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John Stirling followed his parent’s footsteps into a theatrical career while he was still in short trousers. He became a successful child actor on TV and radio in the golden days of the 1950s and 60s before embarking on a varied and colourful career backstage, and sometimes upon it. As a producer or stage manager, John has worked with everyone from Bob Monkhouse and Morecambe and Wise to the Beatles, Billy Fury, Marti Caine and Mark Knopfler, and put on variety shows for good causes in the country’s biggest theatres and concert halls.
He has worked as a stage manager on Coronation Street, talent-spotted for prime-time TV programmes such as Royal Variety Show, Game for a Laugh and Surprise, Surprise and created a new-look Gang Show.
John’s life changed forever in 1989 when he and his wife Annie were moved by pity to rescue two abused and battered donkeys from a horse sale. John and Annie went on to create a sanctuary for the animals and others like them, which now, under the auspices of the Michael Elliott Trust, is home to the best part of two hundred donkeys.
Since donkeys galloped into his life, John has directed all his show-business skills to raising money for his charges and for the Trust. In this he has enlisted the help of a galaxy of famous figures and personal friends, from Dame Judi Dench to Chris de Burgh and from June Brown, Rolf Harris and Pam Ayres to late Sir John Mills.
He is able to count many of Britain’s greatest stars of stage and screen as his friends. This book tells the story of John’s life in the entertainment business, and of the events that led to his taking up the donkeys’ cause.