Moving Parts Arts was founded to kickstart the development of the visual theatre scene in Newcastle and the wider North East. Visual Theatre is a unique art form in that it appeals to many different people from all walks of life. It can be non-verbal, sensory, challenging, accessible and can cross boundaries such as language, politics and social conformities. It can tackle difficult topics by channeling issues through a puppet or object, rather than a human actor, making subjects more digestible and powerful. It can nurture unlikely collaborations between artists, as the art form demands a diverse range of elements and disciplines. We believe that everyone in the North East deserves to have access to visual theatre and that the art form deserves a prominent place in the regional creative scene.
We will tackle the current underrepresentation of visual theatre in the North East and build an audience for the art form by:
Continuing to programme quality national and international work in the region for adults, children and families, that spans the possibilities of visual theatre
Inspiring and equipping a new generation of North East puppeteers through our training programmes, education and community projects, bursary and Scratch Space
Ensuring that hard-to-reach communities and minorities are represented and included in our programme and outreach through close regional partnerships
Demonstrating the applicable benefits of visual theatre through research, studies and projects in disciplines such as health and wellbeing
Making sure all artists are paid fairly for their work and creating paid opportunities such as a commissions whenever possible
Giving support to emerging artists wanting to create or produce work and sharing the industry knowledge that we have with those that need it
Putting the North East on the map as a hub for visual theatre and connecting the region to the national and international professional sector
One of our key motives for kickstarting this event in the North East is to introduce the world of visual theatre to a new audience, which includes motivating a new generation of puppeteers to be born. The 2019 Education Project paired William Steele of Life and Limb Puppets (formally 4M Puppets) with students from the Northern College of Art (formerly Cleveland College of Art & Design) to create a short, original puppet show - including technical theatre, making, performance and sound - that will be performed at the festival. As well as giving these young people brand new theatrical skills, which can be transferred to many different areas, we hope the week-long devising process will inspire some to delve further into the world of puppetry.
In 2017 we ran a similar course with Newcastle College students and are thrilled that some participants are now pursuing puppetry and visual theatre disciplines in their professional lives.
A cornerstone of the festival lineup is a diverse, intensive and high-standard professional training programme in making and performance. For 2019 we programmed a 6-day Puppet Making Course with Judith Hope and performance masterclasses with Merlin Puppet Theatre, Stephen Mottram's Animata, Indigo Moon Theatre and Sian Kidd of Mirth & Misery, covering show creation, marionettes, shadow theatre and puppetry direction. New for 2019 we had booked a Beginner's Crash Course in Puppet Making and Performance with Strangeface, that was specifically aimed at North East people as a gateway into the art form.
Another core aim of Moving Parts is to develop the puppetry and visual theatre sector regionally, nationally and internationally. We want to provide opportunities, collaborations and professional development for emerging artists and established practitioners. We are always keen to hear from puppeteers and visual theatre artists and can offer mentorship where appropriate.
We run a number of Networking Events at the festival including the Puppeteers UK Networking Meeting and the Equity Puppeteers Meeting. These meetings allow puppeteers to gather and learn about how they can connect with the industry and safeguard themselves professionally. New for 2019 was the Puppet Olympics, which is an high-energy, informal and fun night of challenges that aims to break boundaries between artists attending the festival.
Our Talks with Practitioners Series allows audiences and puppeteers to ask questions and hear the experiences of professional and respected puppeteers performing or delivering masterclasses at the festival. The 2019 talks series included Hop Signor Puppet Theatre, Merlin Puppet Theatre, Judith Hope and Headstrung Puppets.
Every festival we hold a Puppetry Research Conference: Giving Puppets A Voice, which looks to explore and asks questions about visual theatre in an academic or applied context. The conference this year focuses on the challenges and experiences of diversity within the industry and what we can do collectively to improve the current climate.
Moving Parts Arts represents the North East on the Puppetry Development Consortium, which is a think tank and resource for professionals working in puppetry in the England.
From an outside-eye point of view, puppetry and visual theatre can seem alien and unapproachable. Or it could be seen as something that is "not for me". Our mission is to break down these misconceptions and promote that puppetry and visual theatre IS FOR ALL.
We are beginning to build partnerships with experienced regional organisations who are collaborating and advising us on how to engage hard-to-reach communities. In 2017 we connected with CRISIS - the UK's leading charity for the homeless - to provide funded workshops in stop animation and mask making for people struggling in our society. These workshops brought members together, allowed them to live in the moment and learn new skills.
For 2019 we partnered with Equal Arts and Seven Stories to deliver a 5-week course in creating theatre-for-ones, led by Alison McGowan. This course was attended by North East artists and they produced 10 pieces that were built to be non-verbal and accessible to all ages. The theatre-for-ones were performed in Gateshead care homes to residents living with dementia, at Seven Stories to children with learning difficulties, and at the festival itself to the public. These new pieces of work are still available after the project for local performances so more people can experience this accessible theatre.
An important part of our strategy to bring puppetry to everyone is our walkabout programme on Northumberland Street. This large-scale work from Compagnie with Balls, VIP Puppets and Judith Hope in 2019 was enjoyed by all and free of charge. Similarly, we programme a free day of Puppetry for Children at Ouseburn Farm.
We are interested in seeking new talent and nurturing artists to produce new work. Sometimes you need a deadline and brief to give you that push to create something new.
We run two competitions as part of the festival - one to create a short puppetry/stop motion film and the other to create a new piece of automata/kinetic art. Artists working in these two art forms are rarely given tailored opportunities in these areas within the UK. The winning entries are displayed or screened at the festival.
We also commission an artist to create a 3-4 minute stop motion piece that uses our Moving Parts characters. There is £500 attached to the commission for the artist. Check out the 2019 commission by Chloe Rodham >
The Moving Parts Scratch Space is a unique pop-up venue aimed at festivals and events where performance and development opportunities are offered to artists creating new work who specialise in visual theatre.
Through a nationwide application process per edition, artists are given a platform to present their works-in-progress to peers and audiences to receive feedback. They also get a travel bursary, food, accommodation and access to the rest of the participating event. Some of the companies who have taken part in the Scratch Space have gone on to being booked at our festival and others, such as Transmographiles by Hopeful Monster Theatre and Janet by Helenandjohn.
Previously the Scratch Space has had residencies at Skipton Puppet Festival 2017 and Beverley Puppet Festival 2018. The 2019 edition was part of Moving Parts 2019 - for the first time in our home town!
To see summary videos from previous editions, click here.
Furthering our passion for developing North East based artists, Moving Parts offers two bursary placements. These placements gain two North East artists full access to the high level training in either performance or making, as well as entry to all shows and events at no cost. Bursary holders take on a role in the delivery team, supported by the Festival Directors, which not only increases the festivals capacity but gives bursary holders essential experience in events management, arts administration and creative producing.
Made possible through support and funding from Newcastle Gateshead Cultural Venues and City of Dreams, we are able to offer pre-festival internships to North East young people. Internships are aimed at the producing and events management side of operations as there are little career-access opportunities within these areas in the region. Interns help the Moving Parts team with marketing, communications, content writing, creative planning and press relations, and receive mentorship on specific areas best suited to them.