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Memories of Skipton

The 2015 Skipton International Puppet Festival was another resounding success - thanks in no small part to the hard work and dedication of Daniel and Liz Lempen and their team of volunteers. Some of our readers share their memories and thoughts about the 2015 Festival.

Clive Chandler writes:
It is now ten years since I wrote my first review of the Skipton International Puppet Festival. I was a fan then and I am an even bigger fan now. It is amazing to see how the festival has grown. Really we should say ‘has been grown’ as these things do not happen by themselves. It has taken a lot of steady work by Liz and Dan Lempen and their small team to pull this together every two years. The pay off must be the fact that the public turn out in their droves to support every aspect of the event. Every show was a sell out. The hubsite was packed with thousands applauding the free shows. When the parade arrived it brought with it still more waves of smiling faces. It seems to me that the population around Skipton might be on course to be one of the most puppet-literate groups of people on the planet. I met people who had been to every one of the festivals. I saw young people who were children when it first started. I applaud the festival for putting together such an interesting and diverse range of work for people of all ages. I dipped into some ticketed shows where I much enjoyed what I saw. It was great to see big players like Green Ginger, Norwich Puppet Theatre, and Blind Summit on the bill. A personal favourite was ‘Dans L’Atelier’ by Tof Theatre. In particular I would like to applaud them for producing a piece that was just 20 minutes long. It was the perfect length for this sort of piece. Mostly I spent my time around the hubsite. I watched lots of shows. More than that, I watched the faces of the people watching. I saw the delight of hundreds and hundreds of people – as many adults as children - as they were enraptured by The Stanelli Super Circus, and enthralled by Hand to Mouth’s Punch and Judy and thrilled by Mr Punch’s Portuguese cousin, Dom Roberto, in the capable hands of Jose Gil. It was also great to meet so many fellow puppeteers not only at the networking meeting but in casual encounters between shows and over dinner. Both the Punch and Judy Fellowship and The British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild supported the event by setting up stalls. Six festivals so far is a heck of a track record. We can sit around talking about how to develop audiences for a range of puppetry, or like Lempens we can just get on with doing it. I salute Skipton and all who made it possible. This festival waves a big flag for puppetry. And next year we have another Beverley Festival to enjoy. Is there such a thing as a northern puppetry powerhouse?!

Ronnie LeDrew writes:
Every time I have been to the Skipton Puppet Festival, Ive had a fantastic time! This year was no exception, the shows, the people and so many friends to meet and catch up with. The audiences are wonderful so enthusiastic. A big Thank you to Liz and Daniel Lempen, and there team. Beautifully organised. Cant wait till the next one!

Barbara Ray writes:
All of the entertainers at Skipton puppet festival were excellent. The Festival was well presented, the weather was kind and a good time was had by all who attended the event. Punch and Judy was presented by Hand to Mouth puppeteers, which was very funny and included one or two unusual bits of business which entertained both young and old alike.
Jonny and Sybil was a very different entertainment, and very clever dance act, which was well received. The Giant Swale were fascinating to all, just wandering around the site, as was the dragon. Dangerous Dave is always amusing and not only draws a big crowd but holds the crowd too.
Many more performers all helped to make this a brilliant festival at Skipton this year which made the whole event a great success.

Tony Lidington writes:
I helped set-up the very first Skipton Festival 10 years ago, with the support of Shea Connolly of Yorkshire Arts (as it then was) and the puppeteers that seemed, somehow serendipitously, to bless God’s own county…I have always been a “dolly waggler” in the traditions of Walter Wilkinson and Peter Brough. I have never had pretensions to great puppeteering skill, but rather an ability to put across a story, a song or a gag effectively, using whatever means at my disposal – just like the showmen of old. It was with some trepidation that I came into contact with those of the puppet theatre and more recently the model theatre worlds. However, they have welcomed me and my homespun attempts to explore storytelling, animation through fantoccini and peepshows. My love of the bizarre & silly found an opportunity for expression alongside the profound and moving in the populist forms of the peepshow, the flea circus, waxworks and all the panoply of general dolly waggling, as it has done for centuries in England. My work focuses on the research of popular British performance forms, then recreating them in contemporary contexts – a form of action research to discover how and why these styles of performance proved so popular and what it is about them that informs present day cultural forms. Skipton enables a broad spectrum of animated performance to take place – the classical, the rarified, the populist, the bizarre, the experimental and the fun. The festival is accessible and joyful – a giddy playground of fantasies and reflections upon reality, all contained in a small, gritty North Yorkshire town. 10 years on and it has now become a vibrant and essential part of England’s arts calendar, although the Skipton Puppetry Festival only occurs once every other year, it is a place to see what is good and growing, or fine and ancient – locally, regionally, nationally and internationally...and I get to perform there too - what more could a dolly waggler want?

Send your thoughts and memories of Skipton 2015 to

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