Up to the Summer Exhibition at the RA

with my eldest son Robin a week or so ago. The exhibition is so well co-ordinated and every room beautifully hung.  One of the themes is migration and includes birds and animals, followed by  wonderful works including paintings, prints, words and installations.

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This is just a taste of what the exhibition has in store, but also goes a long way to remind us all why art is important. It may even persuade some of us to go home and get our own brushes out…

My partner and daughter in law Sheila, usually come too, but they couldn’t make it, but Robin and I had a great time and still  managed to play our traditional family game  ‘Guess the price’ We choose our favourite work in each room, guess the price and then check the catalogue. As usual we were both miles off target!

My mother and I used to have a tradition too. We would go over to Fortum’s after the exhibition to see who could find the best thing to buy for under £2.50? Once a packet of tea and another time four chocolates!

Robin and I just popped over to Paul’s opposite for filled baguettes and continental pastries!


Posted in Cheer yourself up on a dull day, Creativity, Famous places, Galleries and Art in widest sense | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Poetry for the book ‘Paul Smith by Rottingdean Bazaar’.

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I had an amazing stroke of luck a few weeks ago when James and Luke from Rottingdean Bazaar popped into the Open Art Cafe in Rottingdean and discovered the poems on display written by members of the Pop in poetry group which I run.

Apparently our poems, which are often quirky, were just what they wanted for a new book they were working on to celebrate the life and work of Paul Smith the fashion designer! At the time I admit I barely knew anything about Paul Smith.  But my partner and sons were impressed, as were two of the poets who had long been admirers of Paul Smith’s wonderful designs.

A week later following a coffee with James I was madly writing a poem about stripes, as well as contacting regular members of the group asking them to write poems too. James had initially requested short poems, so Haikus seemed a good idea, even if I did get inundated with zebras in the first flush of enthusiasm!

As the project had to be completed at such short notice, I worked my socks off for three or four days to ensure everyone had something to offer. Ultimately there were some very good poems including some Haikus.

IMG_20190605_110957Finally three weeks later James arrived at the Cafe with a huge bouquet and lovely hardback books ‘Paul Smith by Rottingdean Bazaar.’ one for each poet, wrapped in gold.

The book had been created to resemble a library book and as well as astounding art work and stories. A whole section had been devoted to our poetry with James’ and Lukes’ original art work, one page for each of our poems. It is really beautiful.

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In the introduction in the book it says it ‘has been released to coincide with Photo London 2019, Paul Smith by Rottingdean Bazaar available in limited edition of 500 copies.’

This collaborative book features re-interpretations of the iconic Paul Smith stripe and interviews with other Paul Smiths of the world.

Rottingdean Bazaar

Rottingdean Bazaar are artists James Theseus Buck and Luke Brooks who work in the medium of fashion. They live and work in the coastal village of Rottingdean, East Sussex, which serves as their home base and source of inspiration. They enjoy zumba classes, car boot sales and since their London Collection’s Men runway debut in 2016 have established themselves as one of the most original and exciting voices in British fashion.

Signed by the Artists

The work of the Paul and Luke’


Wow lucky me and thank you all the lovely people past and present who have attended my sessions!

I have been running the Pop in group for eight years. It is strictly or beginners and aspiring poets, as established poets and published poets have networks of their own.

Oh and my eldest grandson now tells me he loves Paul Smith’s aftershave!  



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A garden full of roses. News of a new poetry course and other cheerful chatter.

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A new course at The Poetry school with Tim Dooley and Tamar Yoseloff is an absolute winner! Called The Urban Pastoral it is essentially a reading course but with options to write too  if desired. Tim and Tamar take alternate weeks.  Topics include The Imagined City, The Flaneur/The Flaneuse, The Crowd and two walks.  The first one with Tamar to significant places in Lambeth where the poets lived or worked with readings on the way. The second  walk with Tim around Canada Wharf next week ~ This is just a taste of the journey with Tamar so well researched as well as fun and full of interesting details.

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Kemp Town Carnival last weekend after a significant gap. A giant parade that I’m afraid we  missed! But lots of music, frou frou and frolics, food stalls and fun.

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Sheila, one of my daughters in law, hand paints glow bulbs, she has an Etsy Shop but decided to come down to  Kemp Town to try a stall. Robin was on hand to help of course.

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Rottingdean Bazaar I had some fun of my own when James from Rottingdean Bazaar came down to Open Art Cafe in Rottingdean with a huge bouquet and a copy of their book  ‘Paul Smith by Rottingdean Bazaar’ for each of the poets including me, who had contributed to it.

The project was at very short notice and I admit I worked my socks off for three days to ensure everyone had something to offer.  I have been running the group for eight years and it is strictly for beginners and aspiring poets, but what a result! A lovely hardback book with one section devoted to art work that enhanced our poetry.

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April and into May – catch up time.

The new moon came followed by Easter, visits to members of my family. Deer eat the roses at my eldest son’s cottage and rooks nest near my youngest son’s house.

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This is the  magical bluebell woods near my eldest son and daughter in law’s cottage.

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I loved doing a show and tell poetry session at The Keep in Brighton using art work and part of my family archive. It was the culmination of a short course in creative writing.

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Today it was the anniversary lunch in London to celebrate 125 years of  SWWJ-
The Society of Woman Writers and Journalists with president Baroness Floella Benjamin and Speaker Kate Mosse. Wonderful company amazing food and a brilliant goodie bag to take home.

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Time to meet old friends and make some new ones!


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My favourite part of Ashdown Forest, hoping against hope that it was not this part that was burned to the ground last week!


Back to painting on Sunday – with further experiments with portraits in oil with Milo Hartnoll. Have not painted in oil for years and never attempted portraits so enjoying the challenge.




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Nearly time to get back into the garden!

IMG_20190305_140347_HDR              Such beautiful colours and textures.

At the risk of repeating myself I love growing veg. in buckets because they can be moved around to chase the sun.

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Some of my garden came with me to Brighton in pots from London and bring back family memories.


But the cherry tree my mother had bought me was fully grown so  I decided to buy another one This year as the pink blossom falls I think of Jamie one of my grandson’s now living in Japan.


Apparently a white camellia was traditional for great grandfather’s buttonhole.


It’s great to see you
just a whisper in your ear
Spring is nearly here.

I could not resist putting that one on facebook


Rosemary is for remembrance as well as a wonderful herb. Bees love the flowers which seem to go on for ever and ever.

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Mayhem and madness in March while rooks weave their nests
lined with soft green moss

I moved here soon after my mother had died and this poem is about her Oleander.

The Oleander

We found it in Albi,
no gentle sketch
but boldly painted
bright and blowzy
heady with scent,
out for a good time.

In London.
loving the culture
pink petals
flirted with passers-by
revelled in attention
posed for pictures.

Uprooted to Brighton
in a white fleece shroud
it faltered
leaves fell
naked boughs mourned
sensing life had passed.

Two years later
in a new pot
on a south facing wall
tiny green shoots emerge,
pink blossoms
show their party faces.

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The magic of Bob Pelham in Marlborough

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                           Pictures from the event are sprinkled throughout this post.

The big day arrived, people gathered including some the younger relatives of those who had once worked in the Pelham Puppet Factory.   Bob Pelham had employed a great many people in Marlborough over the years, especially just after the war when woman had dressed the puppets in their own homes.


David Leech set up a display and theatre in the town hall. The Lady Mayoress and some of the council were in attendance. Bob Pelham’s nieces Astrid and Sue Pelham pulled the magic cord. The president of The British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild, Ronnie Le Drew, Brian Hibbitt photographer and film maker and fellow puppeteers and friends attended the reception, One or two visitors brought along some very special puppets including Steven Metcalfe with his latest acquisition – a mermaid.

We were entertained with short performances from David Leech, Ronnie Le Drew and a very skilled young ventriloquist, Max Fulham.

I was asked to give a short speech so I did deciding to share three things that no one else knew about Bob except me. sounds like a magic spell!



1. My father and Bob both served in the Second World War and afterwards became friends. My parents were the first people to demonstrate Pelham puppets in Gamages.   My mother wrote rhymes and monologues for the puppets and apparently sales rocketed!

In Harrods we performed our own show – Ron and Joan Field’s puppets as well as promoting Pelham Puppets. Our modest career in the world of puppetry suddenly took off and we entertained professionally for years!

But in those early years we had a tiny  publishing company so Bob and my father agreed we would write the play books and distribute them which we did.  It was also agreed that we would retain the copyright to the books.

We produced a second book, my mother and I writing this one together so she insisted I should also have my name on the cover.  It was 1950 and I was ten.

The curtain call monologue was so popular headmasters and mistresses sometimes adapted it to read on their retirement.

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2.  Bob lent us a giant Bimbo to promote our professional Marionette Musicals in the Arcade Theatre on Blackpool’s North Pier and on the Spa Scarborough, in the early 50s.

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3.  Ours was the company that made and performed with two soldier marionettes and a horse in Richard Attenborough’s feature film ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ on Brighton’s West Pier.   We also made the tiny soldier marionettes with fibre glass helmets, uniforms, breast plates, neat rubber boots and tiny hand sewn white gloves which were to appear in the roundabout scene in the film.

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This army had taken months to make, but just a few weeks away from filming dad realised we would be hard pressed to make enough of our own heads.

A quick phone call to Bob and he agreed to send us whatever he had laying around the factory. The box of heads arrived.  The soldiers, with their heads tipped down and partly covered in helmets, were to be seated on white moulded plaster horses, so no one noticed that Hansels from Hansel and Gretel, and a Beatle were going to be riding with the regiment.


Bimbo read some of ‘Curtain Call’ at the end (written by Joan and Ann in 1950)

Curtain Call
(Can be read by a puppet clown or the puppeteer)
The time has come to say goodbye.
This ends our little show
And I must do my best to try,
To thank you ‘fore you go.
You’ve laughed in the right places
It’s really been a feast,
Just to see your faces
Made us laugh to say the least,
But please don’t feel insulted,
We’ve had a pleasant time,
Which eventually resulted.
In this ‘thank-you rhyme.
We thank you very sweetly,
And we’ll hope you come again,
We’ve learnt our parts so neatly
Done our best to entertain.
So now there’s one remaining
Task for me to do.
It doesn’t need explaining,
Goodbye to all of you.

P1120705Bimbo had printed copies of his rhyme to celebrate the day and gave them out to people in Marlborough which was the best thing he could think to do on such a special occasion!

Later young people in the pub took poems for an aunts and Nans who had once worked in the factory.  Someone else took one to an old lady who had once worked there too and later told she was very pleased!

Bimbo and I even had our picture in the local on line newspaper as part of a full report about the event which was a bonus.  Next day it was two buses and three trains to get home again and the end of an era with Pelham Puppets for me too!


As children my sister and I never owned a Pelham Puppet they really were luxury toys. Lucky children saved pocket for months, others hoped they would get one for Christmas.

Some of the delights of Marlborough
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The Green Dragon a delightful pub and bed and breakfast. A room for two with Bimbo and bunny – bunny is one of our own marionettes, a hardworking white rabbit from ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

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There are many ancient buildings, walkways and beautiful churches what a wonderful place!

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Hooray! A blue plaque for Bob Pelham in Marlborough

The unveiling and celebration is on 28th of February in Marlborough,  where Bob Pelham created Wonky Toys and later Pelham Puppets. The plaque is  a big achievement for David Leech  who instigated the idea and the council for their generous support for this memorial.  David Leech was an important part of the Pelham Puppets success story.

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Today there is a little witch hanging on a picture frame and a Bimbo unpacked and waiting in the wings, while I take it upon myself to go diligently through boxes of uncharted family archives.  Amongst them I find my mother’s handwritten notes about her friendship with Bob and her early involvement with his Pelpop newsletter.  There are also reports about the first shows my parents performed to promote Pelham puppets at Christmas in  Gamages and later in Harrods.


At Harrods we put on shows with our own marionettes and our company was established. My parents entertained some of the stars like Peter Sellers and Kenneth More (the leading actor in the film Genevieve) at The Dorchester Hotel.  The ultimate honour was a performance for Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace, a birthday treat for the very young Prince Charles.

I first met Bob in our studio when I was about 10. My mothers first pelham play book had past all expectations.  Later she and I wrote the second book of plays in our garden at 74 Dartmouth Park Hill. We dreamed them up between us, so my mother insisted I should have my name on the cover with hers.

Bob suggested that because we had written the plays and agreed to publish them, all the rights and revenue would belong to us. But of course the books helped the sales of the puppets and some children liked having a script to perform.


As the exhibition organiser for the British Puppet and Model  Theatre Guild’s Silver Jubilee Exhibition, my father tried to get a display of Bob’s puppets into the exhibition. But the committee rejected his request on the grounds that Pelham puppets were toys! Which they were, but very special toys and an inspiration for people who were to become professional puppeteers in later life.


Back in our archives I find the cuttings about a giant Bimbo, lent by Bob to attract attention to our own marionette musicals in the Arcade Theatre on the North pier at Blackpool and later The Spa Scarborough. in the early 50s.

outside the theatre in Blackpool

Many of the guys returning to post war Britain could not settle including Bob Pelham. My father and Spike Milligan had served in the same campaigns but I don’t think they ever met. It was after the war when we were engaged as the first puppeteers for the Telegoons that they met for the first time.


Chatting with Norma Barnes (Spike’s agent) and the wonderful  Charles Chilton and Marcel, producer of the Ying Tong song at a Goon Show Preservation Society meeting led to a tremendous respect for all these creative guys.

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The world of entertainment is never easy, for Spike serious depression, for Bob the worst disaster must have been when a fire destroyed his factory in the 80s

We had our share of emotional and financial disasters too. writing scripts and making pilot films for a series that did not take off, patents for moving mouths ignored. But we also had successes, satire for Granada TV, a series featuring our rod puppet cooks for deaf children,. appearing in ‘New Faces’ and Cliff Richard’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium.

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My solo career started at 18 touring in variety with people such as Alma Cogan and Max Miller.

But my involvement with Pelham Puppets has just gone on and on. As a young mum in the 60s I used to do shows in schools with them and once at Christmas promoted sales of Pelhams at Allders of Croydon.

After my father died my mother and I made a new version of our ‘Alice in Wonderland’, we also gathered some Pelhams together and filmed some of her plays in her garden. I arranged for a limited 50th anniversary reprint of her book together with a DVD.   Although we filmed the second book of plays my mother died soon afterwards and the reprints of the second book still lay in a box.  I lost heart.

But one of the last acts of friendship from Bob was a very special one. We were engaged in making and performing  with marionettes in the film ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ on Brighton Pier in 1968.


Each character was chosen from our collection by Richard Attenborough
and re-dressed by my mother in authentic uniforms. My parents had taken six months to make an  army of tiny soldiers for a roundabout to be featured in the film. They all required fibreglass helmets, rubber boots, breast plates, leather straps and handmade white felt gloves.

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But we were running out of time and did not have enough heads, so a quick call to Ron’s old friend Bob, resulted in a whole box of heads being posted to us from his factory. Fortunately our helmets covered their heads so the soldiers were incognito.

Since moving to Brighton I conserved the puppets from the film and they featured on BBC South East and were on display at the Art Gallery and Museum in Rottingdean

Ann conserving puppets from ‘Oh What a Lovely War.’


The display at The Art Gallery and Museum in Rottingdean.


Pelham Puppets crept into my life again in 2009 when I ran family workshops at Saltdean Library. We made rod puppets, but the Pelhams I took in provided loads of creativity and fun too.

In recent years I have written poetry and had some poems published in magazines. Two years ago I published ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’ with poems about people, places, love and loss and the complexity of being a puppeteer’s daughter. Not surprisingly a poem about our Adana printing machine crept in with a reference to Pelham Puppets once again.


For my parents the world of puppetry ended abruptly. They suddenly changed track, worked with ceramics for a few years, my mother at 60 then applied for and became  principal at The Royal School of Needlework. My  father became involved with communty education but also gained funding and worked with a PhD student on the restoration of the Brunel Pump room in Rotherhithe

As we all know Bob died of a heart attack.   Had he lived he would have been 100 on 28th February, a man who just loved creating puppets for children to enjoy.

Here are two Pelham Puppet plays my mother and I filmed during her retirement just for the fun of it.

Posted in Ann's photography, Becoming a poet, Brighton - out and about, Cheer yourself up on a dull day, Creativity, Marionette, Photography, Puppethouse mayhem, Rottingdean | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment