A FORMER clown who once performed in front of Princess Diana has reinvented himself after being out of action for 18 months with a dodgy ankle.

Professor Popcorn has retired from his day job as a postman but is as keen as ever to continue bringing fun and laughter to boys and girls at parties, fetes and other events.

The professor - aka grandfather Steve Ball, 64, of Norton Fitzwarren, who has been taking his act out and about for almost 30 years - is back in action after an enforced lay off.

Somerset County Gazette:

Face behind the mask - Steve Ball, aka Professor Popcorn

But he's ditched his clown act and now simply describes himself as a children's entertainer.

And he's looking to take more bookings.

He said: "I had arthritis in my ankle and needed to have an operation last year.

"It's fine now, but after almost 18 months out, I'm eager to get going again.

"I've got a new image because I didn't feel comfortable after all the stories about scary clowns.

"I've kept the name Professor Popcorn and the same act, but it's a bit slower, I've got a new costume and I'm a children's entertainer rather than a clown.

"It's gone down well so far and I'm looking forward to more bookings."

Steve previously took his act on West Somerset Railway's Santa Train, fetes and charity events, when he often took along Trumper, the one-time County Gazette birthday cuddly toy elephant.

But his highlight was performing in front of Princess Diana when she visited Taunton Opportunities Playgroup in Bishop's Hull in the 1990s.

You can book Professor Popcorn by calling 01823-270847.