Publications about Pelham Puppets by David Leech
In 1998 David wrote his book: COLLECTING PELHAM PUPPETS This 116 page book includes a brief history of Pelham Puppets and contains hundreds of colour and black and white photographs of the puppets from 1947 through to the 1980s.
In 2008 David’s 2nd book PELHAM PUPPETS – A COLLECTOR’S GUIDE was published by Crowood Press. This hardback book features “PELPOP” – The Story of Pelham Puppets and includes a tour of the Pelham Puppets Factory.
Prior to these publications he produced four issues of PELPUP NEWS in the mid 1980’s and a quarterly magazine, “YOURS PUPPETUALLY” in the 1990s.
October 2018, marks the 10th anniversary since my book was published and sales are still steady to this day.
I’m pleased to see it has 5 -star reviews wherever comments and reviews have been shared online and I’m very pleased that so many people have enjoyed reading it. I was told to expect that there would be the odd nit-picker trying to point out errors and criticize what has been written, but that has never bothered me and never will.
Bob and Anne Pelham were very generous and kind to me and they always encouraged and supported me from a very young age. The book has been a major part of my life’s work and a labour of love and I’ve always been determined that his work and legacy should always be remembered.
My work on the book started when I was 19 years old in 1973 and I had many opportunities to talk with him and the people who had worked for him from the beginning, although only a handful of employees from the early days were still working in the factory by that time.
He would often get dates and other minor details wrong when trying to recall things I asked him about and he’d just say, “Oh go and ask Joan or Ruth or Sid, they probably remember more than me!” He was not concerned about the past. His attention was always in the present and his sole aim was to bring the fun and magic of puppetry and puppet theatre to children wherever and whenever he could.
There was no middle or senior management at the factory, production seemed almost haphazard but everyone knew what their job was and simply got on with it.
The result was a very contented and loyal workforce and somehow, thousands of beautiful puppets emerged, each week, from what, on the surface, appeared like organised chaos! He held a great affection and respect for all who worked for him at the factory, because they were helping him to fulfil his “dream.”
PELHAM PUPPETS – A Collector’s Guide
It was one evening in November 1973 that I was sat by a roaring log fire in the Pelham family home, when Bob Pelham expressed concerns about the business and the thought of giving it all up. Mrs Pelham assured me that he was not serious. He frequently worried about the continuation of the business and the families that he employed at the factory. It was that evening that I began my research and to find out how he started the puppet factory and how he developed it into the large and successful enterprise that it had become.
Although I started to collect material and old newspaper reports from the Marlborough newspapers and old editions of Pelpup News, it would not be for another couple of years that my research really got under way when I was employed full time at the factory. All the information was at my fingertips!
By far the majority of the ladies that were employed there had been there for twenty or more years, some from the very beginning! They all had a story to tell and slowly but surely I began to piece the massive jigsaw of the story of Pelham Puppets together.
His initial reaction to the idea of a book about himself and Pelham Puppets was to say that he couldn’t imagine anyone would want to read it, but the very next day he called in with his ‘big album’ – a huge scrapbook filled with news-cuttings and photographs covering the period from 1947 to about 1958. From that day forward, he would bring me additional photographs and old issues of Pelpup News almost daily.
Each day when working alongside him, I would ask him about various things he had been involved in or puppets that had been produced, but he had a terrible memory for dates and events and often replied with, ‘You’d best ask Eileen or Joan about that,’ or respond with a question, ‘What? Did I do that, when?’
At that time however, the Company was facing a difficult time and his mind was occupied more with the present and worried about the future. Then the unthinkable happened and he was gone.
In spite of her great personal loss, Mrs Pelham continued with the support that Bob had provided me with and introduced me to a close family friend in Dorset, Michael Stannard who helped greatly with preparing the initial draft manuscript and additional information that would not have been available from factory employees and newspaper articles alone. Incidentally, it was Mrs Pelham who came up with the title: “PELPOP – The Story of Pelham Puppets”
Above: My first illustration in 1980 for the proposed cover of the book.
Although I kept in touch with Ann Pelham and occasionally came across new and additional information about Pelham Puppets during these years, my notes and manuscript were shelved until 1995 when, with renewed interest being shown in Pelham Puppets, especially by collectors, I dug out my notes and resumed my research and writing beginning with the publication of my quarterly magazine, “Yours Puppetually” in 1996.
COLLECTING PELHAM PUPPETS
“Yours Puppetually” – a magazine for collectors served as the initial platform for getting the Story about Pelham Puppets “out there.” Up until then, there was very little or no information about Pelham Puppets to be found anywhere. (Although I had started to serialise the story in PELPUP NEWS between 1986 and 1987 when I was producing the Club magazine for the new owner of the Company.)
The magazine title was taken from the way Bob Pelham signed off his letters to ‘PELPUPS’ – members of the PELPUP CLUB – and in the instruction leaflets. It was the publication of the new magazines over a three year period that led to the publication of my first book, Collecting Pelham Puppets which was published by a local printer in 1999.
This publication aimed to provide an overall view of Pelham Puppets in general and only featured a synopsis of the Pelham story and concentrated on including as many photographs of the different types of puppets produced over the years.
As a result of the book and magazines, I began to receive invitations to present public talks in libraries and at other events. So I decide to build an exhibition that I could take to various venues to help illustrate the Pelham Puppets story.
It started rather small with its first appearance at Marlborough Town Hall just across the road from Victoria House, to mark the 50th Anniversary of Pelham Puppets in September 1997. Since then it has developed considerably and I have since presented the talk and Exhibition at many puppet festivals, events and locations around the country as well as several TV appearances in the late 1980s and early 1990’s.