New Puppet Theatre for England?

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New Puppet Theatre for England?

Postby clive chandler » 22 Oct 2009, 17:54

New Puppet Theatre for England?

Many of you will know that there are plans afoot to build a new puppet theatre in Cumbria. As far as is known this would be the ‘first purpose built puppet theatre in England’, (certainly in recent times). It is the brainchild of John Parkinson at UpFront Theatre. The other two main theatres in England – Little Angel and Norwich – are both excellent conversions from their original use. The Tysoe theatre is also a conversion, and the splendid Puppet Barge is of course a liscenced theatre venue that is not a 'building'. A new build will not not necessarily be superior to any kind of conversion, but it will be a notable addition to the surprisingly limited physical infrastructure of puppetry in England, compared to many other countries. I am sure it would seem remarkable to many of our overseas colleagues to consider that England has not till now had such a structure.

A strong element of the proposed design is a dedicated exhibition space which it is hoped will provide a place to celebrate the history of puppetry in England and Britain as a whole through the display of figures and related material. We do seem to have generated a wealth of excellent puppetry over the years, but ‘shop windows’ to display our efforts, and in particular those who have gone before us, are few and far between; so again this will be a welcome addition.

It should go without saying that the distinction of the first purpose built puppet theatre in Britain belongs to the Harlequin in Wales.

In Scotland there is of course the Biggar Little Theatre and the performance studio at Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre (and perhaps more that I am not aware of).

The plans at UpFront, which is near Penrith, are at a very early stage. However in recent weeks planning permission has been granted which is a big step forward. The site is already owned by the team at UpFront and is adjacent to their existing thriving coffee shop and gallery, part of which is already being operated as a highly successful puppet theatre. However, John will have a long and hard hill to climb and although he is experienced in the processes of design and build for theatre, he will need all the help he can get to make this dream a reality. In recent months he has been reaching out through the puppetry networking organisations for this support and I understand that this is forthcoming from a number of quarters. As the PJF and the College are both aware his plans include space for Mr Punch, which will be good news to readers of this site.

The picture of puppetry in Britain and indeed the UK is made up of many pieces. Growing the picture by adding another new piece is surely a good thing.

John is well capable of speaking for himself but as he is not currently a contributor to this site I hope that he and the readers of this item will excuse my presumption in posting this information in his stead.
clive chandler
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