Puppet Go Round Goes Round Hastings
PUPPET GO ROUND is a community scheme in East Sussex. In 2017, PUPPET GO ROUND popped up in settings of all sorts in the local community of Hastings and St Leonards.
Alongside its very considerable charm, this locality has its helping of social problems - not unlike many other similar towns in this country. The expression ‘pockets of deprivation’ come to mind and county wide indices show clearly that Hastings is one of those coastal towns where people are on low incomes and where work is hard to come by generally. This impacts on local children and families. The art scene, with the relatively new Jerwood Gallery as its figurehead, has its own clientele of visitors from London as well as local artists and art lovers but people living on estates in the town do not necessarily frequent these exhibitions and shows. The fishing community, for example, put up a deal of resistance to the idea initially.
Because TheatreRotto is Hastings based, it was good to create a scheme which dipped into the local area in a memorable way, creating something surprising for a clutch of very different groups across the community. The company was fortunate to receive support for the scheme to go to North East Hastings and further afield for a second round of activity and to be able to offer the sessions for free.
Some years previously IDOLRICH theatrerotto had piloted work with seniors in care homes, day centres and hospitals which had hit the spot with its surprise element and emphasis on co-ordination and engagement and the local council took stock of the wellbeing benefits it offered. PUPPET GO ROUND was in essence an extension of that idea but this time for young people out of school, with parents or other family members also invited. When coming with a new activity, or an unfamiliar one, it is good to be as flexible as possible.
The participants we eventually met were - in Community centre settings, a special needs Sunday theatre Club, Sussex Young Carers, outdoors in a Pocket Park and a café for children and families with English as a second language. We also went to a primary school in the district, however the main thrust was in out of school settings and weekend or holiday times. All in all 15 different arrangements, with a culmination event at the White Rock hotel on the seafront where children and families who had joined one event could come again and do something different in a different space but extending the familiarisation with us as enablers and with puppetry as a pleasurable and creative thing to do. The event gave opportunities for spectating, crafting, performing, story making and some technical nohow with participants of all abilities being active at their own level. The scheme also gave room for intercommunication, working together as well as individually.
The programmes were not all the same. The culminating event featured one ‘dish’ from the performance menu of DANNY FISHBONES DAINTY DINNERS which lasted for about a quarter of an hour and continued on with the participants creating dinners from craft materials, and chefs, like Danny, who decided what they would add to their menus. However, the sessions generally always included some demo from the company before handing over to the other creativity in the room or park.
PUPPET-GO-ROUND was/is a medley of puppet fun enjoyed as much by adults as by children, set in a half way house between expression and stimulus. Basically the mood is enjoyment and humour but in the course of the events sometimes serious things which needed addressing came out, along with puppets!
The scheme is ongoing.
Julia Dunbar McLean March 2018
Orlando Bishop and DANNY FISHBONE with children from the Chinese Association