At the end of March a brand new puppetry festival will be held in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Spanning six days across five venues, the ‘Moving Parts’ Newcastle Puppetry Festival is geared at providing inspiring visual theatre experiences for adults, teens, children and families, as well as emerging artists and experienced practitioners. We chatted with Co-Festival Artistic Director, Kerrin Tatman about how this ambitious project came about, what’s in store and what he is most looking forward to in this brand new line up.
Moving Parts is a brand new festival. What is the background to getting this project off the ground? How did it come about?
‘Moving Parts: Newcastle Puppetry Festival’ was founded by William Steele and I through frustration of the lack of opportunities within puppetry and visual theatre in the North East, both through professional training and programming choices for the public. Will is a puppeteer, trance mask expert and maker, and co-runs Space Six in the city centre that gives performing artists space to work and develop. My background in puppetry comes from being Anna Ingleby’s assistant during the 2014 and 2016 Beverley Puppet Festivals. Outside the art form, I am a freelance creative producer, musician, and work for Circus Central as their Funding and Project Development Manager.
The festival aims to change the face of the North East visual theatre scene in artistic experience, training and through education to produce a new generation of puppeteers and artists. Through programming a diverse line up of contemporary puppetry with a focus on adults, we want to showcase the art form as progressive, enjoyable for all, transportive, and accessible.
We were lucky enough to be awarded a small grant from the Arts Council to get the project off the ground and since receiving the funds the festival has grown and grown thanks to further funding and support. We have big plans for the annual event, and want to incorporate more outdoor performances, international artists and really large-scale work. I am working with my partner Matt Wood to set up a permanent puppetry and visual theatre space near the city centre, which will become the core of the festival and secure Newcastle as a puppetry city.
What do you think this festival will bring that is innovative or unique?
Who’s it aimed at?
The festival is predominantly aimed at adults, teenagers, emerging artists and professional practitioners, but also has a children’s puppetry strand and strong community engagement programme. We have tried to make the debut event as diverse as possible to reach different target groups, filled important gaps in the North East and UK puppetry scene, but also to enable us to experiment with what works best so we can strategically develop for the next installment in 2018.
Our talks programme includes Q+A sessions with our training practitioners, but also a Puppeteers UK Networking Meeting and a Puppetry/Visual Theatre Research Conference: “Giving Puppets A Voice”. The conference aims to explore puppetry in contexts such as mental health, anthropology within combined and applied arts, and history. We will welcome papers from academics and non-academics, and performative disseminations as well as the more traditional.
We have a number of competitions open to help artists develop and get further involved with the festival. These include a puppetry & stop-motion animation short film competition and an automata building competition, which also look to support under-represented art forms. At Cobalt Studios we are holding a puppetry & object manipulation open mic night, where artists at all stages in their career can take to the stage to demonstrate their skills. To give a festival feel, and to reach new audiences, we are programming live music and social events into the schedule, and are also pairing contemporary classical band Aether with Lori Hopkins to explore the relationship between music and puppetry – the results of which will be performed at the festival.
What’s on and what are you most excited to see?
As well as an exciting show programme at Northern Stage and Cobalt Studios that includes: Mirth & Misery, Stephen Mottram’s Animata, Flabbergast Theatre and Theatre Temoin, we are offering professional level training at Space Six in performance and making with Nick Barnes, Blind Summit Theatre, Steve Jarand, Stephen Mottram and Gavin Glover. We are also running a children’s strand including Sokobauno Theatre’s ‘The Little Fawn Caravan’, Lori Hopkin’s and the Scottish Mask & Puppet Centre.
I am most excited to see what our Community Engagement project brings to the table, which includes a partnership with Crisis giving members masterclasses in stop-motion animation and mask making. The outputs of these workshops will be displayed at our festival hub Cobalt Studios, as well as a mask exhibition of 60 pieces through collaboration with Newcastle College. Our Education Project is also with the college and will partner puppeteer Alison McGowan with design and performance students, to produce a piece to be showcased at the festival following a week-long residency.
Our ‘Moving Parts Blowout Party’ features Newcastle’s home-grown talent ‘Holy Moly & the Crackers’, whose gigs always get the whole room dancing. The audience is encouraged to come dressed as their favourite puppet or wearing elaborate masks and the best costume will be judged by the band’s accordionist and circus costume/stage designer, Rosie Bristow of Bristow & Sister.
Please help us make the first Moving Parts a success and spread the word about the festival! It depends on the support of the puppetry industry to recognise its importance geographically and through offering opportunities to artists and the community.
Hope to see you there!