James Bradleys’ life in puppetry did not start until he joined the Guild. He had spent the previous 25 years working for British Rail but had always dreamed of becoming a puppeteer. Everything that he knew about puppetry was from books and watching others perform. He was unsure of what to do and nervous about trying. James' life changed when he met Kath and Ted Beresford, who introduced him to the Guild and invited him to a residential training weekend. He jumped at the chance.
That weekend James met many puppeteers and made his first puppet since leaving school; a two foot tall rod puppet, a trainee wizard he called George Lipintopinus. When he came home his imagination was full of ideas so he joined the Guild as Keith Barnes and decided to perform with marionettes. Wanting to stimulate the imagination, he become a great workshop leader. These became Potty Puppet Workshops. Why was he now so confident in himself? If he had a problem or needed advice there were experts from the Guild to phone.
Potty Puppet Workshops could travel anywhere where every child could make a puppet. Some days James would cater for 50 or 100+ children. He became a children’s workshop leader at all the Guild's puppet festivals. After the Buxton Puppet Festivals finished, he worked for Buxton Opera House directly until 2010. With the help of a few of the Guild's stars, he took his Potty Puppet Workshop to the Covent Garden Puppet Festival, known as the May Fayre. This was where he gave himself the stage name, James Bradley.
On one occasion, James went to the Sutton Puppet Festival and to the puppet auction afterwards. He bought loads of marionettes but when he paid and asked if they delivered, it was a case of 'oops, sorry'. It was then that two Guild Members and the Chairman stepped in to help save the day. The Guild also organised meetings where their members could entertain each other. This was a safe place to bring a new show and try it out. One day he was asked to bring his own to a New Year lunch. He was very nervous but he did it.
With the help of the printed Guild's Members Directory to contact local enthusiasts, he organised three Sutton Puppet Festivals and his last one at Barleylands, Basildon. It was then he retired due to illness. Without this Directory James wouldn’t have known who his local puppeteers were and more importantly, Guild puppeteers. If James was to transport himself back to 1995, he would not have become a puppeteer and workshop leader without the Guild, but would still be an inspector on the railway.
Many of you will have seen James's Tour page where he was raising money for Macmillan Cancer Care.
The Puppet day started at 11am from St. Andrew’s Church Hall, Preston, Weymouth DT3 6BU. The event heralded the beginning of James’ exciting south coast journey. It's a fundraising project for Macmillan Cancer Care that also promoted puppetry in all its forms. James plans were to travel a total of 138.7 miles on his mobility scooter, with puppetry fun days en route. Due to technical problems with the scooter and trailer, the first leg of his tour was cut short and finished at Lyme Regis seafront on June 17. Thanks to hundreds of donations along the way, and payments made online, James raised a grand total of £1156.83.
See some of the photos taken on the tour here. Sadly James lost his battle with Cancer and passed away a few short months later.