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Meet Joy Haynes - Director of Norwich Puppet Theatre
In August, 2011, Joy Haynes became the new Director of Norwich Puppet Theatre. Peter MacDonald spoke to her about her new role and her vision for the future of the theatre.
Congratulations on your new role. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I have been working within puppet theatre since 1987. On leaving university I joined Puppets and People, a community arts company in Newcastle upon Tyne. My first job at Norwich Puppet Theatre was in 1990 working as a puppeteer. I toured with the company and was involved in the development of productions with the then Artistic Director Luis Boy until 1993. My time working at the theatre inspired me to set up Banyan Theatre Company with business partner Karen Torley. Since then I have designed and created Banyan’s distinctive shows, which I have performed throughout the UK for the last 18 years. Since 1997 I have been invited to direct and collaborate with many leading UK puppet and children’s theatre companies including Polka Theatre, Garlic Theatre, Nutmeg Puppet Company, Tam Tam Theatre, The Little Angel, Norwich Puppet Theatre and Indefinite Articles and most recently Mac Birmingham. I have a strong commitment to the development and promotion of puppet theatre and have worked as an educator, devising and leading masterclasses and training including initiating and delivering two City and Guilds Puppet Making and Performance courses for Adults and an MA Elective at Norwich University Collage of the Arts.
The post of director at NPT will give me a unique opportunity to fully utilize experience gathered over a career within the arts; most particularly creating, directing and touring puppet theatre and combine it with the strong commitment to the promotion and delivery of a broad range of puppetry and arts related educational opportunities and professional development. I feel ready and excited to make this step and will benefit from bringing the different stands of my work under one roof. I have a passion for the tradition and craft of puppetry and a keen interest in it’s influence on other artistic medium. This post would offer me the chance to exercise my craft in a dedicated environment.
As Director, what will be your first priorities as you begin your new role?
To start with Id like to enter in period of consultation over the next 3 months with staff and stakeholders (including the national puppetry community) to get a clear picture of what people are expecting of Norwich Puppet Theatre, what the wider puppetry community would like to see us doing, and how we could fit in to the broader national scene. I will be talking to individuals and organisations to get a clear idea about what Norwich Puppet Theatre could be providing, and also share my ideas for new artistic projects and business development. A high priority is to engage in extensive research and make contact with funding bodies given the importance of having secure project and long term funding for the theatre.
As a result of this consultation I will be working on our artistic and operational strategies that will then feed into a 3 year business plan.
I have a strong interest in forming partnerships and collaborations and I have been talking to Simon Hart - Manipulate and Puppet Animation Scotland and we are planning a collaboration for 2012 – a mini Manipulate at Norwich Puppet Theatre which will take place between the 1st and 4th February 2012 hosting both international and regional companies.
What challenges do you think the Norwich Puppet Theatre faces in the short to medium term?
Raising our national profile is certainly a priority. We must be seen again as a producer of high quality puppet theatre and educational outreach programmes. With the recent appointment of our education and outreach officer, Gemma Khawaja, we will be working towards NPT re-establishing a comprehensive education programme associated with our productions and our aim that NPT become a national centre for professional development. We see it as important to strengthen our relationship with other puppeteers, companies, and professionals.
The on-going challenge is to secure long term funding for the theatre. NPT employed Peter Beck as a Project Manager a year ago and he was instrumental in ensuring we successfully raised funds for the appointment of a new Director, which was seen as a fundamental step in the establishing a clear vision and strategy, and also the appointment of an Education Officer. We hope to work with other puppet companies to highlight to the Arts Council England the importance of our art-form in the artistic life of this country. To my mind, there needs to be a concerted effort to gain more recognition for companies through regular funding. Puppetry as a medium has been used increasingly and won high praise over the past few years in the mainstream with hugely successful and popular productions such as War Horse created by the South African Company Handspring, but perhaps because puppetry is so malleable and easily absorbed by other medium, the importance of its function can be lost. However, the work of Simon Hart in Scotland in having puppetry recognised by increased funding by the Scottish Arts Council means it can be done.
What do you see as NPTs strengths?
NPT has a long and venerable history as a dedicated puppet theatre – having been founded 30 years ago by Ray Da Silva and Joan Palmer, and having built an enviable reputation under successive Artistic Directors Barry Smith and Luis Boy. We have been lucky to have had Artistic Directors of the highest calibre who have attracted international acclaim for our touring productions, this is particularly the case under NPTs last AD Luis Boy. (To be honest, I feel honoured and slightly apprehensive to be part of such company!) I believe that Norwich Puppet Theatre has played an important role in altering the perception of the puppetry in this country. We can also be proud of our role in fostering the development of puppeteers who went on to form leading puppet companies nationally and Internationally and have become respected puppeteers within the profession – Rene Baker, Mark Whitaker, and Garlic Theatre to name a few.
The companys work in hosting International Puppet Festivals in the past is also something we can be proud of and is an area I want to develop. NPT was among the first to produce international puppet festivals, in 2005 and 2007, which has helped foster the current range of international festivals in the UK - I want to build on our past strengths in that area.
During the period subsequent to losing our ACE funding in 2008, the Theatre developed a broad range of workshops to engage the local community and offered a rich programme of visiting puppet companies - I think it is testament to the strength and resilience of the team at NPT that the theatre has remained open through such difficult times.
What plans, if any, do you have for changes to the fabric of the theatre?
We are fortunate in that the theatre is housed in beautiful old church building and we have 2 performances spaces, workshop and office space. I would like to look at improving our technical and production facilities so that we can offer excellent lighting and sound as part of our productions and up to date facilities for other companies and those wishing to hire the space to use. I also hope to look at how we use the foyer of the theatre and how we could improve the audience experience at the theatre. I am very excited about being able to offer the public the opportunity to see film and animation as part of our programme so the addition of cinema facilities in the main theatre space will be something that the company will be looking to fund over the next couple of years.
What links between the theatre and the wider community of Norwich and beyond do you hope to build on or create?
We will be offering a wide range of ways in which adults and children in our region can engage with the theatre via a diverse and engaging range of shows as well as opportunities to participate in events, workshops and classes. We aim to develop our adult audience through a more focused programme of events and educational opportunities. Our collaboration with Manipulate Scotland to host Manipulate at Norwich Puppet Theatre 2012 demonstrates our commitment to broadening our audiences in this way. We will also offer training opportunities for students, emerging artists and professionals on a regular basis. We are very excited to be able to offer in collaboration with PUK and UK Arts International a Handspring Puppet Company masterclass ‘Hidden Life - an Alchemy of Objects’ at Norwich Puppet Theatre on the 30th of Sept 2011- please contact the theatre on 01603 629921 or look at our website for further details www.puppettheatre.co.uk
I am also personally very interested in the development of theatre for early years and would very much like to see the theatre playing an important role in the development of this sector in the UK.
I would like to explore extending the remit of the theatre to include related arts in the form of collaborations and fusion projects with other medium such as dance, animation and film.
We will be creating touring productions that will reach out to audiences throughout the UK and abroad. Our forthcoming Spring 2012 tour of Red Riding Hood designed and directed by Peter O’Rourke will also be performed in-house over the Christmas season this year. I am very enthusiastic and confident that we will see great things as a result of this collaboration with Peter ORourke, Ben Glasstone (original music) and Tim Kane (script and lyrics) that will undoubtedly add a fresh twist to the traditional and well loved tale.
The theatre seems to have been very successful over the past few years in raising money from private sources - such as charitable foundations. What is it about Norwich Puppet Theatre that you think appeals to these grant-making organisations?
Since the cessation of our regular Arts Council funding and through the hard work and commitment of staff and board members, NPT has secured funds from a variety of Trusts and Foundations and private income sources - most significantly the recent Monument Trust grant that enabled my appointment and that of the Education Officer. This has been achieved by stating NPT’s case as a unique asset to the local community and regional focus for puppet theatre and it’s related arts. But we can not rest on our laurels and it is predominantly my responsibility now to take over the baton and produce a funding plan that attracts support for an exciting range of new projects, continued and increased capacity and the improvement of the building and its facilities.
How would engage with the wider puppetry company?
We will be offering employment opportunities for puppeteers, directors, designers, and makers and inspirational professional training opportunities via master classes and training in production and performance techniques offered by leading national and international artists and practitioners. I aim to continue to form collaborations with further and higher education institutes nationally to deliver training and placement opportunities.
Having spent a large preparation of my working life touring; I think it is of paramount importance to maintain the venues place on the UK touring circuit, supporting puppeteers and companies by providing a dedicated venue for touring companies to perform in and highlighting the importance that there is a system of venues to ensure they can carry on their work – and also be paid properly. I aim to participate in national theatre consortium in order to remain well informed in this respect.
I would very much like to see Norwich Puppet Theatre play its part in helping to invigorate the profession from the grass roots by offering support to emerging artists and new companies via use of facilities for R&D and rehearsal, offering employment opportunities, work experience and training.
What do you see as the role of Norwich Puppet Theatre?
Over the next few years I would like to see Norwich Puppet Theatre take the lead to become a vibrant and significant focus for puppet theatre in the Eastern Region. Across the UK, companies, such as the Little Angel, the Puppet Place, Horse and Bamboo, and the Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre provide focuses for puppetry and puppet practitioners in their area and I would like to see NPT become an important and energetic part of this national scene.
Artistically, what is your vision for future productions that the theatre will produce?
Will we see varied forms of puppetry, or perhaps a focus on one particular form?
I recognise that puppet theatre is a very diverse medium. I would like to involve leading practitioners as well as innovative emerging artists in order to create a rich and varied programme that will explore many forms and mixed media in puppetry. The exploration, creation and production of puppet theatre in it’s varied forms will remain at the heart of the theatre’s future enterprise. I have my own work, influences, and experiences as a puppeteer, director and educator, which I bring to my role, but I feel strongly that the artistic vision for the theatre will be built by using my experiences, but also incorporating the ideas, experiences, and vision of others. Over the following months I will develop an artistic policy and strategy which will be informed by my own experience and background and a period of consultation and research in order to nurture a new beginning for the theatre. NPT is in a period of transition and we have time and the opportunity to acquire a new and distinctive role for the future.