A VENTRILOQUIST from Basingstoke is marking an incredible 30 years since he launched his career with a celebratory tour of the town’s schools.

Steve Hewlett was just 15-years-old when he decided to tour Basingstoke schools for his work experience when he was a student at The Vyne School.

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Now, 30 years later, the father-of-two is still performing ventriloquism and has enjoyed a successful career touring around the world and competing in the seventh series of Britain’s Got Talent, when he came fourth.

The 46-year-old returns to his hometown on April 9 when he brings his brand-new show A Life in the Day of Arthur Lager to The Haymarket.

However, in the weeks before this, Steve has planned to recreate his work experience tour of Basingstoke schools to celebrate 30 years since his career began.

He hopes to visit the same schools for a ‘Coming Home’ celebration between March 28 and 31.

The mini show will include a message for young people to follow their dreams as well as a question and answer session.

Steve, who attended Oakridge infant and junior schools, hopes he can inspire the town’s young people and show that anything is possible.

Explaining how he began his career, Steve said: “I wanted to be a ventriloquist and when it came to finding work experience this is what I wanted to do. I asked the local theatre but they weren’t accepting work experience.”

Instead, with support from his teacher at The Vyne and a mentor, Steve put together his own show and toured the town’s schools, performing 57 shows in just three weeks.

“I still have the plan for all the Basingstoke schools and it says I did six shows at one school in a morning. It was amazing,” said Steve, who added that his work experience was labelled as the ‘most unusual’ at the time.

“I was quite proud of that,” said Steve, adding: “I love coming back to my roots and would love to replicate that tour. If I can pop back and visit some of the schools it will be a nice memory. I want to talk about what has happened since then. I’ve been around the world and met royalty and performed on television. It shows that you can follow your dream if you don’t give up.”

Steve, who now lives in Eastbourne but regularly returns to Basingstoke to visit his family, said he is excited to return to The Haymarket in April as part of his new tour.

He said Britain’s Got Talent had helped open doors for him in the world of entertainment, explaining: “I did my first one at The Haymarket after BGT and then a smaller tour in 2016. Jimmy Osmond came to see the show and after that I went out to Canada and America. It opened loads of doors.”

Steve recalls talking to fellow ventriloquist Ronn Lucas - who came to see his show at The Anvil in 2016 – about an idea he had for a different show, and this is the one he is now taking on tour.

“I wrote it over the last few years,” he said, adding: “It’s about Arthur Lager. I’m very proud of the piece. I got quite emotional doing it in Skegness to try it out and I got a standing ovation. It meant a lot to me.”

Steve said it has taken “a lot of hard work” to become so successful, adding: “You have to keep pushing yourself. Nine years after BGT I’m busier than ever. I write a podcast, I’ve done 175 conversations. But if I didn’t have that bit of TV people might not have got back to me.”

The entertainer also likes to give his time back to charities and other budding young ventriloquists who come to his shows, hoping to inspire the next generation.

“I have come full circle,” he said, adding: “It was the work experience that gave me the push and I look back and I’m so proud.”

Tickets for Steve’s show at The Haymarket are now on sale from anvilarts.org.uk/whats-on/event/steve-hewlett.

Any school interested in being involved in Steve’s tour can contact him on steve@thestevehewlettshow.com.

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