Tahra Zafar is the animatronics, puppet and costume maestro whose career spans blockbusters Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Star Wars VII.
But ask the creative whiz which character she is most proud of working on in her three decade-plus career, and the answer isn’t Hermione or R2D2 – it’s Upsy Daisy, the ever-happy doll with rainbow-coloured hair, who Tahra designed for the original television show of In the Night Garden.
“She’s just smashing,” Tahra said. “Upsy Daisy is a girl character who avoids the usual stereotypes – she isn’t overly bossy, or stuffed with props.
“And she’s a star of one of the most popular pre-school shows ever; I’m very passionate about young kids’ entertainment – it’s such an exciting thing to be the first one to show something creative to children.”
BAFTA award-winning In the Night Garden remains one of the most popular children’s television series ever made: one of its 100 episodes are still screened nightly and are regularly on iPlayer most-watched lists – despite no new episodes having been made on the 12-year-old show since 2010.
Lucky then for In the Night Garden’s characters - who include blue cuddly Igglepiggle, cave-dwelling Makka Pakka, the Tombliboos and their awkward trousers, and the family of Pontipines, as well as Upsy Daisy – that there’s still one way for pre-school children and their parents to discover new adventures taking place in the picture book-like Garden: at the new, live UK theatre tour of more than 50 venues which heads to The Grand Theatre, Blackpool, on September 7 and 8.
The show tells the tale of Igglepiggle’s Busy Day, as he hunts for his friends by following their funny sounds until he finds them all.
Tahra has spent months working on the design and costumes of the puppet characters for the new live show “because, to the children in our audience, In the Night Garden’s characters are like friends that they know really well. They have to look exactly as they do on their home screens. The puppets have to be perfect.”
The puppets’ design is in safe hands, though. Tahra first designed Upsy Daisy more than a decade ago.
The 53-year-old said: “Working on her was my first job after I returned from maternity leave with my now 14-year-old.
“I used to bring my then-toddler into the workshop, and the crew would all watch how she responded to our characters - luckily, she laughed at all the right times!”
- In the Night Garden Live, September 7 and 8.
To book, call the box office on (01253) 290190 or visit www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk