• Art world is child's play for Bolton actress

    This Is Lancashire. 27th October 2008

    The Bolton actress behind Bessie BusyBody in the hit children’s TV show LazyTown has been particularly busy for the past few months. Julie Westwood, who both voices and operates the puppet character in the popular C-Beebies series, has been spending her spare time during the national LazyTown tour arranging for the opening of a new gallery in the town centre.

    Her biggest challenge has been hunting for the artwork to fill it.

    “I only knew one artist when I first started this project in August, now I know dozens!” she said in the Crown Street premises, which opened this week. Julie, in her 50s and a member of the Duckworth family that started jewellers Prestons of Bolton, had long wanted to open her own gallery. “I always felt it was something that the town centre lacked, and that there was a large amount of artistic talent in the North-west that could be showcased,” she said.

    The actress has enjoyed a lengthy stage career, appearing at the Octagon and in various shows and pantomimes, as well as TV roles in Cracker, The Bill, Emmerdale and Coronation Street.

    She learned about puppetry auditioning, unsuccessfully, for The Muppets, but her new skill brought her a series of job offers. Four years ago, she won the role of the demanding Miss BusyBody in LazyTown, which mixes music, comedy, action and storytelling and features reallife characters and puppets. The show, which is a hit around the world, is shot in Iceland, where Julie regularly spends a couple of months each year.

    Now she is forging a second career with her gallery, which is called S’Art. “It just came to me one night — ‘s’art, innit’ — so I thought that was a good name,” she explained, laughing. The gallery features work from a range of artists, including local talents Brian Herald, Tracy Caren and Diane Littler. Art on show ranges from large paintings to glass, jewellery and sculpture.

    The gallery also includes Julie’s own jewellery, felt and other work. “I’m quite short of landscapes, though,” she added. “I would love to see more work from local artists and will exhibit what I can.”

    Anyone who would like their work considered is asked to call into the gallery.
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