INTERVIEW: Newcastle Puppetry Festival 2023 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: JOE 5 Duda Paiva Company © Studio Matusiak

As all natives to Newcastle will know, Northumberland Street is just like any other high street in the UK, with its quirky vintage stores, Primark bargains and trusty M&S. But imagine instead of its usual buzz of shoppers, it is taken over by an otherworldly spectacle, filled with large-scale skeletal dinosaurs, seahorses and other magnificent creatures including a life-sized giant squid. This is the astonishing sight soon to be brought to life by Beasts on the Street, a community-led puppet parade along Northumberland Street that’s kick-starting Newcastle Puppetry Festival on Saturday 8th April.

A huge, city-wide festival, Moving Parts Arts’ Newcastle Puppetry Festival is an extraordinarily unique occasion to mark in the calendar. Celebrating puppet mastery, there’s events for all ages from captivating puppet-making workshops, to premier performances of shows from UK-based companies and beyond, as well as films, talks, and other social events.


I recently spoke with Kerrin Tatman, festival organiser, to discuss their thoughts. “This is definitely our most ambitious and biggest to date,” they told me. “We’re focused on flying the flag for the art form and also for Newcastle as a hub for puppetry for the whole country.”

They chatted with me about the abundance of exciting events to watch out for. “My top pick is Joe 5,” they said, alluding to Duda Paiva’s must-see contemporary performance from The Netherlands. This show, on Saturday 15th April, explores a post-apocalyptic dystopia using body puppets made from tactile foam combined with dance. “It’s a super surreal mixture,” said Kerrin, “it’s the most ambitious show that we’ve ever brought to this country.”

Also of note is the festival’s encouragement of beginner puppet-making through workshops at Ouseburn farm on Sunday 9th April; this is a chance for families and local people to explore what puppetry is all about, through free taster sessions. “That’s definitely the best way to get involved with puppetry, it’s just to throw yourself into it,” Kerrin told me.

I think the real pull of puppetry is how it can create these amazing mythical worlds right in front of your eyes as tangible things

I spoke to Kerrin about the value of puppet-making as an art form. “There’s so many types of puppetry and it can do many different things,” they said. “One example is a show on Thursday 13th April called Dragon, by a company based in Gateshead. It’s a fantastical story set in an olden world with dragons, scenery sets, and live projected animation. I think the real pull of puppetry is how it can create these amazing mythical worlds right in front of your eyes as tangible things.”

Newcastle Puppetry Festival is working to draw attention to the importance of puppetry and the many possibilities it holds for story-telling. “It’s a hidden power,” said Kerrin. “I think it surprises people because it is inherently accessible, it’s an inclusive activity. A puppet acts as an extension of the body, and so it enables freedom for expression; it can build confidence and explore different themes.”

With a terrific and jam-packed programme to showcase the art, there is so much to do and see. I asked Kerrin what they hope attendees will take away from the festival. “Our goal is for everyone to have a really good time, no matter their age or background. I want people to experience something new and come away hungry for more puppetry. Once you’ve got the puppet bug, you can’t get away from it.”

Newcastle Puppetry Festival from Moving Parts Arts takes place from Saturday 8th to Sunday 16th April at various venues around Newcastle.

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