Tahra Zafar is the animatronics, puppet and costume maestro whose career spans blockbusters Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Star Wars VII, theatre including Phantom of the Opera, and even a spell working with the Queen on her first and only acting role. Tahra was head of costume for the Olympics and Paralympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies at London 2012 - where Elizabeth II was one of 23,000 people that she had to dress.

But ask the creative whiz what character she’s most proud of working on in her three decade-plus career, and the answer isn’t Hermione, the Queen or R2D2 - it’s Upsy Daisy, the ever-happy doll with rainbow-coloured hair, who Tahra designed for the original TV show of In the Night Garden.

“She’s just smashing,” Tahra beams. “Upsy Daisy is a girl character who avoids the usual stereotypes - she isn’t overly bossy, or stuffed with props. And she’s a star of one of the most popular pre-school shows ever.”

BAFTA award-winning In the Night Garden remains one of the most popular children’s television series ever made: one of its 100 episodes are still screened nightly - despite no new episodes having been made since 2010.

Lucky then for In the Night Garden’s characters - who include blue cuddly Igglepiggle, cave-dwelling Makka Pakka, the Tombliboos and their awkward trousers, and the family of Ponti-pines, as well as Upsy Daisy - that there’s still one way for pre-school children and their par-ents to discover new adventures taking place in the Garden: at the brand new, live UK theatre tour of more than 50 venues which heads to the Alban Arena on Wednesday, June 19, at 1pm and 4pm and Thursday, June 20 June, at 10am and 1pm.

Tahra has spent months working on the design and costumes of the puppet characters for the new live show.

“To the children in our audience,” she says, “In the Night Garden’s characters are like friends that they know really well; they have to look exactly as they do on their home screens.”

The puppets’ design is in safe hands, though: Tahra first designed Upsy Daisy more than a decade ago.

“Working on her was my first job after I returned from maternity leave with my now 14-year-old,” she laughs. “I used to bring my then-toddler into the workshop, and the crew would all watch how she responded to our characters.”

Tahra, who is now 53, worked with Andrew Davenport, creator of In the Night Garden - who was also responsible for The Teletubbies - on the original billing of the show.

“Andy had drawn beautiful pictures of Upsy Daisy, the Pontipines, we built them and tweaked them, from the petals on her foot, to working with child psychologists on how children responded to and played with the characters.”

To the average grown-up, In the Night Garden might seem to have a strange plot and cuddly toys talking a lot of gobbledegook to the soporific backdrop of a lullaby-like soundtrack. “But whilst the noises might sound odd to adults, the characters’ names, words, and actions are all things that pre-schoolers can say,” explains Tahra.

The world of Wontingers appears to be a long way from the glamour of Star Wars or the celebrity of the Jim Henson Creature Shop, where Tahra worked for a long spell, including on the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. But the costumier says every previous role she has worked on has fed into In the Night Garden.

“In fact, I feel a lot of similarities with the atmosphere when I was working at Jim Henson - because the love we had for all those Muppet characters is what we feel for In the Night Garden.”

When Tahra was Upsy Daisy’s age, her dream job was “to be a fairy godmother,” she remembers. But instead she decided to study a BA in theatre design at Central St Martins. Tahra’s first job was working on costumes at the English Shakespeare Company; her next was on Phantom of the Opera, and then came the step to screen, working in the offices of Kermit and Miss Piggy at the Jim Henson Creature Shop.

The designer is passionate about the importance of children’s theatre under the shadow of cuts to the arts in schools. “Straitened budgets and a 1950s-style emphasis only on reading, writing and arithmetic means that creativity is being sucked out of schools,” she believes. “That’s why it’s more important for us on In the Night Garden Live, and in children’s arts in general, to make sure we do our jobs really well. We have a responsibility to get everything right to fill that gap.

“I love sitting in the audience and seeing all these very active toddlers watching the show - they’re completely blown away by it. It’s magical to see.”

The Alban Arena, Civic Centre, St Albans, Wednesday, June 19, 1pm and 4pm, and Thursday, June 20, 10am and 1pm. Details: 01727 844488 alban-arena.co.uk