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

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If the last time you saw a puppet show was some seaside production of Punch & Judy, then the Newcastle Puppetry Festival will blow your mind. It returns for its fourth year with a whole host of puppet-based events across the city’s venues and public spaces, and the brains behind the festival are puppet-based creative organisation, Moving Parts, which was co-founded by Artistic Director Kerrin Tatman and puppeteer William Steele in 2017. 

Puppetry might seem quite niche if you haven’t come across it much before, but you’ll quickly realise puppetry can bring people together and surpass barriers like language, age and ability.” Says Kerrin. “Puppets can do many things which human actors can’t, pushing boundaries and inviting us into unseen worlds.”

Their shared passion led to the duo seeking out ways to bring puppetry to a wider audience: and lo, the Newcastle Puppetry Festival was born.

There was barely any provision of puppetry or visual theatre in Newcastle or the surrounding area, so we decided to strike whilst the iron was hot, and our first festival in 2017 was a sell-out success and won The Journal Culture Award for Best Newcomer. Although we’re now much bigger and established, Moving Parts remains community-driven, existing for local people, visitors, artists and to put Newcastle on the map internationally in puppetry.”

With over 100 events on their week-long programme, it looks like Moving Parts’ plans are well on their way to fruition – without neglecting their roots in the region. “We are keen to support local and Northern artists whenever we can, so they remain an integral part of the programme. We also welcome artists from around the country and internationally; for example, Ascension by SITIO Compagnie will be the UK premiere, and tells the story of a man who used to work in big business but has become homeless and now lives with Horace – a huge imaginary elephant – which helps him come to terms with his situation.”

Puppets can do many things which human actors can’t, pushing boundaries and inviting us into unseen worlds

Kerrin notes further highlights including the Moving Parts Puppet Cabaret, hosted by whimsical and hilarious hosts Velma Von Bon Bon and Mystic Mog as they guide you through a puppet-filled evening of laughter, wonder, glamour and mystery; perfect for adults and teens, Ghost Stories by The Paper Cinema mixes short tales of the supernatural with cinematic paper animations and live music.  

You can sense their local pride with the City of Kittiwakes, a free-to-attend workshop-based project running from Saturday 16th-Friday 29th March where anyone can make their own puppets, masks, costumes and pieces for the festival’s opening parade.

We’re focusing on kittiwakes this year as the seabirds famously migrate and nest under the Tyne Bridge each season. We take inspiration from them as a symbol of Tyneside’s amazing natural environments, and to promote Newcastle’s City of Sanctuary status; a place where people from around the world have to come to call home. Participatory projects like this are absolutely crucial to the festival recipe – Moving Parts is a community event and exists to get local people creative and inspired.”

For those wanting to delve deeper into puppetry, check out the week-long programme of workshops and talks, including the six-day Glove Puppet Making Workshop with Raven Kaliana (1st-6th April). 

Even if you’re a total newbie to the world of puppetry, there’s too much on this programme for it not to appeal. “We focus on what puppetry is offering today and deliver a wide and varied programme of contemporary theatre, outdoor arts, workshops, films and talks. Many of the festival’s events are free to attend, so anyone who is unsure can come down and try it out for free!”

Newcastle Puppetry Festival takes place at various venues from Saturday 30th March-Sunday 7th April.

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