The face painter turned prosthetics artist behind Staffordshire's spine-chilling Screamfest

  • Report by Lois Swinnerton.

One hundred tubs of face paint, 20 litres of fake blood and hundreds of petrifying prosthetics at the ready. It's the spookiest time of the year and in Burton-on-Trent ghosts, goblins and ghouls are taking over.

Screamfest has been entertaining visitors to National Forest Adventure Farm for the past 12 years. This Halloween, it's playing host to 150 fully costumed actors across seven spookily themed sets.

The event is running across 16 nights throughout October. It's taken six months to prepare for and each night and the team only has one hour to complete the blood curdling designs on the actors.

From zombies and demons to crazed clowns, each design is specifically created with hundreds of specialist prosthetics painstakingly handcrafted on site. 

Julie Tickle designs the prosthetics for Screamfest Credit: Screamfest

Julie Tickle is the artist behind the prosthetics. She says: "It is like nothing I have worked on before.

"We start preparing the ideas in April and work with the creative team to make sure the look fits the scare narrative. 

"We then have to handcraft each of the 250 prosthetics which can take days to complete just one, before hand-painting ready for the event."

Julie oversees the make-up team responsible for preparing all of the actors for the nightly shows.

Around 150 actors are transformed into scary characters each night. Credit: Screamfest

But her journey at the adventure park started 16 years ago where face painting sparked inspiration for a more monstrous undertaking.

She explains: "I was a summer face painter here, painting kids. During the October months when they would have been more quiet, I convinced them to get their faces painted in a scary way and we would run around in the maze at night.

"And low and behold that's how we created a scare maze."

This year the attraction, which has two new scares for 2023, has extended the scream park by more than five acres and added more than 30 extra live actors to shock and scare their guests.

Students from Newcastle and Stafford College are part of the make-up team Credit: Screamfest

With 150 of the total 180 actors needing full make up each night, a quick turn around it means Julie relies on her team of 30 make up artists, which will this year include 24 Newcastle and Stafford College students.

Julie said: "When I first started scare there was no-one really to show me, I learnt through trial and error. We would test every look over and over to make sure that it worked perfectly. 

"There are so many things like lighting that affect the ultimate finish. We now use a lot of orange and brown blood on set as if the actors are working in rooms with red strobe lighting we found that red blood just wouldn’t show up."

"It is things like this I desperately wanted help with, so I am very passionate about providing that opportunity to the next generation of scare artists."

Every year the event attracts more than 23,000 visitors from across the country.

Alongside the scares, there's fairground rides, street food and a bar, all open for those brave enough until Tuesday 31st October.

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