A DREAM will come true for local entertainer Pete Matthews when he finds himself performing his juggling, stilt-walking and unicycling novelty act aboard the world's newest cruise liner next week.

“I'm going to be a clown!” Pete Mathews told dismayed school teachers and careers advisers as he left school at 16.

But now the 40-year-old entertainer says he has had the last laugh as he embarks from Southampton on the inaugural cruise of The Anthem of the Seas on April 22 to perform his comedy juggling act. Pete, who lives in West Parley has become the act cruise lines book for their maiden voyages.

He is the only performer used for every one of the inaugural sailings of Celebrity Cruise's last five ships.

He has also launched all three Queens for Cunard: Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, appearing alongside Dame Shirley Bassey on QM2.

Last year he launched the new Royal Caribbean ship Quantum of the Seas and will now do the same with Anthem of the Seas next week. This year, Pete will have been on ships for over 20 years.

At 16 he was the magician in Selfridges for Marvin's Magic but says: “Juggling was my first love, and that's what I have made a career out of.

He honed his performance skills working at Bournemouth's Manchester Hotel as a teenager under the watchful eye of his then manager Brian Wells and through Brian got his “big break” - performing with Cannon & Ball at the Darlington Civic Theatre for a one-night show.

“Little did I realise, this was an audition for their summer season the following year.”

Just a year after leaving school and aged just 17, Pete joined Cannon & Ball for a 25-week run on Blackpool's North Pier, followed by a second summer season with them in Great Yarmouth.

Then came summer seasons with Paul O'Grady's Lily Savage again on Blackpool's North Pier, and Joe Pasquale in Weymouth and Torquay. Then aged 19 he appeared on ITV's The Barrymore Show - which went out to 18 million viewers. The following year he was on the TV show You Bet!, performing a Diabolo/trampoline challenge where he had to throw and catch the Diabolo 15 times in a minute while performing back somersaults.

Top cruise ship and talent agent, Allan Blackburn saw this and rang ITV for his contact details: Pete was just 20. And so in January 1995 Pete flew to the USA to join The Sun Viking for Royal Caribbean, his first cruise ship and he has never looked back!

“Cruise ships have been amazing for me, they've given me world travel and a life I could only have dreamed of!”

Pete says:”I am the busiest act that no one's ever heard of!”