“Alice”, Spoon Puppets, “Devoted & Disgruntled” and a new Treasurer for a new Equity Branch

“We’ll follow Mr. Spoon!….”

Once again I have abandoned my loyal blog readers for far too long and I have a lot of news for you.

We have a performance of our ever popular “Alice in Wonderland” coming up at a Primary school and a rod puppet workshop coming up at another Primary School.  The picture shows my basic prototype for a spoon rod puppet that the children will be making to help them learn about joints.  We’ll also be looking at facial expressions and character and puppet performance.

Tim Austin and I attended the “Devoted & Disgruntled” roadshow session at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on Friday the 5th of October.  There were two days, but we were only able to make the second day.  Luckily for us, (and for all of you non-attendees out there) there are reports from not only the sessions at the WYP but from all of the roadshow sessions across the country, (click HERE to see reports).

For those of you who are wondering what on earth Devoted & Disgruntled is and what it’s got to do with me or you, I think the best explanations are on their website.  Basically, it involves anyone who is passionate about theatre getting together and having lots of mini-discussion groups discussing various issues about the past present and future of theatre. This may sound deadly dull, but essentially one person would pick a question that is of interest to them and anyone who was interested could go to that group and join the discussion.  Because of this, everyone would be talking about real issues of real importance to them.

The other interesting part was that you had an extremely wide range of people attending, from puppetry professionals like myself, “Odd Doll” and “Frolicked” to students, from professionals starting out, to heavy hitters from the big theatre institutions and companies including, of course, the West Yorkshire Playhouse itself.

I expected the discussions to be dominated by the big “important” people and that I would be mainly listening to what other people with more knowledge and experience than myself had to say.  But I ended up contributing a lot myself and felt that I was not only on a level with other people there but that some were actually looking up to me and seeking me out to ask questions which was an interesting experience.

I took part in a discussion about indoor and outdoor theatre and the relationships between them led by Beka Haigh, (Frolicked);  a discussion with Claire Symonds from the Arts Council who was gathering thoughts on how the arts council could make their grant application process less scary;  a discussion posed by Rebekah from Odd Doll on the role of puppetry in the future of theatre and Gloria Lindh, a theatre producer, posing a question about what to charge when you’ve got no money.

I met lots of really interesting and nice people in a relaxed environment.  It felt that everyone was being honest and sharing without any hidden agendas.  It was good to be with fellow professionals as it is easy to feel isolated, like you’re working in a bubble in our line of work.

I also have another more local support network to turn to now, in the form of the new North Lancashire & Cumbria Equity General Branch.  Previously, if I had wanted to attend an Equity meeting, my closest is the Blackpool Variety Branch which is quite a distance for a regular unpaid trip.

The New Branch had it’s first AGM in Lancaster on Monday the 15th and the details for the next meeting will be posted on the Equity website, (CLICK HERE) for anyone interested in attending.  I was so keen to make sure the branch is a success that I agreed to be Treasurer, (someone had to do it).

A surprisingly wide variety of people have been attending.  I was initially worried that no-one else would be in the same line of work as myself and so would end up not having issues relevant to me being dealt with;  but there was someone who runs their own young people’s theatre group (Whirlwind Theatre For Children) and someone else who works with puppets at the last meeting.  In any case, it is my job to make sure my own concerns are heard and not wait around for other people to guess what they are.  This group is a chance to make things happen and get involved.  You get out of a meeting what you put in.

Anyone who is in the North Lancashire and Cumbria area, please come along.  The plan is to make the meetings as fun and friendly as possible, with opportunities to showcase work in a supportive environment.  We are also aiming to provide local training that is relevant to members.  If you have other ideas for things that the branch can do, please come and share them.

It is also looking like I shall be doing some local Christmas performances, more news on that soon…

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