PDC Meeting Two

Puppetry Development Consortium (PDC) Meeting Summary

The second Puppetry Development Consortium Meeting took place on Friday 3rd July 2015 at The Boo, home to Horse and Bamboo and The Boo Festival.

There was full attendance including new members Keith Saha (20 Stories High) and Natalie Querol (The Empty Space). Also observing was Simon Hart (Puppet Animation Scotland) and Adam Bennett (DNA) to feed into the discussion on training. Sarah Wright had given input into the conversation beforehand with notes about the position of The Curious School of Puppetry as it evolves.

After the initial meeting in May the puppetry community had had two significant events – the first at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (RCSSD) at the beginning of June hosted by Cariad Astles, and the Puppeteers UK (PUK) AGM hosted by Puppet Place on the 26th June. To begin the conversation for the PDC there was a round up of the discussions and ideas arising from these sessions for members unable to attend themselves.

Several themes seemed to surface during both meetings, chiming with issues raised in the first PDC meeting.

Online Event Calendars

There was a desire to see developments bringing information to existing collective places to share with both the puppetry world and general public. Following thoughts about practice, advertising and accessing training at RCSSD a couple of Facebook groups were formed and have been active since. You can visit:

This precipitated a conversation about the development of a shared online calendar for both training and touring purposes but noting that for sustainability purposes it should be easy to contribute to and manage.

Other online shared resources suggested include:

  • A linear calendar, covering anything that is classed as object theatre
  • A Festival diary
  • A small area online or exhibition explaining the form to people
  • Book lists

A Puppetry Conference

There was a real excitement about a puppetry conference and potential funding sources available by bringing a number of umbrella organisations together. There had previously been student symposium led by RCSSD and LAT in 2011 and 2013. A new conference might be externally chaired, like a Devoted & Disgruntled event or an open space session at a key festival. The PDC as a group has an interest in hosting a larger sector event and would love to see joint project with shared aims for all.

A second meeting for trainers was requested at the Central School event. This is being offered during the Suspense festival and is confirmed on Monday 2nd Nov 10.30 to 1pm in the Studios at Little Angel Theatre.

Puppetry Training: Youth Theatre

The main theme to be addressed for the meeting was about provision for and access to training. Slavka Jovanovic gave a short presentation about her experiences as the Community, Education and Participation Manager at Little Angel, particularly regarding their youth theatre offer. They had trialled a number of models since 2002 and she was happy to share their learning.

Working on the National Theatre Connections Programme had been a point of change for Little Angel both as a challenge and inspiration. As the texts are set across art form this generated a discussion about the need for writing development and libraries of puppetry scripts.

There is an example of the quality of work the youth theatre have been able to achieve online for their version of Macbeth: The One Half World – available on Vimeo.

Keith Saha of 20 Stories High also contributed ideas from his experience of working with lots of Youth Theatres, in-house writers, young people 13 to 30. They include urban art forms that young people use, they are experts in their own form, and 20 Stories High add other, traditional forms. For 20 Stories High it has to be socially inclusive, diverse and free to access.

Puppetry Training: Pathways

Observations were made by several group members that young people weren’t necessarily aware for the opportunities in this field for further or higher education but once discovered they often loved it’s non-hierarchical nature.

It was noted that the cost of auditions can be a huge barrier for talented young people to get to auditions as the fees and train fares are too expensive. Currently the industry does not have bursaries available to make a difference though schools such as Brighton Puppetry School is being responsive to the requests that are made to it by locally based practitioners and The Curious School is being established with funding in place to significantly subsidise the cost to the students.

Other ideas that were aired included:

  • The successful Horse and Bamboo skills exchange
  • The investment in a set of shared resources such as training puppets
  • The approach to other departments in universities – eg. DTI to improve CAD drawings
  • Shared marketing and hosting for workshops
  • Exchanging films of work made by young people

There was a moment for all the attendees to share how they became involved with puppetry as a career and whilst there were a few similar inspirations it really underlined that most common story – that so often it is a discovery made by surprise on the way to somewhere else and through a unique set of circumstances!

Making New Opportunities

All members will look for ways to support young puppeteers as individuals and by using the weight of being part of a larger group. There were a number of funding opportunities that were suggested and the art form makes a convincing case in developing soft skills for young people across ages and abilities, particularly giving those who aren’t confident verbally a way to express themselves.

Applications that will be written will build on what already exists:

  • Running a mini festival to share work, working with 4 or 6 youth groups
  • Developing writers
  • Creating a menu of training opportunities.

There was a brief conversation about accreditation and the value of credits for a CV. Despite an understanding of the benefits of having a clear hierarchy of achievements the general consensus was to be resistant to formal accreditation since the form was so specifically non-hierarchical.

♯puppetgatherings

Following the success of PUPPET SPACE networking event, Little Angel ran another session at the Studios on Wednesday 29th July from 7-9.30pm. On Saturday 15th August there was a ♯puppetgathering at Norwich Puppet Theatre and  13th September ♯puppetgathering at Brighton Puppetry School. Let us know of any more events and we will share the information.

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