In partnership with the British Puppet & Model Theatre Guild which has a tradition of staging puppet festivals in the UK and celebrates its 90th Anniversary this year, local puppeteer David Leech is organising Stone’s first ever Puppet and Model Theatre Festival that will feature up to 20 puppet companies and professional puppeteers from around the UK including large marionette shows in the Crown Hotel Ballroom to Punch and Judy shows, workshops and puppet demonstrations in the Market Square.
There will also be puppet story telling and other activities in the Library on Saturday through the day and a Grand Opening Parade led by larger than life puppets and local musicians, followed by many of the visiting puppeteers, children with puppets and other local groups.
The High Street and Market Square will be decorated with hundreds of very bright and colourful balloons and bunting adding to the festive and fun atmosphere, creating a place for people to come and enjoy an amazing and unique experience and engage with the puppeteers and other activities over the two days.
The festival aims to work with local schools and community partners to get local people involved in all aspects of the festival – there will be opportunities to build puppets, volunteer at the event, or even perform in a show.
In the weeks running up to the Festival there are plans to enable local schools to benefit from puppet making workshops conducted by professional, experienced teams at no cost to the schools themselves.
The puppets produced by the children will then be collected and then, by arrangement with individual traders aim to display the puppets in local High Street shop windows or for the children to take part in the opening parade with their creations.
An Exhibition of Historical and Contemporary Puppets will be on view in the Assembly Rooms in the Crown Hotel on both days where people will have an opportunity to learn how to operate various types of puppets and regular talks and demonstrations to show how the puppets were used.
We are now busy arranging for performances from near and far, with a mix of free and ticketed performances. There’ll be something for everyone, including families, enthusiasts and puppetry professionals.
All this will require funding of course and we have already secured over one third of our estimated target to cover the costs of all the activities and events. In addition to receiving sponsorship pledges from local companies we have submitted an application to Arts Council England and we aim to launch a crowd funding programme to cover the costs for the planned community activities. There will also be a raffle held on the Saturday of the festival with exciting prizes donated by various companies.
Look out for more information and updates on the Stone Puppet Festival Face book page.
The British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild has arranged a variety of puppet and model theatre activities, festivals and performances around the country to celebrate their 90th year. The Guild was established on the 29th April 1925 as a result of the publication of W.H.Whanslaw’s book ‘Everybody’s Theatre’. Interest in Puppetry, in addition to Model Theatre began to grow within the membership of the Guild, and subsequently the British Model Theatre Guild became the British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild of Today.
Puppetry is an absorbing and fascinating subject that everyone can enjoy and the Guild hold regular meetings across the United Kingdom at which members can exchange views, gain experience through workshops and watch performances. Most members of the Guild are experts in their own right, with a wealth of experience in many areas of puppetry and model theatre and are always willing to share their knowledge to encourage others to learn more.
The National Puppetry Archive and its collection is administered by the Guild and many of the puppets will be exhibited at puppet festival.
Puppetry in Great Britain has a rich and diverse history. From the Victorian marionette showmen with their elaborate travelling theatres and trick marionettes to the Punch and Judy professors in their booths on the sea front, each have played their own part in not just our puppet history, but our social history as well.
David Leech, Festival Organiser was born and raised in Stone and attended Christ Church and Alleynes Schools. He has had an interest in puppetry from a very early age and in 1969 the Stone Guardian described him as “Stone’s Young Puppet Master.” His hobby developed into his career as a professional puppeteer and puppet maker having worked in children’s theatre and television for over 30 years and performed in Canada, the USA and Spain.
He is the Official Historian for Pelham puppets, a published author and now produces the new range of Pelham Puppets for the Toy Trade. He returned to Stone in 2013 after spending most of his working life in Dorset and Wiltshire. He is married with two grown up children and two grandchildren.