It's ironic that although this session was about connection, it was held in the most isolated room in the building! (I.e. Downstairs away from everyone else) And yet, I wonder if this is how some new puppeteers feel? Starting out as a puppeteer is exciting but can also be daunting and isolating, depending on where you live and what opportunities you have (or don't have) in front of you.

This discussion was about coming up with ways we can help those people to connect with experienced puppeteers and mentors. (And on a side note, thank you to the people who ventured to the downstairs room! Connection is possible indeed! Thank you also for sharing your thoughts and ideas - I was humbled and overjoyed to have such a wonderful mix of people in the room, including those from Sandglass Theater, Little Angel Theatre, Bristol's Puppet Place as well as someone who came all the way from Canada to volunteer at Suspense!)

We noted down the ideas on a visual mind map (which should hopefully be clear in the pictures) but here is a summary below:


People can attend short courses, workshops and even do puppetry internships. The Little Angel Theatre has started ‘Puppet Space’ which is a regular networking event - and we agreed that the fact that it's regular (ie not a one-off) is key for building relationships and contacts.


Courses and workshops are a great start, but it's not the same as the invaluable benefit of a 1:1 mentor; a guiding hand (like a personal tutor). Some puppeteers started very young and learned from masters - but this is not always possible these days. We also need training on the same level as actor's training.

Could we have apprenticeship programs? How will these be funded?


In reality, we can't all have mentors. It's not the end of the world (and in fact many established puppeteers have built their careers on their own - such is the power of the self-motivated individual).

There are lots of things we can do:

- Take initiative! Even the most isolated ones can get out there and seek puppetry excellence.

- Go to festivals (see what you like, find what inspires you)

- Seek other training e.g. movement (eg tai chi), theatre, music and spiritual practices


-Is there a lack of awareness in the field for the NEED for training?

-Are young people receptive to training?

-What about the growing trend for puppetry being just part of a theatre ‘tool kit’? Is this diluting the art form?

-There seems to be a dichotomy of puppetry skills/knowledge that is either widespread but shallow ('Jack of all trades but master of none'), or narrowly focused but deep. Both have their place and the world is changing - it doesn't seem like young/new puppeteers can survive just doing one kind of puppetry.

- Are we too ‘fringe’ an art form to draw the numbers? Puppetry is very broad but our population is small.


Maybe it's up to the individual to get out there, even without their ‘Yoda’ or ‘Mr Miyagi’ to guide them.

As Eric Bass said, “Lack of money is not an obstacle (but there are obstacles to getting the money)”! There is a lot that can be done through sheer passion, determination and drive.

Maybe the wider community can help to:

1. Cultivate a culture of GENEROSITY, one which shares opportunities to learn, teach, relate and cross over other disciplines and media. We can definitely help each other, and there is no need to keep re-inventing the wheel.

We can also acknowledge that one of the great things about having new puppeteers is having a fresh perspective. Someone shared their story about seeing something in a puppet show that looked so amazing and innovative, only to be told by their teacher that ‘it’s an old trick that's been done before'.

Mentors can also learn from their students too, especially in the field of technology and being up to date with the current culture.

2. Cultivate a RICH and VARIED PASTURE (with flexible links/bridges) Imagine puppeteers travelling on multiple hillsides- one is on Mount Training, another on the Self-Guided Sierra and another meandering through the Hilltop of History (through that place comes with a warning- although it's important to learn out puppetry history, spending too long in this place at the start may bore/scare off newcomers). And these places have bridges connecting them (and, being the Suspense Festival, I suggest suspension bridges would be the most appropriate for this extended metaphor).

3. Let's have LOTS of DOORS/CHANNELS There isn't just one way into the puppetry world, and hopefully each doorway is open and welcoming.

Could we have more puppetry schools? (On that note hurray for the opening of the Brighton Puppetry School!

Could speed dating work? (Puppetry-wise that is?) Wouldn't it be amazing to have an evening where young/new puppeteers could meet potential mentors?

Could we have a future Open Space event about all this?…

For those at Suspense, you can come along to the ‘Old Masters, New Makers’ Round Table Discussion, which will focus on new directions in puppetry training and directing and explore the techniques and approaches of ‘old masters’ in relation to contemporary puppetry, new makers and directors. The round table guests will be invited speakers, but the discussion is open to all.