INTERVIEW: MOVING PARTS PUPPET SCHOOL | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Moving Parts Arts, the producers of the award winning Newcastle Puppetry Festival, announces a brand new Puppet School launching this Spring, with classes taught over Zoom. Moving Parts Puppet School will teach puppet making and performance skills to youngsters aged 7-18, and will be taught by local puppeteer William Steele and his trusty robot sidekick ZB. Classes will be taught online, and puppeteer apprentices will receive puppet making kit delivered to their door.

Arguably, the time has never been better for an initiative like Moving Parts Puppet School; providing a fun, interactive and positive creative outlet for young people whose schooling has been severely disrupted over the last nine months.

With the biennial festival planned to return in April 2021 for its third edition, and those aged 12-18 also given an opportunity to take part in a large-scale outdoor puppet extravaganza, the Puppet School aims to grow the next generation of North East puppeteers.

Chief puppeteer William Steele tells us more about the school…

Tell us about yourself Will, and what is Moving Parts Arts?

I originally trained at Northumbria University as a Script Writer and then began short form Improvisation and Trace Mask training at the Danish School of Improvisation. It was at this time whilst studying mask that I was introduced to puppetry by Talk to the Hand puppets. I went on to train at the Curious School of Puppetry with Sarah Wright formerly of Little Angel Theatre.

I started incorporating puppets into my other work which led to the formation of Life and Limb Puppets, a company that provides both theatrical work as well as evidencebased applied deliveries in educational settings for wellbeing and student mental health.

Moving Parts Arts delivers the award-winning Moving Parts: Newcastle Puppetry Festival, which was co-founded by Kerrin Tatman and myself. Every two years Newcastle’s venues and streets are filled with puppetry for all ages. My company Life and Limb Puppets provides the education component for Moving Parts Arts, which includes the festival and now the Puppet School.

Tell us where the idea for the Moving Parts Puppet School came from?

We have a strange issue within UK theatre that puppetry seems to mean one of two things: The Muppets or Punch and Judy. And its really not accurate at all.

The Puppet School grew out of an idea to show kids and teens how varied and incredible the art form of puppetry is, to let them experience it first hand for themselves. Puppetry is one of the oldest art forms, and good puppetry is a kind of magic really. Your brain simultaneously realises that what its seeing isnt alive whilst also believing that what its seeing IS alive. You know its an illusion but being tricked is wonderful!

We really wanted to show kids and teens the magic and creativity of puppetry and give them the tools to explore making and performing with other kids of a similar age. We want to build a community of the next generation of puppeteers in the North East – right from early years up to adults. And the Puppet School is a big step for us in that direction, alongside the festival. A huge thanks to the Community Foundation and the Newcastle Cultural Investment Fund for seeing the potential in the project and granting us the funding to pilot this first term!

What should participants expect from the Moving Parts Puppet School?

That depends on which group you sign up for!

Kids aged 7-11 will be explore and make different types of puppets to work towards a short performance in a home theatre, with all 10 sessions being taught online.

Teens aged 12-18 will embark on a crash course of puppetry performance through five sessions online. We’ll be looking at how to bring small and large puppets to life. The older group are also going to get an incredible opportunity of putting what they’ve learned into practice in front of an audience! Teens will take part as chorus members for four further sessions in a soon-to-be-announced Covid-safe large-scale outdoor puppet extravaganza as part of Moving Parts: Newcastle Puppetry Festival 2021. 

What will participants get out of the school?

The younger group will have a fab time for the 10 weeks and will walk away with their own handmade puppet theatre, a suite of little puppets and a puppet show they have had a chance to present to their peers and household.

The older group will have developed significant knowledge of the art of puppeteering from professional puppeteers as well as an experience that they wont quickly forget at our live event closing the festival.

What other ways can people get involved in this year’s upcoming festival?

Volunteers! Oh good golly do we need volunteers. The festival just keeps getting bigger and bigger and we always need help. Its quite full on but everyone who gets onboard has a great time and experiences a lot of puppet theatre. There will also be a beginners making class during the festival as well as a week-long puppet making course for more experienced makers. We’ll be running a series of online talks and ‘scratch’ performances from visual theatre artists wanting to try out new work. Plus more! So there is plenty to see and do even though the 2021 festival will look very different to previous years.

For more information and to sign up to Moving Parts Puppet School (at a cost of £40 per student for 10 sessions, including puppet making kit) click here

(Places are extremely limited and participants must live in a Newcastle postcode (NE1 – NE61) to take part)

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