Puppets prepare to take over city

Date published: 17 Jan 2018

Posted by: Kate Learmouth

A giant skeleton puppet part of the Nottingham Puppet Festival launch

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An iron man, giant birds, a diabolical Mr Punch, a treasured maiden and one of the talents behind the workings of the National Theatre’s War Horse came together today with guests from across the city to officially launch Nottingham’s first-ever Puppet Festival. Unveiling the jam-packed programme, the occasion marks the countdown to the four-day event taking place Thursday 22 – Sunday 25 March 2018 at venues across Nottingham, which celebrates the artistry of puppets and puppetry along with the communities that inspire the stories they tell.

Nottingham Puppet Festival has come about through a partnership between Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall Nottingham, City Arts and Nottingham Trent University and made possible thanks to funding from Arts Council England and additional support from Nottingham City Council, Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature and Midlands3Cities.

Guests were treated to a taste of what will be on during the Festival, when puppetry of every kind will be found in all corners of the city: from life-size mechanised hippos, a giant Iron Man, inspired by Ted Hughes’ work and cardboard creatures to beautifully crafted marionettes walking the streets and delicate shadow puppets. The Festival mascot, Maid Marionette, also made her first public appearance to great applause.

Local, national and international artists, both upcoming and old-hands, will be bringing their talents and demonstrating their skills at locations across the city including the National Videogames Arcade, Nottingham Lakeside Arts, Broadway Cinema, Dance4 and Malt Cross Caves as well as the partner venues.

“Puppets are so good at telling stories in a way that reality can’t – from the most basic to the most intricate,” explained David Longford, Creative Learning Manager at the Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall Nottingham. “One example of just what puppetry can do is War Horse. The production’s appearance at the Royal Concert Hall was the impetus to do something really special for the city and the communities we serve”, added David talking about how the idea of a puppet festival for Nottingham came about.

“We want this Festival to be for everyone, and kicking off at Clifton Library, we hope the variety of performances, talks and workshops combined with the free drop-in and street-based events achieves this.”

The mix of shows includes the multi award-winning National Theatre production of War Horse, late-night puppet cabaret, political satire, as well as the retelling of classic stories, and family fun will run together with talks and workshops for both aspiring puppeteers and professional practitioners. Jamie Anderson, son of Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson, Spitting Image’s Pete Sinclair, Philip Pope and Steve Nallon, and Brian Herring who has worked on the latest Star Wars films, will be amongst those talking about the artform of puppetry and the many different roles it has to play.

“Over the past few years puppetry has become more and more popular. An artform that was perhaps only thought as for children is now regularly being called upon in high profile, award winning theatre, TV, and film projects and beyond. Nottingham Puppet Festival will be a fantastic celebration of the craft and dedication that goes into creating puppetry,” explained Matthew Forbes, Resident Puppetry Director for War Horse and director of one of the Festival shows, The Diabolical Mr Punch.

Sean Myatt, Senior Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University and puppeteer, added:

“Puppetry has been part of NTU’s Theatre Design BA (hons) since 1979. It is used as a distinct artform, but also valued as a method of inspiring and empowering individual and collaborative student confidence and learning.  Today the course also includes Applied Puppetry, tackling socially relevant subjects in collaboration with community and national organisations. This is a great opportunity for greater advocacy of puppetry, sharing it with Nottingham.”

From the Friday to Sunday the Old Market Square will become a pop-up puppet village morning until night, with a medley of free street theatre, shows, workshops and music and plenty more spectacular sights and sounds.

“We want everyone across the city to have the chance to find out for themselves the magic of puppets, as well as create a spectacle in the heart of the city,” explained Alison Denholm, Creative Development Manager at City Arts. “The idea behind what’s happening in the Old Market Square is to provide that first-hand encounter for free and hopefully encourage people to try some of the other things happening.”

The Festival will round off on the Sunday with a vibrant Puppet Parade, featuring characters of every shape and size, live music, special guests, members of the public and a few surprises thrown in along the way.

More than just a four-day celebration, in the weeks leading up to the main Festival event the team will be out and about around Nottingham with schools and community groups introducing them to the delights and craftsmanship of the puppets and the artform of puppetry. Joining them will be Maid Marionette who has been specially created for the Festival by artist Alison Duddle, inspired by the great Maid Marion, hoping she will be able to offer a moment of wonder for people as they go about their day. She will be walking through different areas including Hyson Green and Sneinton

The Festival producers have been working with lots of different organisations to make the event as accessible as possible, including Graeae, one of the country’s leading D/deaf and disability theatre companies who will be bringing to the Festival their epic Iron Man, who is the size of a double-decker bus – his miniature brother greeted guests at the launch.

The full programme, Festival information and booking for tickets will all be available at where there is also a sign-up to the enewsletter.

Follow @NottmPuppetFest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see the story unfold and share the Festival love with #AyUpPuppet.