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A Suffolk girl plays at Wimbledon!

PUBLISHED: 17:02 28 October 2018 | UPDATED: 17:19 28 October 2018

During her time at Shepperton Studios, Helen Oxenbury worked on Judy Garlands last film, I Could Go on Singing

During her time at Shepperton Studios, Helen Oxenbury worked on Judy Garlands last film, I Could Go on Singing

Archant

Children’s books illustrator Helen Oxenbury on competing at the All England Club. Plus: Memories of Judy Garland

Part of one of Helen's illustrations from The Dancing Class, Walker, 1983 Picture: COURTESY WALKER BOOKSPart of one of Helen's illustrations from The Dancing Class, Walker, 1983 Picture: COURTESY WALKER BOOKS

Helen Oxenbury was a promising tennis player in her teens – promising enough to play in the junior championships at Wimbledon two years running, when she was about 15 and 16.

The matches took place at the hallowed All England Club, on outside courts that are now grass but were then hard-surfaced. She thinks she got through to the second rounds.

“When you get there, you realise you might be OK in Suffolk but when you open it up to the whole world you are really very, very lacking,” says the woman who as a girl played on the Felixstowe Lawn Tennis Club courts overlooking the sea.

MAIN ARTICLE: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt illustrator Helen Oxenbury at 80

“To give myself a bit of an excuse, I think I was overwhelmed by the whole thing. They didn’t coach you like they do now. As far as anything ‘mental’ (conditioning) went, you had to get on with it in your own way.”

A great experience, though.

Judy Garland memories

During her time at Shepperton Studios, Helen worked on Judy Garland’s last film, I Could Go on Singing.

“It was marvellous seeing her,” she said in 2008. “She never arrived on time and they all hung about waiting for her, and then she’d come in and quickly have everybody dying laughing.

“She’d also come in with all her children. I did notice that everybody was kowtowing to this one daughter – quite a nice little thing. It was Liza Minnelli.”

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