Wollongong farewells original Wiggles

Purple Wiggle Jeff Fatt has been sleeping on the job for 21 years but after this month's farewell tour he will have more time to really put his feet up.

"Wake up Jeff" has long been a favourite catchcry at concerts, with toddlers collapsing into fits of giggles when Jeff is suddenly startled out of his "sleep".

"The sleep gag came about because I was the only member of the four Wiggles who didn't have any preschool training," Jeff said.

"So it was a way of getting me more involved on stage without me having to actually say anything - because initially I was traumatised about talking to children from up on stage.

"And it's ended up being such an empowering thing for children to be able to wake up an adult - it's been a great vehicle for entertaining and engaging them."

Now Jeff hopes to have plenty of time for rest and relaxation when he hands over his purple skivvy to newcomer Lachlan Gillespie next week.

Greg Page and Murray Cook will also be handing over their yellow and red skivvies to Emma Watkins and Simon Pryce, with Blue Wiggle Anthony Field the only original member in the new line-up.

The original and new members are currently working and enjoying a farewell tour - with shows in Wollongong today - and one final show on December 23 in Sydney.

It's the children - and his fellow Wiggles - Jeff will miss most when he stops performing to take up more of a creative role behind the scenes.

"The live shows are such a joyous thing to do - and while touring requires a lot of energy, you get that energy from the audience," he said.

"There's many happy memories but what I've most cherished is being able to meet children who are sick or have special needs, and knowing that I've been able to have some impact on their lives.

"For instance, we've had many parents of children with autism who have told us that The Wiggles were the first thing their child had responded to - we've been a communication bridge between their world and the world their parents are trying to engage them in."

Though it is hard to believe, Jeff is set to turn 60 next year and health issues have made it difficult for him to keep up with the hectic pace of touring, both nationally and overseas.

"I have a couple of compressed discs in my lower back and a pacemaker which isn't great for when I'm jumping around on stage - I want to conserve the parts I have," he said.

"I'll still be involved in song writing and recording - and may make a cameo or two - but I just want to sit back and see where next year takes me."

And his advice for the new Wiggles?

"It's all about engagement with children, not about any one particular Wiggle," he said.

"It's important to have that natural rapport with children and the three new Wiggles do have that."

The final tour is bitter-sweet for Jeff, but he said he was leaving on a high note.

SHOW TIMES

The Wiggles will perform two shows at WIN Entertainment Centre today, at 10am and 1pm, with doors to open one hour before the shows start.

With an estimated 8000 Wiggles fans attending, a WEC spokesman advised patrons that the precinct would be busy and congested.

Patrons are encouraged to leave plenty of travel time to arrive at the venue, consider public transport options or be dropped off, and to park legally and considerately.

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