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  • Writer's pictureMoving Parts Arts

A window into Teeny Tiny Toon

Teeny Tiny Toon is a celebration of Newcastle and its people, told through puppetry.


Geordie: 'town', specifically Newcastle

Participants with their Wheelie Wonders, led by Chloe Rodham

Moving Parts Arts aims to create a city of puppetry by telling the stories of Newcastle residents. We begun this journey in 2022/2023 with residents living in Benwell and Scotswood before moving around the city to reach more people in the years to come.

188 residents from Benwell & Scotswood and 3 local artists were be paired up in workshops to co-create puppets to share stories and experiences of living in the area. This resulted in a community exhibition which toured around the West End of the city, finishing at Newcastle Puppetry Festival 2023.

One of our Lead Artists Chloe Rodham takes the story...

A participant with their Rod Puppet Pal creation, led by William Steele

The three artists leading the workshops created different kinds of puppets with the participants, with Will Steele making Rod Puppet Pals, Chloe Rodham creating Wheely Wonders and Alison McGowan fabricating Groovy Glove puppets. Each session started off by thinking about the places we enjoy spending time in, especially in Benwell & Scotswood ward in the West End of Newcastle. All three artists live and work in Tyne & Wear.

Illustrator Becky Musgrove had created some fantastic illustrations on postcards of some of the local landmarks which we took along to the workshops. This got the conversation flowing about the places everyone recognised. School groups from Bridgewater Primary and Wingrove Primary chatted about how much they enjoyed playing in the park and visiting the shops in the area, especially everyone’s favourite, Asda!! We had no idea the supermarket had such a fan base.

Benwell postcard artwork by Becky Musgrove

Different people were inspired in contrasting ways by the artwork on the postcards. At Ashton Court Care Home the drawings sparked discussion about memories of the past with the residents. They recalled playing hopscotch and marbles, singing in the streets at Easter, tin baths shared with siblings and the dread of outdoor toilets. One resident remembered eagerly waiting in the streets for a visit from King George VI with everyone waving flags, but the first person to come over the horizon was instead the local coal man! They all had fond memories of the local community spirit with everyone looking out for one another.

Each group thought about how they could set a story in the area, writing and drawing their ideas on the back of the postcards. Some were based on real activities and others were imaginative. Hodgkin Park was even transformed into a safari in one tale! Wingrove Primary had been learning all about the local area in their classes already so gave us lots of interesting responses.

A participant with their Wheelie Wonder creation, led by Chloe Rodham

Once everyone had written their stories, they started making puppets of themselves or someone who appeared in their story. Each type of puppet had different crafty skills to get involved with. Alison’s puppet-makers had lots of fun adding wool hair and beady eyes to their characters and Will’s got to grips with drawing and cutting out cardboard faces and hands. Chloe’s crafters really enjoyed getting colourful with felt tip pens and pencils to decorate the bodies and limbs of their puppets.

The puppets took a couple of hours to make, and before everyone went back to their normal day we took photos of what each person had made, surrounded by a suitably spectacular gold frame to show off all the skills. We were so impressed with what everyone had made and it seemed like participants had really enjoyed getting creative.

Groovy Glove puppets made by participants, led by Alison McGowan

Now came the tricky bit… once all the workshops were completed, Will, Chloe and Alison became judges for the day, looking through each of the postcards and photos to decide which puppets to remake for the travelling exhibition. It was hard to pick from the huge variety ideas, from entertaining adventures to poignant reflections on being part of the Benwell and Scotswood community.

Once the hard decisions had been made, the artists started recreating the puppets based on the originals and housed them in box frames as a miniature snapshot of a puppetry scene or as automata.

Teeny Tiny Toon travelling community exhibition

One recreation included a story about one of the participants gathering unwanted scrap with their dad and finding treasure - a fancy electric candelabra that they took home for their Mam to fix. Another remembered having a brilliant time at Circus Central, learning how to unicycle, so this box featured a miniature unicyclist juggling. We were really impressed that this participant adapted the workshop materials to make a version of this themselves in their session, which was very innovative!

The exhibition was an interactive celebration of the project, where visitors could play with some of the puppets and add their own contribution to the post card postbox. We added each participants story and puppet to a scrapbook too so everyone could enjoy all the unique and personal ideas and creations that the workshops encouraged.

Toni won our public competition by sharing their story. They wrote a heartwarming account of how much their life has improved since a move to the area, which really summed up the positive reflections on living in the West End.

Moving Parts Arts also commissioned maker Judith Hope to create a working box theatre featuring a city-scape of Newcastle and some puppet residents who live in this teeny tiny toon world. We then turned this into a short film, featuring resident stories and voice recordings.

To browse the postcard gallery of stories and find out more about the project, click here.

Made possible through funding from:

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