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Violet Philpott

An innovator in puppetry and children’s theatre, Violet Philpott experimented with new techniques and materials, albeit on very different lines from Thunderbirds’ Gerry Anderson.

After studying at St Martin’s School of Art, she founded the Charivari Puppets and later the Cap and Bells Puppet Theatre. Some of her adaptations of children’s stories are part of the repertoire of the Little Angel Theatre in Islington, London.

When the BBC was looking for a television outlet for its mould-breaking radio comedy series, The Goon Show, it instituted The Telegoons (1963-1964), a puppet show using the original characters and voiced by the Goons themselves, Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan. Philpott, who worked on 15 episodes, helped to bring the series to life.

In 1972, she found her biggest audience of all with Zippy, an orange puppet with a huge head shaped like a rugby ball and a zip for a mouth, which other characters closed when they grew tired of listening to him. Zippy appeared in Rainbow (1972-1992), an ITV series aimed at pre-school children developing language and arithmetical skills. The series ended after more than 1,000 episodes when Thames Television lost its franchise.

Violet Philpott, who was born on April 28, 1922, died on December 14, at the age of 90. Her husband Alexis, better known as Pantopuck the Puppet Man, wrote several books on puppetry and was the first puppeteer to have a plaque erected in his memory at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. He died in 1978.