Beverley Puppet Festival - at a Kitchen Table Near You!
Text via Beverley Puppet Festival
As the coronavirus hit the UK in March bringing with it the cancellation of all live events, the biennial Beverley Puppet Festival, due to take place over three days in July, was one of those casualties. But, if the Festival was a casualty, it refused to be a victim.
It is a truism going back to Darwin that survival is not necessarily to the fittest, but to the most adaptable. The two Co-Directors, Anna Ingleby who founded the festival in 2005, and Kerrin Tatman, who was also instrumental in launching the Newcastle Festival of Puppetry: Moving Parts in 2017, immediately began to look for ways to save the event for their audience and help their puppeteers preserve some income in a time of crisis for performing artists everywhere.
The solution has been an entirely new look on-line festival offering two months of puppetry workshops delivered online via their dedicated website supported by a new festival app.
Anna Ingleby explained the thinking behind their decision: “Live performances are very different from the medium of film, so this year the emphasis is on what we all can do at home, not on filming finished performances which we would prefer to see live. We have commissioned three artists’ videos per week to start appearing from Monday May 18th to Sunday July 12th to inspire and invite people of all ages to participate in a diverse range of puppetry-related activities that can be completed at home.”
This is the ninth outing – or, this year that should perhaps be ‘inning’ - for this award-winning event and the theme for 2020 is “Back to Nature”.
One example is Circo Rum Ba Ba, who, instead of a beaching a giant whale at Beverley’s Flemingate Centre as a live performance venue, will be showing adults and children stuck at home in lock down how to make a leatherback turtle puppet with movable head and fins. All the activities offered can be completed with everyday items found around the home such as a cereal box zoetrope or a potato monster puppet. And, throughout the rollout of the workshops people are encouraged to upload photos and short videos of their own puppets.
There is also an online Scratch Space for puppeteers to try new work while the educational outreach programme is grappling with the challenges of taking a remote pilot project to at least three care homes in Beverley, producing Covid-safe materials and training carers in giving residents the chance to express themselves creatively through shadow theatre.
Co-Director, Kerrin Tatman, admits it has been a daunting task at times. “We knew we were facing a real challenge, but we’ve been fortunate in how willing our artists have been to adapt and work with us. There’s no way we can replicate the incredible experience of the live festival on the streets and in the theatre venues in Beverley, but this way we may reach an even wider audience than the 13,000 we had anticipated. And, even when the pandemic is over, we know things will never go back to the way they were before. We hope this online experiment will still help share the magic in these difficult times and create a lasting resource on which we can build for future festivals.”