The YPPT was founded in 2014 by father-and-daughter team Jeremy and Caitlin Duschenes, who come from a long history of puppeteers in the family. For World Puppetry Day this year, we're looking back at the history that inspired the YPPT with a few photos from a production of Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale by Jeremy's father Mario in 1947. The puppets are made out of lead - luckily these days we use safer materials!
A further update on our school-based projects after the government announced school closures:
From Monday 23rd March, we will be suspending our projects in schools until further notice. We very much hope that schools will be able to open again at some point in the summer term, and we will be working with our partner schools to ensure that projects are able to be completed where this is reasonably possible. If this is not possible, our priority will be to ensure that children take their puppets home with them and will liaise with schools to facilitate this.
This is a hugely difficult time and we are very grateful to all our supporters - trusts, foundations and individuals - for your ongoing support and flexibility. We are taking the time away from project delivery to look to the future, as we are currently hopeful that things will be closer to normal from September. It will be a crucial time in children's lives as they navigate a return to school and process the changes that coronavirus has brought. The skills taught in our projects - teamwork, self-esteem, resilience - will be needed more than ever before, and we look forward to working with our supporters and partner schools to bring these benefits into children's lives.
Just a quick update on how the COVID-19 epidemic is affecting the YPPT's work:
As of today (18th March 2020), schools are still open in the UK, so our school-based projects are still running, and will continue to run as planned as long as schools remain open to ensure that children do not miss out.
However, our other projects - the community workshops at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans and at St Neot's Library - have both been postponed indefinitely in the interest of public health. We are hopeful that both projects will be completed later in the year, and will be working with the Abbey Theatre and The Library Presents programme to ensure this.
We are hugely grateful to our funders who have been incredibly supportive in this difficult time. Many thanks to you - the trusts, foundations and individuals who believe in us and who continue to make such a difference in children's lives.
In January a call was put out to writers across the world through Commonwealth Writers for a new script for a puppet show to be used in an exciting collaboration between the Young People’s Puppet Theatre, the Commonwealth Resounds, the Purcell School for Young Musicians, and the Commonwealth Blue Charter.
Submissions were received from writers in countries including Nigeria, Pakistan, Kenya, Malta, South Africa, India and the UK. Much of the writing was very engaging, telling compelling stories about the challenges the world faces in keeping the oceans healthy. Choosing the best amongst them was difficult but the jury is delighted to announce that the winner is Preeti Sharma, a secondary school teacher in Delhi. Her storyline focuses on the degradation of coral reefs caused by poachers who supply the jewelry trade. She will now be working with a mentor to develop her script for use in the project. In parallel the music will be composed by students from the Purcell School who will also create the puppets and sets. The rehearsals in September will followed by performances in and around London.
Because of the excellence of so many of the submissions, the jury decided to name two runners-up. They are Taryn Butler a freelance writer based in Malta, and Deborah Nash a writer from the UK. Taryn chose as her theme the general challenge of getting young people to recognize the link between their lifestyles and the state of the oceans, whereas Deborah chose to write on the way coral reefs are damaged by ignorance and by pollution. Once completed, those scripts will be incorporated into the YPPT script library for use by schools on future projects.
Lots of puppetmaking last weekend - our executive director Jeremy attended a great course with puppetmakers Brunskill and Grimes, and we ran the first workshop in our series at St Neots Library as part of The Library Presents programme!
We are delighted to be able to share with you the report from last year's impact study which we ran in partnership with a research team from the University of Hertfordshire. Funded by a grant from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the researchers followed six classes at four schools across the year from September 2018 until July 2019, tracking their development in terms of artistic, practical and life skills. The report has now been published and it is incredibly positive – our work has been shown to develop qualities including teamwork, confidence and resilience in the children, as well as challenging and stretching teachers’ ideas of what is possible in their classrooms. These are all things we suspected, but it is wonderful to have our suspicions confirmed by the independent research team. You can download the report here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request the full version.
Next month we are running four puppetmaking workshops in St Neots - a rare chance to create your own puppet outside one of our school projects! Places are just £20 for the whole workshop series and can be booked by clicking here or using the details below.
Our project in 2019 with Stony Dean School was our first ever with a specialist school for students with interaction and communication difficulties such as autism and ADHD. We had no idea how it would turn out - although we've worked students with autism and ADHD before, this was previously only in a mainstream education setting. Working with a mix of students across classes and year groups, however, we were absolutely astounded at how they came together to produce two spectacular performances of which they - and we - are very proud indeed. In the video below, a few of the students and their teachers tell us more about the project and the difference it made.
Looking back to last month, here are the highlights of the spectacular performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream by students from Stony Dean School, a specialist secondary school for young people with communication and interaction difficulties such as autism. Somewhat unseasonal to perform this play in mid-December, but our hearts were warmed by the boys' enthusiasm and the stunning audience reactions - watch this space for more on that soon!
This week on our Year Six projects, the children have been learning how to scale up a small design onto a large canvas. They've learned teamwork, how to use tape measures, and lots of mental maths!