A great first outing for Festa Italia Lancaster!

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I was invited to provide the family entertainment for a new festival in Lancaster (organised by Lancaster BID) by “The Melodrome Mobile Stage“.  It was an Italian themed festival called “Festa Italia” with food and entertainment in an Italian theme which would also hopefully promote interest in Lancaster’s Italian businesses.

I was invited to perform my two Shadow Puppet Suitcase shows “Edward Lear’s Nonsense” and “Jabberwocky!”, unusually with both shows within each 30 minute set.  I normally stick to one show per set to avoid having to swap 2 sets of puppets over mid-set.

My first set was in Church St. where a lot of the Italian businesses are and I started off with the Edward Lear’s Nonsense (as this has more puppets) and swapped to Jabberwocky afterwards.  This was relatively manageable as even though this show has scenery it only uses 8 puppets and Edward Lear has at least twice as many.  I also had Rough Magic Theatre’s Tim Austin as puppet wrangler (aiding me getting the two sets of puppets swapped around).

It had looked like it could be raining all day when we set out and we were worried no-one would be there but there were plenty of crowds and the occasional showers did not put people off.  We were also fortunate that it was dry at the times we were performing.

We met lots of the other acts in the Green Room in Lancaster Museum including a group promenading in Venetian Carnival inspired costumes:

Our second set at the Melodrome Stage in the Market Square attracted much larger crowds and we, the audiences and the Melodrome Stage were all very pleased.  We were very fortunate that at the time of day we were due to perform at the Market Square the sun was going in the right direction so we did not have to rely on artificial lighting and got really clear shadows.  Normally speaking when we perform this show that is not an issue as we just perform in the right direction for the sun and get the audience to move to the right position, (or perform for people who are already in the right position) but in this case there was already an area for the audience with seating etc. set up for the Melodrome stage so it was convenient things turned out as they did!

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It seemed to be a very successful day all round and there were crowds there for the bands and food etc. long after we had finished at 4.45pm.  This was great as at most festivals I’ve attended people start to head home at around 4.00pm!

We had a great day and were well looked after by the Melodrome team.  It was also a first successful outing for the Shadow Puppet Suitcase shopping trolley!

I had had an idea some time ago to do a new version of the suitcase theatre with a bigger screen and puppets by converting a pram, (you can see the previous post about it HERE).  I had been concerned that it might be too low down and David Goboff suggested I look into shopping trolleys instead.

It occurred to me recently that I needn’t wait to build a whole new theatre on top of the trolley but that I could simply strap my existing theatre to the trolley and be able to use it right away.  Feedback I have had so far suggests that not having the theatre strapped to me makes the shadows clearer as it is not moving around as much.  It is also easier to operate the puppets though slightly more challenging to lower the “curtain”.

I decided to try this set-up now as I am currently expecting another baby (due in February) and so did not want to be strapping the fairly heavy suitcase to me.  I am available for bookings up to the end of this year and from September next year and Rough Magic Theatre’s Tim Austin will also be available for his solo shows: Mad Hatter’s Tea Party walkabout, The Interrupted Wedding shadow puppet show and Jolly Rodger Pirate Parties for summer next year.

Please get in touch if you are wanting shadow puppet workshops in schools this year and family entertainment for Christmas events or Festivals of Light.

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We’re Back! 2 puppeteers and a baby at Settle Stories

As you know, from my previous post, I have been very busy recently with my pregnancy and then looking after baby Anthony.

Well, Anthony has passed his first birthday and it’s back to work again for me.

Settle Stories (an excellent storytelling festival, local to us) took place just a few days after the end of my maternity leave so we decided to visit the “Artists Hangout” at the Bell tent and catch up with some other artists, and the festival organisers to see if there were opportunities to be involved in the future.

We met some very interesting people – including Hassan El Geretly, (artistic director of El Warsha Theatre Company from Egypt) and a lady called Nicky – a storyteller based in Manchester.  We also met up with a painting teacher, a landscape photographer/artist, some actors and a small number of the actual performers from the festival itself.  These included Darius Nash and Tamar Eluned Williams, who were performing Stories for the Silver Tree.  Darius was also leading a clowning workshop at the festival.  Here is their Youtube video below for this performance:

The festival organisers Sita Brand and Charles Tyrer were also there and spoke about their plans for developing longer term relationships with artists at the festival.  This, they hoped, would allow artists to get to know each other and the people and environment of Settle.

After the meeting, we went into the “Dungeons & Dragons” cafe in the Friends Meeting House which was really wonderful – decorated with cobwebs and a handmade dragon on the wall.  All of the refreshments were themed and the helpers were all in costume.  Not only that but on each table there was a little handmade Dungeons & Dragons game with little tiddly-winks for counters so you could have a game with your refreshments!

Unfortunately, it was a rainy day but this did not seem to put off the dauntless British punters: the cafes and streets were certainly crowded at lunchtime!  After our lunch we decided to have a go (in what time we had left) at the geo-caching story trail.  We successfully found one cache in the vicinity of the Friends Meeting House, (I’m not allowed to say where or it will spoil it for other people) and tried our hardest to find another one somewhere near the old signal box at Settle train station but neither Tim or myself had any luck.

We did find that the Friends of Settle and Carlisle Railway had volunteers showing off the restored old signal box and letting people have a go pulling the levers and making the lights show and the bells sound.  Tim and myself took it in turns to hunt for caches with Anthony at ground level and go up to the signal box.  We even got a commemorative certificate to show we’d had a go at operating the signals!

It would have been nice to have had time to sample more of the shows and workshops but we did have a thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing time while we were there.  I believe the Listening Gallery is a permanent installation so we’ll be able to pop back and visit that on another occasion.

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I’m back doing shadow puppet shows and workshops in primary schools again, now that my maternity leave is over.  These workshops fit with the topics of light and shadow and traditional tales, making them ideal for the primary curriculum. These workshops involve a short show by me (“Jabberwocky“, “Edward Lear’s Nonsense” or “The Interrupted Wedding“) followed by the children making their own puppets and putting on their own shows in groups.  If you would like me to come and work with your school please CONTACT ME for more information and to book 🙂

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We are also available for street theatre walkabouts featuring either of the Shadow Puppet Suitcase shows (“Jabberwocky” & “Edward Lear’s Nonsense“) and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party walkabout show.

Edward Lear’s Nonsense is the perfect show for food festivals.  The suitcase shows are also perfect for Christmas entertainment or for a festival of light and I have costumes to fit all of these occasions.

Don’t hesitate to contact me to book or for more information.

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We’re producing a new larger-scale shadow puppet show, suitable for large audiences in schools and other indoor venues.  It’s early days for the project but I can reveal that it’s based on the traditional Japanese Fairy Tale “The Magic Ear”.  The show has an environmental theme and can include an accompanying junk percussion workshop.

We’re taking bookings for Autumn this year and 2019.  Email me here if you’d like to know more.  I’ll be blogging about the project in detail soon – keep your eyes peeled!