Superfan Stuart Woodhead releases book about famous BBC puppeteer Joy Laurey including her summer seasons at Scarborough's Floral Hall

Superfan Stuart Woodhead has released his first book Joy Laurey – The Girl Who Pulled the Strings.

By Sue Wilkinson
Tuesday, 14th December 2021, 11:38 am
Joy Laurey pictured in North Ba, Scarborough, during one of the summers she played at the Foral Hall
Joy Laurey pictured in North Ba, Scarborough, during one of the summers she played at the Foral Hall

It is a celebration of the life of puppeteer Joy Laurey, mother of Mr Turnip, who appeared on the BBC’s children’s programme Whirligig – broadcast from 1950 until 1956.

She also featured in Disney’s Mickey Mouse Weekly and worked alongside Thunderbirds’ creator Gerry Anderson on Twizzle.

Her collaboration with Peter Ling and Peter Hawkins for Mr Turnip is her most recognised achievement.

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Stuart Woodhead has published a book about the life and work of puppeteer Joy Laurey

“Joy was a prolific watercolour artist, troop entertainer in World War Two, a successful businesswoman, travelling internationally to represent Great Britain as a leading figure in her field, and of course “the girl who pulled the strings” on BBC’s Whirligig,” said Stuart.

For the past 20 years, Stuart Woodhead has been a Mr Turnip super-fan.

“About 20 years ago I purchased the Pelham Puppet version of Mr Turnip and fell in love with his character.

“I later managed to get hold of one of Joys BBC on-screen puppets Mimi Melon a friend of Mr Turnip.

Joey Laurey with Harry Corbett and Sooty in South Cliff Gardens in Scarborough

“Then I set out to collect as much as I could about Joy’s work and bought almost her entire collection from auction houses including drawings, stories, programmes and photos.

The owner of a tattoo and laser treatment business in Grimsby, he is a lifelong collector of puppets and vintage toys.

Over the years he has amassed a wealth of original items, artwork, photographs, theatre programs, professional stage puppets and other ephemera and is founder of the Joy Laurey Archive.

Joy played the Floral Hall in Scarborough, performing alongside Harry Corbett and Sooty and Windy Blow the Balloon Clown.

“Many of the photographs within this book are exclusive and never before seen by the public, including behind-the-scenes images on the set of Whirligig, taken by Joy at BBC’s Lime Grove Studios, London,” he said.

“There are also archived personal photographs of her trip to Romania for the very first International Puppet Festival in 1958 as well as rare portrait work by Baron, an official royal photographer.

Stuart is passionate about preserving Joy Laurey’s life work and legacy, showcasing what a pivotal figure she was in the world of puppetry, and ensuring that the nation’s favourite and admiring vegetable Mr Turnip will live forever in the hearts and minds of generations to come.

This is his first book and sprang from his documenting items for the Joy Laurey Archive. During the first lockdown of 2020, not able to work Stuart had the time and information he needed and quickly began to write the book.

“In the summer I sat in my garden and found a new passion,” he said. “I hope to bring back the character Mr Turnip for a new generation and I have set about releasing books written by Joy Laurey that were never published.”

For more information on the book and Joy visit