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FEATURE: It’s pig of a job, but Harley hams it up as the voice of Peppa

A proud Harley Bird with her BAFTA

A proud Harley Bird with her BAFTA

A ball of boundless energy and red hair who cannot sit still, Harley Bird is much like any 12-year-old girl – except for the fact she is the voice of Peppa Pig.

Loved by boys and girls the world over, Peppa first aired on Channel 5 and Nick Jr in 2004, and since Harley took on the mantle in 2008 she has recorded more than 100 episodes.

The four-and-a half minute snippets of Peppa’s adventures with younger brother George are aired daily in the UK and Harley’s unique sound is beamed across the world to other English-speaking nations including Australia and the US, whose children have embraced Peppa into their lives.

Harley, of Buckland Common near Tring, takes it in her stride, and treats it as ‘all in a day’s work’.

She said: “I love being the voice of Peppa because I get to meet so many people. When everyone is together it’s like we’re one big family.”

Harley, a former pupil of Tring Park School but now attends Pipers Corner in Great Kingshill, first landed the part of Peppa in 2008 aged just six – just a month after signing up with children’s talent agency Alphabet Kidz.

Agent Lisa Balcombe recognised Harley’s talent straight away, and before she knew it she was in the studio in London recording her first episode.

And ever since, the young star – who lives with parents Craig and Gill and siblings Taylor, 17, Rosco, 10, and Olivia, eight, both in the industry too – has not just lent her voice to the TV show, but a plethora of pig-themed merchandise, toys and voiceovers on Nick Jr.

But what made people really sit up and take notice was when she scooped a BAFTA aged nine, and now the award sits in pride of place above the Aga in the family’s kitchen.

Most recently she was back in the recording studio with the Peppa Pig crew from Australia, who captured Harley’s voice to use in the live stage shows Down Under.

The past few years has seen Harley branch out with an acting spot on the second series of CBBC panel show The Dog Ate My Homework, but by far her biggest part was the role of Piper in drama film How I Live Now, released last year.

It seems the youngster captured the hearts of all the cast, including co-star Saoirse Ronan, and has consequently been invited for a sleepover at her flat in London.

Harley’s grandma Eileen lives close by and is her chaperone, travelling with her to all her auditions and recordings.

The cheeky 12-year-old said: “Grandma always lets me have turkey dinosaurs for my tea, and they’re my favourite.”

So how does the bubbly child star juggle a blossoming career and commitments with her schoolwork?

She said: “I usually do all the recordings in the summer holidays, but if I need to do it during school it’s usually on a Wednesday or Thursday.

“I’d rather it be on a Monday or Tuesday because then I’d miss double English and double maths!”

Harley unwinds by spending time in the garden with her menagerie of animals, including two horses, a dog, 14 chickens, three cats – one named Sk8erboi – and two pigs called – yes, you guessed it – Peppa and George.

When she’s not hamming it up in the recording studio, Harley practices ballet, tap and modern and burns off her boundless energy at kickboxing classes. She’s now working towards her black belt.

The actress’ most recent mishap is falling from a home-made zipwire in the woods behind her home. Despite fracturing her arm, that hasn’t stopped the gregarious redhead, who said: “I had it in a sling and I was supposed to rest for four weeks, but that got boring.”

So, has Harley got any plans to hand the role of Peppa over to younger sister Olivia in the future? “I’m going to carry on doing Peppa forever!”, she says. We wonder what Olivia will say about that!

 

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