William ‘Bill’ Talbot played a key behind-the-scenes role in the emergence of the Welsh television and film production industry in the 1980s with his Cardiff-based design and props-making company, Talismen.
Born in Kingston upon Hull, he formed the company in 1984 after graduating with first-class honours in three-dimensional theatre design from Trent Polytechnic (now Nottingham Trent University). Having gained his first professional experience with Northern Black Light in York, he spent two years as a prop-maker with Welsh National Opera before focusing on Talismen over the next decade.
A burgeoning order book included the city’s Sherman and New Theatres, leading venues in Cheltenham, Sheffield and Bath, Opera North, and the Welsh and English national opera companies, as well as BBC Television and several regional ITV franchises.
Notable small-screen commissions included all four series of Tony Robinson’s hit children’s show Maid Marian and Her Merry Men for the BBC, eight series of Anglia TV’s Knightmare and the HTV-produced Snow Spider trilogy.
Talismen continued until 1993, by which time it had expanded into theme parks and rock music tours, constructing a giant version of the shape-shifting Eddie, the iconic Derek Riggs-designed mascot of the heavy metal band Iron Maiden.
After a number of visiting lecturer posts, he turned his focus towards the development of new generations of designers and makers, accepting his first full-time role in 1994, lecturing in production and prop design and manufacture at the Central School of Speech and Drama for five years before spending a similar period refreshing and extending his professional practice as head of props at the Bristol Old Vic.
In 2006 he moved to a senior lecturer’s post at the University of Wales where he taught a wide-ranging portfolio of skills, including set construction, prop-making, costumes and puppet making. At the time of his death from cancer, he had been a senior lecturer in scenography at Bath Spa University since 2015. Shortly after his diagnosis, one of his first Central students, Jill Molyneux (founder of Bristol-based Jagprops), arranged a “great gathering of talent” at Theatre Royal Bristol to bring together Talbot’s past and current students, colleagues, friends and family, which was attended by more than 100 people.
Continuing to work as a freelance designer and maker, he enjoyed success with the stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s First World War novel Private Peaceful. First seen in 2004 in a co-production between Scamp Theatre and the Bristol Old Vic, it was revived several times, including five national tours and three appearances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe between 2005 and 2014 and a run at Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2012.
William Talbot was born on December 23, 1959 and died on October 5, aged 59. He is survived by his wife, Kim.