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!

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The Iron Man at Woodnook Primary School

I recently visited Woodnook Primary School in Accrington to do two different shadow puppet workshops with two different age groups.  Class 3 had been working on “The Iron Man” by Ted Hughes and their teacher, Mrs. Macleod, thought it would be a perfect story to make into a shadow puppet show with her class.

I agreed wholeheartedly and was very inspired by the idea of working with this story for a shadow puppet show.  I had read the book when I was at primary school myself but thought I had better get a copy from the library to refresh my memory.  Our local library in Bentham is one of the ones threatened with losing its paid staff so I had a New Year’s resolution to make a point of using it more.

The copy of the book that I received was a very recent one with very interesting, award winning, illustrations by Laura Carlin which actually use photographs of paper-cut figures and shapes and their shadows.  So I took this along as well to provide a bit of extra inspiration for the class should they have a different version of the book, (I figured the more different versions of the illustrations they had access to the better).  I did however go through all the different ways the Iron Man is described in the book with the children.  They knew the book really well and remembered nearly all the clues to his appearance eg. taller than a house, a foot as big as a single bed etc.

We also did a bit of work on music and sound effects for their shows, and the class worked on different scenes from the book in groups and performed their shows for each other at the end.  The class seemed to really enjoy using the OHP (over-head projector) that I brought in and the lighting gels for their shows.  Children in primary schools now have never seen traditional OHPs before and the children saw it as a very magical device, (which it is of course).

The children all did really nice work and came up with some fantastic puppets and performances – particularly considering they had never made shadow puppets or performed a shadow show before.  The children who chose to do the scene at the beginning of the book with the Iron Man at the top of the cliff did a fantastic joint narration, (they had memorised that section of the book together as a class previously).

The second, older group (class 5/6) had been working on the “Light & Shadow” topic previously in class.  It was suggested that we could potentially use “The Highwayman” poem that they had been working on in class as source material. This struck me as quite a hard subject matter for a shadow show for children because of all the period costume that they would be unfamiliar with.  Horses are quite challenging to draw as well.  So I gave the groups the option to either do “The Highwayman” or to come up with a story and characters out of their imaginations.  I did, however, use the poem as an example to help them think about how to draw and cut out a character as a shadow puppet for a show.

The second group, despite having slightly less time than the first, did remarkably well and came up with some very creative character and story ideas.  They also did some very nicely cut out puppets and performed their little shows for each other at the end.

I also did my “Jabberwocky!” suitcase show for both classes to give the children inspiration for their own shows at the beginning of the session.

If you would like a shadow puppet workshop or a show for your school or youth theatre group CLICK HERE to get in touch.  The content of the workshops can be tailored to fit your group.

If you are thinking about a puppet show as a treat for the whole school, remember that it is the 150th Anniversary of “Alice in Wonderland” so CLICK HERE to find out more about our adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s fabulous book.