Who Remembers Primo, the Premium Tea Bear?

Dum-dum dumde-dumde-dum dum dummmmm,
Gives you a sparkle, Premium Tea!

Back in the 1960s, J. Lyons and Company offered Premium Tea as on of its brands – and a Primo Bear children’s comic, featuring the work of Sunday Times and LWT artist John Tribe.

The comic was just part of a branding campaign used to promote the company’s Premium Tea, the title promoted as “the magazine for boys and girls and bears”. It was launched in 1964 and was obtained by collecting tea packets.

A 1964 edition of J Lyons Primo Club Magazine

A 1964 edition of J Lyons Primo Club Magazine

The roughly A4-sized comic ran to eight pages for its early issues. Children could also apply for Primo Club membership which cost 1/6d for membership card and badge and a super Primo T-shirt was also available.

While the brand seems to have been fairly short lived, the tie-in magazine ran until at least 1967 and an edition given away free with every packet of Premium Tea sold in 1967 had a print run of two million copies, according to Peter Bird on his web site dedicated to the history of J. Lyons.

Internal pages, including comic strip, from a 1964 edition of Primo Club Magazine

Internal pages, including comic strip, from a 1964 edition of Primo Club Magazine

Inside that edition of the magazine were competitions and puzzles and special offers on the brand’s teddy bear mascot, called Primo, which appears to have been available previously based on those who remember the toy and still have it such as Mary Watts, paint boxes and inflatable globes.

John Tribe, the Kent-based designer of the Bafta/LA Britannia Award, contributed much of art to the Primo magazine, who joined LWT in the 1960s and was initially seconded to the publicity department, as Art Director for the first edition of Ready Steady Go! magazine. a TV Times publication. On screen, he would provide opening credits illustrations for shows such as On Reflection: B.S. Johnson on Samuel Johnson (broadcast in 1971), an adaptation of the H.E. Bates novel Love For LydiaThe Fosters, and Mixed Blessings, and an innovative sketch show by the creators of The Burkiss Way.

But, as Stuart Vallantine notes here on East of the M60, he’s perhaps best known for his work on LWT’s Agatha Christie adaptations, firstly on Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1980) and The Seven Dials Mystery– and the award winning title sequences for Partners in Crime.

Gerald Durrell’s Menagerie Manor (1967) - cover by John Tribe

Gerald Durrell’s Menagerie Manor (1967) – cover by John Tribe

Still active as an artist today, he provided illustrations for The Sunday Times Magazine in the 1960s and 70s and, as noted above, the bulk of the Primo Bear children’s comic.

His numerous credits also include covers of Penguin paperbacks, including Gerald Durrell’s Menagerie Manor in 1967, and colour illustrations of every recipe in Margaret Costa’s Four Seasons Cookery Book, published by Cookery Book Club Publishing  in 1970.


Mary Watts photo of Primo Bear on Twitter

• Peter Bird has a detailed web site dedicated to the history of J Lyons at www.kzwp.com/lyons – unfortunately some images are missing from the site

East of M60 – On Reflection: The Definitive Collection of Visual Works by John Tribe

IMDB – John Tribe

• The London Metropolitan Archives: City of London holds and archive of press cuttings, advertisements and comics of the TV character “Primo”– as part of its records for J Lyons REF LMA/4364/02

BBC Moneybox listeners memories of Primo Bear, broadcast in 2010 (PDF)



Categories: British Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News

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2 replies

  1. Just to let you know I still have my Primo Bear.

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