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Walton Child Star – A life less ordinary

8 March 2017 by Kay

“She was extremely charismatic, headstrong and passionate”

Girl on stage

Josephine tap toe dancing on drum

Anne Hutchinson, 2016

For International Women’s Day we are featuring these wonderful items, which tell the story of local child star, Josephine Clitherow. They were recently kindly donated to the Museum of Liverpool by Anne, Josephine’s daughter.

Josephine was born in February 1916 and grew up in Walton, Liverpool.

She performed as a dancer and entertainer from the age of 12. Josephine’s stage names included, amongst others, Baby Joy, Bebe Joy and Babs Clitherow. Her speciality was dancing on top of a large drum wearing these metal pointed ballet shoes. No mean feat!

In 1928, she performed at the Liverpool Playhouse as The Sentinel in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. The programme states, ‘Dances devised and children trained by Margaret Einert’.

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Ad in local press

She soon started to work across the country as part of a Juvenile Review, ‘Sunshine Sally’. Newspaper articles from the time state she was a ‘champion child dancer of Great Britain and gold medallist of the London Guildhall School of Music’.

“Everybody’s sweetheart is Baby Joy. This child aged 13 years of age, is a veritable prodigy, and not a star in the making, but a star already”, Southern Daily Echo, Feb 17, 1931.

Anne tells us that she was managed by her mother who was very controlling. Josephine sadly had to give up her entertainment career aged 21 when she got married to George Bailey, an architect. They had son, Brian, in 1938. Joyce and George were not compatible and later divorced.

Looking after a young child during wartime she became an assistant at Morley’s Stores, Brixton in 1941 and later became a buyer and manager of the men’s and boys’ wear department. She met Neville William Hutchinson (known as Bill) around 1950 and they had Anne in 1953 and were married later that year. They lived in London and later in West Sussex.

ballet shoes

Josephine’s size 2 ballet shoes with metal tips

Josephine remained charismatic and passionate throughout her life and always remembered her performing days with pride. She died 12 January 1997, aged 80. Anne brought these items ‘back home’ to Liverpool in 2016.

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