Andrew & Margaret Brownfoot Biography


Weatherspoon presenting Margaret & Andrew Brownfoot
with their wedding present from the Rubovia team.
Pongo & Rubina joined the party!
Clocks & Blocks set, August 1958 
Photo taken by John Hardwick, puppets colourised by Alastair Roxburgh

Andrew Brownfoot, born 1937.
Margaret Brownfoot, born c. 1937.
English costume and set designers.

Andrew and Margaret Brownfoot are a husband and wife costume and set designer team who played an important part in the early development of children’s television, working on programmes such as Gordon Murray’s “Camberwick Green” and “Rubovian Legends”. Andrew’s early interest in puppetry, settings and costume, probably fueled by the elaborate costumes and settings he researched and designed for “Rubovian Legends”, led to a life-long interest in costume, the gossip of history, and the theatre. In the decades which followed Rubovia he has become a world authority on historical style and costume.


Andrew Brownfoot’s study of high fashion in the Stuart period, covering 1603-1714

Andrew has worked as a costume and set designer for both television and the theatre in partnership with his wife Margaret, and often to critical acclaim for them both. Andrew also found time to lecture at the Harrow College of Technology and Art, and the University of Central England in Birmingham, where for many years he was a senior lecturer in theatre design. While there he researched historical costume design, and delivered a set of lectures on the history of style, fashion and manners. He has also published a number of books on these subjects (see illustrations on this page). Nowadays the Brownfoots enjoy life on the sunny island of Sicily.

Andrew met Gordon Murray at the BBC Lime Grove Studios in Shepherds Bush when he was just 16 years old. Molly Gibson, one of the BBC’s resident puppeteers, had arranged for Andrew to audition for a job as a puppeteer, and Gordon Murray happened to be one of the BBC staff who also attended the audition. Although this led only to a small puppetry slot on David Nixon’s “It’s Magic”, it was all the opening that Andrew needed. More than a year later, when Andrew was still only 17 years old, Gordon Murray phoned Andrew and asked him if he could design scenery. Andrew got the job, designing sets for “Toy Town”, which was the start of a long-term working relationship and friendship with Gordon Murray.


Andrew Brownfoot’s study of high fashion in Shakespeare’s time, 1564-1616

When Andrew met Gordon Murray, he and Margaret were still studying Theatre Design at the Central School of Arts and Craft in central London. With encouragement from Jeanetta Cochranne, the Head of the Theatre Design department, they soon spent most of their time working for Gordon Murray and the BBC. Margaret became increasingly involved in the design process too, and after Andrew's stint on “Toy Town”, helped in creating the scenery and costumes for “Rubovian Legends”. Andrew and Margaret have many fond memories of working on “Rubovian Legends”. Andrew said recently (Dec 2003) that for him, “working on Rubovia was a favourite time.”

Molly Gibson, who had originally helped Andrew Brownfoot get his foot in the door at the BBC’s Lime Grove studios as a puppeteer, was one of the puppeteers for the first three Kim Allen-puppet “Rubovian Legends” plays, all of which were transmitted live during 1955-6. However, soon after Andrew started working with Gordon, Molly went on to other projects, as did the original “Rubovian Legends” costume and set designers, Gordon Roland and Donald Horne.

Gordon Murray was quick to recognise and give direction to the young Andrew Brownfoot’s creative talents, and together they completely redesigned the look of Rubovia. The result was larger and more caricatured marionettes, more lavish settings and costumes, and more exaggerated puppet personalities to match. Two of the first three “Rubovian Legends” plays, Clocks and Blocks, and The Dragon’s Hiccups, were remade in the new style.


Andrew Brownfoot’s study of high fashion in Victorian times, 1835-1900.

Gordon said recently of Andrew Brownfoot (July 2003) that he admired Andrew’s talent a lot, and was very surprised and sometimes amazed at the wonderful costumes and sets that Andrew had come up with at such a young age. Gordon added that he had not expected a boy of seventeen to be so talented and capable, doing things so well, even doing all his own research for the costumes and sets.

Margaret and Andrew were married on July 10th, 1958, and a transmission of a puppet play (probably not “Rubovian Legends”, going by the date) went out the day after. So, in the first day of their married life, rather than going on their honeymoon, they were in Studio One at Lime Grove at 6:00 a.m., supervising the setup process, ready for camera rehearsals at 9:00 a.m., and with teardown at 6:00 p.m. to make way for another transmission.
 
After “Rubovian Legends” the Brownfoots worked together on all three of Gordon Murray’s Trumptonshire television series, designing and building almost everything seen on the screen.

Following Trumptonshire, Andrew’s career developed more in a literary direction, as he began to gain renown as an illustrator of children’s books, and also as an author in his own right. Among his own more serious works are three beautiful books that survey period costume: Shakespeare, and Stuart, as well as Victorian times. Each book combines the fictional journals of a set of fashionable people, who were very concerned with what they wore, with historically accurate details of clothes of the time. Each book contains four pull-up scenes to cut out and make. Some costumes are shown in three-dimensions. Interestingly, the fictional characters in the third book, High Fashion in Stuart Times, are more than slightly reminiscent of those that populate the “Rubovian Legends”, as revealed by Andrew’s paintings of their likenesses and in their “writings”.

Andrew Brownfoot's cover illustration for Mumtaz the Magical Cat       One of Andrew Brownfoot's illustrations for Mumtaz the Magical Cat
Mumtaz the Magical Cat by Miranda Seymour,
illustrated by Andrew Brownfoot
(click for larger images, 70K LHS; 92K RHS)

Andrew and Margaret now live in beautiful Castelvetrano, Sicily, where they and their friend Jackie Sirimanne operate Brownfoot Sirimanne Holidays. Their guests enjoy good food, (usually on every other evening cooked by Margaret herself), fine wine, and excellent company. The setting is magical—Jackie’s home, Villa Mimosa, built in the traditional Sicilian style and surrounded by umbrella pines, olive groves and orange trees. Jackie’s dog, Charlie, always gives visitors a friendly welcome, and her cats happily roam around the garden. Another nice touch is that the self contained bed-sitting rooms used by the guests have been designed by Margaret, and have Andrew’s beautiful paintings gracing the walls. This is a place to feel right at home in. Tours are available around the architecturally rich area, with Andrew accompanying. The history of the area can be delved into, and the arts. There are three very good beaches within a few minutes drive from villa Mimosa, at Marinella di Selinunte, with several good bars and restaurants overlooking the sea.

The ancient Greek Selinunte was for two hundred years a large and prosperous city with a seaport and many imposing temples. Today the imposing ruins of the city form the largest archaeological site in Europe. Tourists come to see the ancient temples throughout the year. The modern seaside town of Selinunte is the summer residence of the people of Castelvetrano. Other nearby places of interest to tour are Palermo, Marsala & Mozia, Sciacca, Corleone & Ficuzza, St. Margherita & Sambuca, and Trapani, Erice, & Segesta.

You can find out more about the Brownfoot Sirimanne Holiday experience here.  (http://www.aboutsicily.net/) 

Andrew Brownfoot Filmography
“Rubovia” (1976) (TV series, 6 episodes, colour,  stop-motion puppets) ...settings and costumes (assisted by Margaret Brownfoot)
“Chigley” (1968) (TV series, 13 episodes, 15 min, colour, stop-motion puppets) ...settings and costumes (assisted by Margaret Brownfoot)  DVD
“Trumpton” (1967) (TV series, 13 episodes, 15 min, colour, stop-motion puppets) ...settings and costumes (assisted by Margaret Brownfoot)  DVD
“Camberwick Green”
(1966) (TV series, 13 episodes, 15 min, colour and B&W, stop-motion puppet) ...settings and costumes (assisted by Margaret Brownfoot)  DVD
The Magic Tree
(1960) (TV, 25 min, marionette puppets) ...costumes (with Margaret Brownfoot)
The Crumpot Candles (1960) (TV, 20 min, marionette puppets) ...settings and costumes (assisted by Margaret Brownfoot)
King of the Golden River (1959) (TV, 30 min, marionette puppets) ...settings and costumes (assisted by Margaret Brownfoot)
The Petrified Princess (1959) (TV, 30 min, marionette puppets) ...settings and costumes (assisted by Margaret Brownfoot)
The Winkleburg Armourer (1958) (TV, 20 min, marionette puppets) ...settings and costumes (assisted by Margaret Brownfoot)
“A Rubovian Legend” (1958) ( TV Series, 2nd series of 26 episodes, 20 min, B&W, marionette puppets) ...settings and costumes (assisted by Margaret Brownfoot)
The Emperor’s Nightingale (1957) (TV, BBC Productions, tx’d live in B&W, but filmed in colour during the tx) ...scenery and costumes
Toytown” (1956) (TV series, 7 episodes, 20 min, B&W, marionette puppets) ...settings
The Bird of Truth (1956) (TV, marionette puppets) ...puppets and settings
The Dragon's Hiccups (1956) (a further marionette play in the Rubovian Legends series. Marionettes by Kim Allen. BBC Productions. Gordon Murray was writer, director, & producer) ...some settings and a new costume for the Queen (assisted by Margaret Brownfoot)
Clocks and Blocks (1956) (a further marionette play in the Rubovian Legends series. Marionettes by Kim Allen. BBC Productions. Gordon Murray was writer, director, & producer) ...some settings

Andrew & Margaret Brownfoot’s stage production work
The Boy Friend (1970) (By Sandy Wilson. Produced by John Yorke, Don Saxon, Michael Hellerman. Directed by Gus Schirmer. Ambassador Theatre, Broadway, New York, USA, 111 performances) ...scenic and costume design (Andrew Brownfoot and Margaret Brownfoot).
The Boy Friend (1968) (By Sandy Wilson. Phillip Theatre, Sydney, Australia) ...set and costume design (Andrew Brownfoot and Margaret Brownfoot).
The Boy Friend (1967) (By Sandy Wilson. A Michael Codron Production directed by Sandy Wilson. Comedy Theatres, West End, London) ...set and costume design (Andrew Brownfoot and Margaret Brownfoot)

As Dorothy Parker Once Said
(1966) (Watford Rep., London, UK) ...set and costume design (with Margaret Brownfoot). [details on Trumpton site]
As Dorothy Parker Once Said (By Parker/Wilson. A Peter Bridge Production. Staring Libby Morris and directed by Bill Hayes. Fortune Theatre, London W. End) ...set and costume design (with Margaret Brownfoot)

Andrew Brownfoot was resident designer for “Stage 60” at The Theatre Royal Stratford East, designing the following productions:
George Dandin (by Moliere, and on the same bill Zoo Story by Albee, both directed by David Thompson, the cast included Ewan Hooper, Zena Walker and Stephen Berkoff)
Widowers Houses (by Shaw, directed by Ronald Eyre, with a cast that included John Warner, Bernard Lloyd, Phyllida Law and Doreen Aris)
Ghosts (by Ibsen, directed by Adrian Rendle, with a cast that included Catherine Lacey and Leonard Rossiter)
Little Winter Love (by Owen, directed by Garry O’Connor, with a cast that included Paul Maxwell, Celia Hewit and David McKail)
The Road (by Wole Soyinka, directed by David Thompson, with a cast that included Rudolph Walker, Horace James and Willie Jonah)

Caste (by Rjobertson, directed by Alan Penn. Exeter Festival Theatre)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf (by Albee, directed by Joan Knight. Palace Theatre, Watford) ...set and costume design (with Margaret Brownfoot)
A Victorian Music Hall (compiled and directed by Peter Elrington) ...set and costume design (with Margaret Brownfoot)
The Importance of Being Earnest (by Wilde, directed By Giles Havergal, the cast included David Kernan, Glyn Worsnip and Patricia Lawrence) ...set and costume design (with Margaret Brownfoot)
The Seagull (by Chekhov, directed by Peter Elrington. The cast included Arraby Lockhart) ...set and costume design (with Margaret Brownfoot)
School for Wives (Moliere . Directed by John Ridley, the cast included Stanley Beard, Josephoine Stuart and Brigitte Forsyth. Northern Ireland Arts Council) ...set and costume design (with Margaret Brownfoot)
The Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare. Directed by Braham Murray, the cast included Helen Mirren and James Maxwell. University Theatre, Manchester) ...set and costume design (with Margaret Brownfoot)

Saint’s Day (Whiting. Directed by David Jones, the cast included Sir Michael Horden, Sheila Allen and David Williams. St. Martin’s Theatre, London W. End) ...set and costume design (with Margaret Brownfoot)
Salad Days (Slade. A Cameron Mackintosh Production. Directed by Brian Howard. Cambridge Art’s Theatre and subsequent tour) ...set and costume design (with Margaret Brownfoot)
Susanna (Handel. Directed by David Thompson, the cast included Janette Sinclair, Don Gerrard. Norma Burrowes and Duncan Robertson. Saddlers Wells Theatre, and Deutchlantheatre, Gottingen) ...set and costume design (with Margaret Brownfoot)
King Stag (Gozzi. Directed by Roland Joffe, the cast included Denise Cjoffey and Harold Innocent. Young Vic Theatre, London) ...set and costume design (with Margaret Brownfoot)

Valmouth
(1982?) (By Sandy Wilson, from Novel by Ronald Firbank. Directed by John Dexter, the cast included Jfanella Fielding, Sir Robert Helpman and Bertice Jreading. Chichester Festival Theatre) ...set and costume design (with Margaret Brownfoot)

Andrew Brownfoot Bibliography
Shakespeare Collectors Postcard Sets showing the costume styles fashionable at the time (Flintlock Publishing, 2003) “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Romeo & Juliet”, “Macbeth”, “Hamlet”. (Coming soon: “Merchant of Venice”, “Richard III”).


The “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Shakespeare Collectors Postcard set consists of a cover card that gives an editorial history of the play,  and seven character cards that each have a background to the character on the obverse side. The character cards are as follows:  Card 1 - Titania - Act II Scene 1, Card 2 - Helena - Act II Scene II, Card 3 - Demetrius - Act II Scene II, Card 4 - Theseus - Act I Scene I, Card 5 - Oberon - Act II Scene I, Card 6 - Hippolyta - Act IV Scene I, and Card 7 - Puck and Bottom - Act III Scene I.  Copyright © 1997; illustrations by Andrew Brownfoot; designed by Colin Clifford. Published by Flintlock Publishing, 10 Westbourne Road, Walsall WS4 2JA, England. 8 cards x Dimensions 100mm X 150mm.

Shakespeare on Stage: Including pull-up scenes to make yourself (Tarquin, 1997, for ages 9-12)
High Fashion in Stuart Times: A Study of Period Costume with Pull-up Scenes ( Tarquin, 1996) 
High Fashion in Victorian Times: A Study of Period Costume with Pull-up Scenes (Tarquin, 1994) 
High Fashion in Shakespeare’s Time: A Study of Period Costume with Pull-up Scenes (Tarquin, 1993)
 
Mumtaz the Magical Cat (Hodder & Stroughton: Children’s Division, by Miranda Seymour, 1984) ...illustrator

The following titles are school readers:
The Siamese Cats (New Story Books: Lime Group, by Philippa Murray, Alison Sinclair, 1978) ...illustrator
The Flying Horse (New Story Books: Cherry Group, by Philippa Murray, Alison Sinclair, 1978) ...illustrator
The Dancing Princesses (New Story Books: Cherry Group No.2 Series, by Philippa Murray, Alison Sinclair, 1978) ...illustrator
The Pekinese Dog (New Story Books: Cherry Group, by Philippa Murray, Alison Sinclair, 1978) ...illustrator
Little Freddy and His Fiddle (New Story Books: Cherry Group, by Philippa Murray, Alison Sinclair, 1978) ...illustrator
Kate Crackernuts (New Story Books: Cherry Group, by Philippa Murray, Alison Sinclair, 1978) ...illustrator
The King and the Moon (New Story Books: Plum Group, by Philippa Murray, Alison Sinclair, 1977) ...illustrator
Abu and Amina (New Story Books: Lime Group, by Philippa Murray, Alison Sinclair, 1977) ...illustrator
Ivan and the Golden Goose (New Story Books: Plum Group, by Philippa Murray, Alison Sinclair, 1977) ...illustrator
The Jewel Tears (New Story Books: Lime Group, by Philippa Murray, 1977) ...illustrator
Rapunzel (New Story Books: Lime Group, by Philippa Murray, Alison Sinclair, 1977) ...illustrator