I’m sad to report that one of the United Kingdom’s most important puppetry figures, John Blundall, has unexpectedly passed away at the age of 77.
John was born in England in 1937. Frequent family trips to art galleries and the Birmingham Hippodrome as a child inspired him to become a performer and wood carver; he founded his first puppetry company, The Festival Marionettes, as a teenager in 1951.
After returning from National Service he landed a job as a Floor Manager at Granda Television, which produced the Gerry and Sylvia Anderson/AP Films’ “Supermarionation” TV shows. John’s puppetry experience served him well, he became a puppeteer and puppet maker for AP and in his four years with the company he created a number of memorable puppet characters for popular shows like Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray and Thunderbirds.
After his work at AP Films, John returned to the world of traditional puppetry. He often worked in television post-Thunderbirds and organized workshops, tours and performances too numerous to mention. Throughout much of his life he was a student and friend of several internationally respected puppetry masters, among them Sergei Obraztsov, Nishikawa Koryu IV, and Monjuro Kiritaki of Japan’s National Bunraku Theatre, among many others.
John also made huge contributions to puppetry through his work with UNIMA, including helping to establish the Institut international de la marionnette in Charleville Mezieres, France, where he served as one its first instructors.
In 2004 John founded The World Through Wooden Eyes, an extraordinary puppetry museum and library in Glasgow. He gave this tour of its collection to the Evening Times a few years ago:
I actually had the pleasure of meeting John purely by accident while visiting Scotland on a preliminary research trip for PuppetVision: The Movie. Although I knew who John’s name, unfortunately I didn’t recognize him. He introduced himself using only his first name and it wasn’t until much, much later that I realized who he was. I had been hoping to have the chance to see him again and I’m so very grateful that I had the opportunity to meet him ever so briefly that summer afternoon in Glasgow.
Rest in peace John.
*The majority of the biographical information in this post was sourced from The World Through Wooden Eyes.