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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PDC Meeting One

Meeting One – a summary for puppeteers

The first meeting was held on the 8th May 2015 at Nottingham Trent University.

Present were: Joy Haynes (Chair, Norwich Puppet Theatre), Sue Buckmaster (Theatre-Rites), Alison Duddle (Horse & Bamboo), Slavka Jovanovic (Little Angel Theatre), Mervyn Millar (by skype, Significant Object), Sean Myatt (Nottingham Trent University). Members unable to attend: Corina Bona (Bristol), Darren East (Unpacked). Invited for this meeting was Jeremy Bidgood (visiting, British UNIMA); invited to observe were two students from Nottingham Trent, Izzy Hollis and Nicky Charlesworth. Also attending: Bethan Tomlinson (Co-ordinator from Puppet Centre) For more information on the Consortium members contact Bethan Tomlinson.

The consortium hopes to have an open and transparent process of discussion and will publish short summaries of its meetings like this one. For its opening meeting the discussions of the consortium were general and touched on several topics which are summarised below. Most of the discussions are at an opening stage so there is lots of time for new ideas to come into the group from outside.

PDC Identity

It was necessary for the group to address the identity of the Consortium itself. Joy Haynes was unanimously elected as Chair, and the ambition was restated to invite members from regions and disciplines not yet represented, and to open the meetings to visits where practicable from other organisations and individuals. We also talked about representation and diversity and how to be positive about these under-addressed issues. If you have questions about the consortium structure contact Joy Haynes or Sean Myatt

Local Meetings

The group wanted to talk about networking and local meetings. There was a feeling that outside of festivals, puppeteers want to meet up more often to exchange ideas. A range of ideas were discussed, from informal “puppeteers’ drop-ins” in pubs, to more organised events with speakers, or structured exchange of knowledge. To contribute ideas for local networking events contact Mervyn Millar or Slavka Jovanovic

Online Networking

Networking over the web is an important resource for puppeteers. Several members felt that a ‘history of puppetry in the UK’ would be desirable and the consortium will consider enabling this to happen. The existing websites managed by PuppeteersUK, BrUNIMA, the Puppet Centre/Animations and Puppet Place are important and the group were more minded to supplement and offer support to these than to create another separate site. We were also very keen to help all puppetry organisations make the case for puppetry – which requires data and some research to help articulate how influential and successful puppetry is. Some of this activity can benefit from supporters in the academic sector but it will require help and figures from everyone. For ideas on the online offer, contact Sue Buckmaster or Alison Duddle

Key Events

The group felt that focal events like World Puppetry Day offered a valuable way to focus minds outside the sector on the successes of puppetry. We talked about the possibility of organising a Puppetry Week which would allow puppeteers everywhere to talk about their work and build some momentum around what we all do. There were also discussions of the positive publicity of puppetry awards and who might be in a position to offer one – at the Edinburgh Fringe perhaps? If you want to contribute to the debate on events contact Joy Haynes or Sue Buckmaster

Training

The group were keen to have a discussion about training. There will be lots more of this in the next meeting, as Cariad Astles of RCSSD organised an open meeting about puppetry training on 1st June. Six of our members were there and this is to be a focus for our next meeting. We talked about the possibility of different venues offering courses co-ordinating diaries so that there are fewer clashes, and we are hoping to be able to map out what the existing provision is. To offer ideas about training and how best to co-ordinate it, contact Sean Myatt or Slavka Jovanovic

Touring

The group finally addressed the difficulties of touring small and middle-scale work. Different models were cited and the consortium would like to develop some recommendations to make life easier for puppet companies engaged in touring – whether to do with identifying sympathetic and puppetry-engaged venues, or by creating touring networks, or helping with insurance, introductions or recommendations. If you have ideas to help with this initiative please contact Alison Duddle or Bethan Tomlinson

The date of the next PDC meeting is on 3rd July, prior to the Boo Festival, please do get in touch if you have ideas to contribute before then.

Best wishes to you puppeteers.