Helen Bradley outside her Wilmslow home shortly
before her death.

ne of the most-asked questions by viewers over the years, when I meet up with them in the street, in restaurants, the odd bar, on holiday...and wherever...is: "Of all the people you met and interviewed, who was your favourite?"

Impossible question, really, and I could never answer in the singular. I'd say "Les Dawson, for his lovely, manic and oh-so-friendly approach, Bill Tidy for his quick-wittedness whether drawing his lightning cartoons or merely chatting about this and that, Sir Matt Busby, or plain Matt in the earlier years, for his kindness and ready availability..." and then to selected inquirers, I am prone to add..."and Helen Bradley, the artist".

Quite simply because she was a rare breath of fresh air, a bundle of briskness, without peer as an anecdotalist, self-effacing, charming, funny, down-to earth and extraordinarily-talented.

I first knew of her through a feature in, I recollect, the Sunday Times, in 1971, and persuaded my Granada regional-programmes producer of the time that she was probably worth an interview and a short item. That was a gross understatement. I drove to Lindale on the edge of the Lake District to meet her (and Tom, her husband), and realised within minutes of her welcoming tea and cakes that she was a nugget.

I returned within days with a film crew and director, and she painted and chatted and chatted and painted in equal parts, and within a week or so we transmitted a filmed-interview sequence lasting fourteen minutes!

She was an undoubted star, and I have always hoped since that day that my contribution might just have helped bring her to a wider audience eager to buy her works, and slightly swell her bank-balance. I remember her telling me that at that time her work was not selling for much money and she produced her bank-book from a drawer to show me that all she apparently had was, I seem to recall, twenty-odd pounds.

In my home near Manchester, I have my memories of dear Helen - a much-coveted copy of her book 'And Miss Carter Wore Pink', signed to me on October the sixth 1971, and two signed prints of her work...'Our Picnic' and 'It Was a Beautiful Place' which have pride of place in the house.

And I have two regrets: one, the selfish thought that I do not have one of her originals, and two, the much more serious thought that I did not know her for longer. Whenever I hear people say 'they don't make them like that any more...' I invariably think of Helen Bradley.

She was a wonderful one-off.

© Bob Greaves 2000


Helen with Cuckoo her cat.

Helen in her Lyndale studio.