lines, where we pay the highest fares in Europe for arguably the worst service, is clearly a boring matter.

Sketchy local rail in Bristol

Where I live (in Bristol, surely one of the UK’s major cities and a mere 120 miles from Westminster) we have a pretty sketchy suburban rail service, with trains that should have been pensioned off 30 years ago. That’s why I’ve joined a lobbying group called FOSBR, which stands for Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways.

Severn Beach Line success

FOSBR’s lobbying has been successful in improving frequency and reliability on one of the local lines, from Bristol Temple Meads to Avonmouth and on to Severn Beach. After that positive outcome, there is another focus of interest for those in favour of expanding access to local rail in this area: the former passenger line from Bristol to Portbury, on the North Somerset side of the Avon Gorge.

That’s a wonderfully scenic run that’s experienced by no passengers, as freight trains constitute the sole traffic. There has for years been a proposal to reintroduce passenger services and to extend the line a mere three miles to the rapidly-growing town of Portishead.

Portishead: growth and congestion

When I arrived in this area I was told that Portishead was the fastest-growing town in the West. In fact, according to local railway lobbyists, its population has doubled in recent years.

I’ve been told that Portishead is now the largest town in the country without a rail link. It has one congested single-carriageway road connecting it with Bristol, to which a high proportion of residents commute. The rush-hour journey of eight miles (via a predictably congested junction with the M5) often takes well over an hour; a headache highlighted by a 2008 BBC4 programme. In fact, on the day presenter Simon Calder made the journey it took over two hours. Two hours for eight miles?

Despite this, the rail proposal has got nowhere. Instead, the local planners have been proposing to address the commuting problem by means of a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) scheme. The words Rapid Transit sound impressive and modern (and rapid), don’t they? But will the vehicles be the bendy buses London doesn’t want? And where exactly will these rapid buses run, without taking a fair chunk of Green Belt?

Hope for the future?

However, I am optimistic that with the very strong support that’s been shown by the Bristol Evening Post and of the local MPs there is now a hope that the BRT decision can be reversed and the funding reallocated to rail. After that, why not a real 21st-century transport system for the Greater Bristol area? After all, if it makes sense to reverse the Beeching cuts in Scotland, why shouldn’t we emulate that trend in the West of England?

Watch this space!



For the Bristol Evening Post’s coverage 30.06.11:

About “Reversing Dr Beeching” (BBC Radio 4 programme):

About rail pressure groups in the Bristol area:

About former Bristol / Portishead / Minehead line (BBC4 TV programme):



A few days ago I was listening to an interview with Scotland’s First Minister Alec Salmond on Woman’s Hour (BBC Radio 4, 10 June). The topic – and I was most impressed with what Salmond said – was the Scottish Government’s efforts to tackle both alcohol abuse in general and the sectarian violence that’s recently been in the news associated with Scottish football.

On the alcohol question, I was less impressed with interviewer Jenni Murray’s suggestion: “but surely (the classic interviewer’s knee-jerk) the Scottish economy depends on the whisky industry”, or words to that effect. Salmond countered by saying that whisky wasn’t the main issue in Scotland, in his view; his primary concern seemed to be with binge drinking among the young, therefore less to do with whisky and more to do with cut-price supermarket vodka, cider and high-strength beers, as in England.

Drinking north and south of the border

By the way, Salmond said “we drink more per head (10%, was it? I can’t recall) than you do in England, and you drink too much.” That last throwaway line “ … and you drink too much”  I might have ignored, if said by your average teetotal hellfire preacher; but said with a smile (this was radio, but I can tell) by someone as humorous as Salmond is known to be – a man that I’ll wager likes a drink or two himself – it was OK by me. As G K Chesterton said: “humour gets in under the door while seriousness is still fumbling with the door-handle”. Or words to that effect.

Whisky exports

Going back to the health of the whisky industry (financial health, that is): it wasn’t mentioned but I’d always assumed its success was based largely on exports, not on sales in Scotland. I have in fact heard that Venezuelans often claim to drink more Scotch than the Scots.

Domestic violence links

Salmond mentioned the increased incidence of domestic violence connected with both alcohol and football (especially after the combination that occurs after so-called “Old Firm” matches between Celtic and Rangers). He referred to a scheme they have in Scotland to try and address the problem of domestic violence in general; it’s called the Caledonian System.

Questioning this connection, Jenni Murray said (I can’t recall if she might well have prefaced it with “but surely …”) that the organisation Scottish Women’s Aid have stated there is no link between football, alcohol and domestic violence and that it’s purely a matter of attitudes. Salmond disagreed; and from police statistics I’ve read in the past I would have disagreed too, if they’d asked me.

Want to know more?

… about the Caledonian System:

Michael J MacMahon, Bristol, UK





I heard an interesting discussion on the radio yesterday (BBC Radio 4 but I can’t recall which programme). The topic was the massive increases in retail prices for domestic energy, Scottish Power proudly leading the way with a planned 19% hike in domestic gas prices. (Have you ever heard of a 19% drop from any energy provider when wholesale gas prices are falling? Answers on a postcard, please.)

This news has led to predictions of widespread hardship next winter for those older people for whom energy costs are a major proportion of their budget; thus the discussion turned to the annual Winter Fuel Payment, which here in the UK will be £200 for winter 2011/12 (unless you are over 80, when it’ll be £300).

To put that allowance in perspective, the predicted energy price hike is expected to add around £175 to average annual bills for Scottish Power’s 2.4m customers; and up to £300 extra as a UK average, according to an industry commentator, when other energy companies follow suit.

Benefit used for its intended purpose? Discuss.

A contributor to the programme said “studies have shown” that in general the Winter Fuel Payment is in fact used to buy energy; 40% of recipients use it for the purpose intended. As this is the predominant use of the benefit, the measure is seen as appropriately targeted.

This made me wonder: “how do they know?” These days the payments will predominantly, if not totally, be by cheque or bank payment. So the money goes in to a bank account. It comes out to pay for … what? The concept of ring-fencing in domestic economy only means something for the minority of people who do regular and accurate budgets and cash-flow forecasts.

The alternative: they asked people through an opinion poll. Fine … but if you were in receipt of this fuel benefit and wanted to hold on to it; and then a pollster came to your door or your telephone and asked for what purpose you’d spent the money … would you admit it was for drink or drugs or gambling or going to football or a few dinners out?

Have I missed something? If not, I rest my case, m’lud.


Jamie Oliver’s latest initiative, “Dream School”, sounds interesting, though I admit I haven’t seen any of the programmes yet. His personality, energy and high profile have ensured the involvement of all those “experts”: people with not only exceptional levels of knowledge but also the time to give the 1:1 attention that many “troubled” children inevitably lack at school.

Teenage nightmare rehabilitated?

A couple of days ago, I tweeted about an interview with former “problem pupil” Angelique Knight on Radio 4’s You and Yours. “Dream School rules”, was my conclusion. The findings were unsurprising to me but encouraging. Unless she was no more than an accomplished actor, Angelique had changed in a short time from a teenage nightmare to a motivated young person who now wants to go to university.

“So what?” you might say. Is this just a neat way to get TV ratings? A country mile from what can be achieved in a practical sense? Resource constraints will never allow this kind of thing, or anything like it? As the saying goes, “You might think that; I couldn’t possibly comment” although I do admit to being pretty impressed when I heard that interview with Angelique Knight.

Real-world school on show

I was even more impressed recently when I saw one small snapshot of what a difference good leadership can make in schools. I was staying overnight at a hall of residence at the London School of Economics (LSE, to us Brits) and when I went down to breakfast the dining hall was half-full of schoolchildren on a study trip; it was university vacation time, so they, and I, were taking advantage of the good-value accommodation such halls offer.

These kids were of primary school age; animated, not Ritalin-sedated, but so well-behaved that I admit to thinking (please forgive my former prejudices) that they must be from a fee-paying school. It’s a well-known fact that discipline is an issue / challenge (we don’t say problem anymore, do we?) in many British state-sector schools, even at primary level.

But not all schools. Suddenly I heard an adult voice raised, in a quietly authoritative tone: “Sit down! How dare you embarrass the school by your behaviour!” Silence reigned again. We random adults looked at each other and smiled; this took many of us back to our own schooldays.

Primary school rules

I went over to a table occupied by half a dozen teachers and congratulated them on the kids’ behaviour. One said: “well, these are pretty tired kids.” That’s when I found they were from a state-sector primary: Southill Primary School in Weymouth, Dorset, and I talked briefly to the Deputy Head, the man who had laid (or is it lain?) down the law.

After the kids had left (in an orderly fashion) I noticed the same guy going round and thanking all the dining-hall and kitchen staff. That impressed me too, as it seemed to be consistent: show respect to kids and to adults alike and with luck you get it back.

As I said before, it was only a snapshot; but it showed what can be done, even without Channel 4’s budget and the presence of TV cameras. I don’t know anything about the academic results of Southill Primary School but I’ll bet they are pretty good.

Ideal vs. real

In conclusion: hats off to Southill. It’s inspiring to find out what could be done in an ideal world, through projects like Dream School. It’s even better to see people who seem to be doing it in the real world.

Want to know more?

Southill Primary School:

Jamie Oliver’s “Dream School”:


Please indulge me, dear reader, if I take a short canter on one of my favourite hobby-horses. We all know that the thing that best sells newspapers (after sex) is bad news. I once listened to a media consultant speaking at a conference here in Bristol, saying: “News is what somebody, somewhere, doesn’t want you to know. Everything else is advertising.”

OK, so newspapers have to be bought or the publisher will go bust. (alongside “bought”, you can now include subscribing to a website pay-wall, in the case of the Times group of papers). If we complain, as I often do, about the relentless sensationalism of which our media is so fond, the remedy is in our own hands: don’t buy that particular paper.

What really gets my goat (Why “goat”? Answers please!) is when the same policy is adopted by the BBC, which, the last time I checked, is funded by licence fees.

The thing that got me going was just a snippet and I am not even 100% sure of the motivation of the presenter in this case … but I can make an educated guess. The subject was, I think, the London Olympics.

Presenter: “what do you think of these recent rule changes?”

Interviewee: “I am sure that the people who are responsible for those rules have made the changes for a good reason, so it’s up to us to get on with it.”

Presenter: “That’s a very diplomatic answer.”

(Presenter’s thought-bubble: “Rats! No controversy? Very disappointing answer.”)

OK, the presenter’s actual response to the answer was spoken softly, in the very polite voice that particular presenter always uses for her most penetrating questions. I could be adding two and two and making 57 … but I doubt it.


“Broadcasting House” is one of my favourite radio programmes and I always make time for it. (0900 every Sunday on BBC Radio 4, if you haven’t got into it yet)

Time was a central theme in one of the first items last Sunday, 13 Feb. A character’s obsession with “the quickening pace of time”, as he grows older, is the central theme of a stop-motion film “The Eagleman Stag”, a 9-minute short nominated for a BAFTA in the “short animation” category. The film’s director Mikey Please was interviewed; the BBC website tells me that he is a freelance animator who graduated from the Royal College of Art last year [only last year and winning a BAFTA? Impressive!]. He has directed several music videos and title sequences as well as making his own short films.

By the way, through watching the award ceremony later that day I now know that Mikey’s film won the BAFTA. Do the people at the BBC know something that we don’t know? Was his selection as an interviewee a lucky or a smart choice? Or did the editors at “Broadcasting House” have a time machine?

Alvin Toffler

The quickening pace of time as one gets older is, of course, not a new theme. I remember reading Future Shock and The Third Wave, Alvin Toffler’s remarkable books of 1973 and1981 respectively. Toffler was very interesting on this phenomenon. He suggested that one solution was for retirees to live in enclaves where clocks ran slower. He was totally serious, of course. Although I haven’t retired, I qualify, age-wise; I want to move there now.

An anecdotal, non-scientific illustration of the time-speeding-up phenomenon came from the late Tony Curtis, when interviewed in his 80s.

Interviewer: “Could you give us a thumb-nail sketch of your movie career?”

Curtis: “Well, I arrived in Hollywood as a very young man with very little money. So I checked in to the cheapest motel I could find. I had a shower and put on a clean shirt; then I came down here to meet you.”

Which proves the point rather neatly.

Stop-motion and “The Wind in the Willows”

Back to that interview about animated film “The Eagleman Stag”. Paddy O’Connell, the host of Broadcasting House, said: “from Wallis and Gromit onwards, the UK has a hold on stop-motion”.

I love Wallis and Gromit to bits (and I live in Bristol, where Aardman Animations is based), but I really must dispute the idea that the UK’s hold on stop-motion started with them. Paddy is maybe too young to remember, or he didn’t have young children in the 80s, as I did, but in 1983 there was a wonderful feature film version of “the Wind in the Willows”, followed by more than one TV series. They were produced by Cosgrove Hall and voiced by wonderful British character actors such as David Jason and Michael Hordern. Both the feature film and the TV series were, according to good old Wikipedia, “sometimes misidentified as being filmed in claymation, which is incorrect. The method used by Cosgrove Hall is a stop-motion animation process using scale model sets and pose-able character figurines.”

Best version

A review of the 1983 feature, on Amazon, says: “Before it became a Wallace-and-Gromit ghetto, model animation was pioneered by Cosgrove Hall – and this is arguably their magnum opus. Beautifully produced, lovingly detailed, with a great vocal cast and classy score, it has the nerve to stick closely to the book. As a result it is the best screen version by miles and, in my opinion, likely to remain so.” To which I can only say “hear, hear!”