For more than thirty years Simon Buckley enjoyed a reputation as being one of the UK’s leading puppet practitioners with a thriving career in theatre, film and Television. This website lists and showcases some of his extraordinary career which took him from Merseyside to Melbourne performing in several hundred different projects and using a wide variety of puppetry techniques from the ‘Muppet’ type familiar to television audiences through to marionettes and shadow puppets.
His interest in puppets began with a Sooty glove puppet, but was really fuelled by the Christmas gift of a Pelham Puppet wizard as an eight year old. Aged nine he started to perform at children’s birthday parties (charging £1) and in the year he turned 16 his diary records an astonishing 100 performances with his marionettes or Punch and Judy show. Moving from his native Merseyside to Birmingham Simon became the first person ever to study puppetry on an Education Authority grant and did so under renowned puppet master John Blundall at the Midlands Arts Centre in Birmingham. After his year’s training Simon was offered a role in the resident company as a puppet performer and he joined the nine-strong team for three years of performances using puppets, masks, dance and mime even touring Hong Kong playing to audiences numbering up to 4,000.
His skill as a marionettist led to him being asked to join the puppeteers on Labyrinth, the Jim Henson movie starring David Bowie for a special dance scene. There he met people who encouraged him to audition for the satirical puppet series Spitting Image. After a year out playing Pinocchio for Polka Childrens’ Theatre in a nationwide tour, he joined Spitting image as the right hand of Margaret Thatcher and began his extensive career in television.
Through all this time Simon also explored his other vocation – to be a priest in the Church of England. Finally ordained in 2000, he continued to be fully employed as a puppeteer until 2013 when was appointed as the Rector of St Anne’s Church in Soho in the heart of London’s creative West End.
The demands of running a busy parish means he is now largely retired from professional puppetry, though he can sometimes be coaxed to “wave his dollies in the air” (as a floor manager on Spitting Image used to say!). He also uses puppets in his ministry- a skill which is often appreciated more by the adults in the congregation than the children. He has puppeteered in the pulpit of St Paul’s Cathedral, to raise funds for Great Ormond St Hospital and on the Radio 4 on Christmas Day from St Martin in The Fields.
His life continues to be full and varied and to feature puppets.
Check out Simon's puppetry showreel on YouTube!
What does it mean to be a priest in Soho?