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  1. ITV Report

Rainbow presenter Geoffrey Hayes dies aged 76

Geoffrey Hayes, who hosted long-running children's programme Rainbow, has died at the age of 76.

"It is with great sadness that the family announce that Geoffrey passed away from pneumonia in hospital with his wife, Sarah, and son, Tom, by his side," the actor and TV presenter's manager, Phil Dale, confirmed.

Hayes appeared alongside cuddly puppets Zippy, George and Bungle in more than 1,000 episodes of Rainbow from 1974 until 1992, having taken over from original host David Cook.

In a statement, Mr Dale said: "Geoffrey Hayes was an English television presenter and actor, best known as the host of Thames Television's top-rated children's show Rainbow, and for his portrayal of Detective Constable Scatliff in the successful TV series Z Cars for the BBC."

Mr Dale added: "The family would like to express their thanks to the many fans over the years as it always gave Geoffrey so much pleasure to know that he and his Rainbow team had given so much fun to TV and theatre audiences over the years."

Geoffrey Hayes and his TV companions hold a place in many childhood memories. Credit: PA

Puppeteer Mathew Corbett, of Sooty fame, recalled his time as a regular performer on Rainbow, saying the late presenter was a "gentle person both on and off [screen]."

The 70-year-old added: "He just seemed to have captured the love of children, they saw him as as an uncle figure who was readily available.

"He was always nice and alway kind...he really was a star in terms of children's television."

Mr Corbett said Geoffrey's time on the Thames Television children's show was fondly remembered decades after it ended.

"He brought fun and entertainment to literally millions of people," he said.

"Those people are now 50 years old, 45 years old something like that and still they would be stopping in the street when the saw Geoffrey and they'd go 'man you're an icon, you were my childhood'.

"That's great to hear from a middle-aged person who is impressed to meet Geoffrey Hayes as they would be to meet royalty."

Hayes played the long-suffering adult character, guardian and upholder of the peace in the hallucinogenic Rainbow house on the show, which aired several nights a week to children across the UK.

Speaking in 2002, Hayes said the secret to the programme's enduring popularity was that it was full of "magic, innocence and imagination".

He said: "Practically all the time people come up to me and it really breaks me up because they thank me for being part of their childhood. It makes me want to cry sometimes."

Hayes also had a recurring role in drama series Z Cars in the early 1970s, and appeared on programmes including Never Mind The Buzzcocks and Pointless Celebrities but struggled to find TV work after Rainbow was cancelled.