Ted and Kath Beresford were important to The British Puppet Guild, but their overall impact on UK and some international puppeteers was immeasurable. There was no easier way to enthuse someone about the virtues of puppetry than speaking with Ted and Kath. Ted’s interest in making puppets started early. In 1947, and now in the RAF, he came across the book Wooden Stars by Douglas Fisher which featured The Lanchester Marionettes. Keen to start making puppets again he began to copy the Lanchester’s Latin singer Carmenta. It was in this same year whilst at the RAF Camp in Melksham, Wiltshire, that he met Kath at a dance.
Three years later in September 1950 Ted and Kath got married and it was during this year that Ted finished his Carmenta puppet, as well as making a few others, and he put on a show for Kath’s Brownie pack. More shows followed and on an RAF tour of the Far East, from 1952 to 1954, they both began giving shows in Singapore performing for youth and hospital organisations. They returned to the UK in the mid-1950’s and settled back into life on an English base. In the early 1960’s Ted’s father gave him a copy of the Guild’s Puppetry Yearbook, which had been published many years before.
In the back was the advert for joining the Guild, Ted joined, and in 1962 he attended his first Guild meeting at Lupus Street, Pimlico, London. After meeting and watching other members, he developed a show with glove and rod puppets, expanding his knowledge and ideas. He and Kath continued giving shows to local groups and parties and after two years at RAF Halton, in 1965 he was given his final posting to RAF Cosford in Shropshire. He left the RAF in 1968 and they moved to Albrighton, just one mile from the camp.
It was here Ted began three years of teacher training, taking on a full-time teacher role in 1971 and continuing until his retirement in 1988. In 1993 Kath also retired from her job in adult education, and they were both able to concentrate on puppetry, not just developing shows but through their educational knowledge and experiences, they also created workshops. The next 12 years so them travelling extensively across the UK and Europe performing shows and delivering workshops. Their ongoing connection with Belgium flourished during this period and it was Ted in 1997 who started the annual puppet making course in Brugge.
Closer to home their numerous Burnhill Green weekends are fondly remembered by all who attended as are the multiple carving workshops that Ted gave to groups or one to one in Albrighton. Sadly, Kath passed away in 2007. Ted did consider for a while that he might also retire altogether, however his urge to perform, create and support others meant he was always in demand. Even in his late 80’s he was able to keep a group of children at Bantock House Museum in Wolverhampton spell bound with his gentle storytelling and then entertain everyone in the room with his jig dolls which he became so well known for.
Ted was a gentleman. Kind, patient and thoughtful, funny, soft spoken and incredibly generous. A natural teacher, he set the example. He left a legacy for not only all the children and adults he has entertained over the years, but also to the many children and adults who Guild members still entertain. In so many cases it was Ted who influenced and helped everyone in some way. They are missed terribly, but we are all fortunate that we can benefit from the legacy they both left behind.