Teachers Creative Professional Development with Rachel Riggs at Carson St School, Perth. WA

Teachers creative professional development with Rachel Riggs – www. imaginaryleaps.com

Imaginary Leaps investigates new approaches to creative arts activities for  children with complex learning needs, including:

  •   using puppetry and other art forms as an approach to creative learning with students
  •   exploring what different materials can mean to the child in open ended activity play
  •   identifying how different creative play techniques can be used to address different   learning needs for curriculum outcomes and IEP’s
  •    ideas for exploration using materials, movement, storytelling, puppetry and object play
  •    identifying learning outcomes of the Early Years Framework curriculum addressed through this creative approach

Rachel Riggs is an early years professional creative and visual theatre engagement specialist, currently working with Carson Street School, Perth which is W.A’s only Education Support Primary School.  Students needs are such that they are not presently being integrated into the regular school system, and all require extensive therapy and educational services. The school recognises and actively encourages creative practice development for special education, and invited me to share my skill set with the whole school community. I have been resident for the Song Room as an artist in education mentoring some of the teachers within the school this year  and also worked there extensively in creative development with Sensorium Theatre. The feedback was very positive and other teachers, education assistants and staff also requested professional creative development.

Because of the students diverse needs and strengths, having an early years skillset in line with the EYLF, and training in puppetry and storytelling, such as improvising with objects and materials, with sensory elements that can be touched, smelt, heard and sometimes tasted, assists in creating explorational learning journeys for each child at their level.

With the students, we have been freely playing and exploring all kinds of puppets, tissue paper, coloured cellophane, moving into making tactile textured rod and hand puppets and investigating the world of shadows. Mentoring the teachers, I am facilitating a more open approach to learning through a creative play process, which gives freedom to make bespoke outcomes for each child.

Thanks to Roslyn Hamlyn and the fantastic staff of Carson St for the playing, what a joy!

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Upcycling toys workshop

Rachel riggs from yardworks art likes to take old toys and recycle them into new creations. Take everyday throw away items and making them into something new, switiching on our imaginations and trying different ideas, often surreal!upcycle-toy-workshop-24Different ways of looking at things, objects and materials

The right glues, scissors and tools were explained for the right materials, and we looked at joining techniques, using tapes, elastic bands, pegs, pipe cleaners and wire.

The children from 5-15 years followed their own experiential learning journeys, using tools and discovering from a wide range of materials, soft toys and hard plastic, wooden pieces.

upcycle-toy-workshop-28 King Bear and his dinner menu of fish and birds

upcycle-toy-workshop-29A Giraffe toy modified to wheel around, the child worked out how to make an axel for a bottle top wheel underneath

upcycle-toy-workshop-27Little creatures which brush up and light up, helping out.

upcycle-toy-workshop-35Doll adapted into a female centaur with drawn on costume

Once the new crazy toys were made, the kids introduced their creations and a story began with the characters – a time dog flying on his space craft, jackie doll in her herbie car who nearly runs over the dog, all kinds of possibilities, the story and play continues , as they draw the road on paper and develop their ideas.

Parents feedback – ‘What a great idea!’,’The whole workshop was fun!”Inspiring’


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Glitter Trees at Glastonbury

Making sparkly saplings for the Kidzfield at Glastonbury Festival, Worthy Farm 2016

the DNA crew ran workshops everyday in the Kidzfield with hundreds of children. Sarah Nixon, DNA’s education workshop artist with Jon Nixon and Rachel Riggs made  decorations with ribbons, stickyback plastic and recycled plastic rings with kidz for the glitter tree

Next year a glitter tree forest and more of DNA’s walkabout puppets

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DNA’s Tom Thumb at Glastonbury Festival 2016, the King attends!

Remembering a fantastic Glastonbury, DNA puppetry have been performing there since 1993 and we love it! For years we had the Puppets a Go Go! tent in the theatre field, now we happily love playing our latest production in the Kidzfield theatre tent, as well as running crafting workshops.

The DNA crew this year included our amazing innovative workshop coordinator, artists Sarah Nixon and partner Jon ‘I can sort anything’Nixon, with lots of help from our roadies. We had beautiful live music from musician Jo Powell to accompany the show with live trumpet too.The audiences were amazing and the antics of Tom Thumb in this, the original British folk tale with Merlin and the Arthurs knights of the round table was perfect to perform in the legendary Vale of Avalon by Glastonbury Tor.

As always we are indebted to Tony Cordy, King Organiser of the Kidz Field at Glastonbury and his Kidz Crew ,delighting children for many a year and many more to come, for inviting us to be part of the Kidzfield family, of which we are very proud! And an honour to find the man himself Micheal Eavis sat in the audience watching our last show! Its the greatest festival in the world!

Cant wait till 2017!

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Tom Thumb ends Spring UK tour with a truimphant run at Little Angel Theatre

Following research and development in 2015, DNA created Tom Thumb in January 2016 and for six months has been touring the UK to variious venues, festivals and events


Written and designed by Adam Bennett from an ancient Celtic folk tale, with music from Sian Phillips drawn from folk tradition, Tom Thumb uses song, puppetry, storytelling, physical theatre and comedy to tell the story of a boy created by Merlin the magician and Titania queen of the Faerie folk. His birth, childhood and adventures that lead to meeting King Arthur and being sent on a quest to defeat a dragon.


Other artists involved in the creation of this performance include Steve Tiplady (direction), Liz Lempen (puppet making) and Georgina Solo (props and set). Without the generous support of Horse and Bamboo theatre, this performance would not have been possible to create.


Tour venues included The Lowry, Artsdepot, Norwich Puppet Theatre, Blackpool Grand, The New Wolsey, Stantonbury Campus Theatre, Warwick Arts Centre, Glastonbury Festival and Little Angel Theatre.

To Thumb is touring again in Spring 2017 and is currently taking bookings.

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Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories

Bamberts Book Of lost stories pic
Presented by Barking Gecko Theatre Company, Perth, Western Australia
Cast – Nick Maclaine, Amanda McGregor, Jo Morris, Igor Sas, Tim Watts
Barking Gekko invite you to explore a world of stories, with Bambert – a small puppet man who loves to write, accompanied in his attic by the characters he has created in his tales. He wishes to share his stories and sets his stories free out into the world to find homes, with a final story to write itself. Barking Gecko have adapted Reinhardt Jung’s original German story, to premier this lovely tale about the joy of story writing and transform it into a visual feast with an awesome set, great lighting, sound and storytelling.
Bambert is a beautifully made small table top style puppet, made by Hamish Fletcher and well manipulated by lead puppeteer Tim Watts, who stays in his attic space for most of the show, with ensemble support from the acting company to accentuate his actions and emotions. The puppet has precise detail in the movement and expression of an elderly man who is tired and frustrated by life.

Bambert relates to the moon, finding the stories he writes. His quest is to make his stories become real by sharing them with the world, sent by balloons in a nice theatrical surprise. Only at the end of the show does Bambert move to other areas of the staging, above and below, symbolically finding freedom in the overall story of the little puppet man’s life.
There is a very nostalgic feel to the show, with the grocer supplying exotic produce from around the world in his shop, and a richly, layered soundtrack to compliment. With inventive sound effects to create the atmosphere of London, or an elephant back stage!
Lovely humour for children and their parents abounds, with quick fire comedic timing and visual jokes. The stories fill the room with imaginative visual storytelling, taking us around Europe with clever use of the staging, beautifully made with great detail by Onstage Arts set construction, to Jonathon Oxlade’s set design.
Matt Edgerton has brought together a talented team to tell Bambert’s stories, some tales darkly emotional from war torn Syria, the Black Angels in Poland or prison cells of Russia. Playing a variety of different characters for each story, the company bring the stories of Bambert to life in a unique and captivating production. This is a show where there is plenty of richness in the language and visual storytelling for adults, as well as for older children.
After the show, there is an enchanting surprise activity to send your wishes to the skies with innovative technology expanding children’s imaginations. There are lovely ideas from the creatives in the production to extend children’s theatre journeys. Within the show programme are beautiful creative ideas to try out at home, a real treasure trove of creativity for extended learning.

Catch the last days of the show at the Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA, Perth Cultural Centre
until 23 April 2016

Review by Rachel Riggs

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Little BoBo – The Kaleidoscope Ensemble

Rachel writes from Western Australia with a review for UNIMA Australia

Little BoBo
By the Kaleidoscope Ensemble
PERFORMERS: Gillian Catlow – violins; Joanne Foley – puppeteer; Charles Hoernemann – guitars; Ron Reeves – winds/percussion
The Kaleidoscope Ensemble invites you on a musical journey into the jungle where Bobo, the young orang-utan, finds a violin and eventually creates an orchestra. Gillian Catlow and Charles Hoernemann have taken this lovely tale about the joy of music and transformed it into a sing along mini musical for younger children, with puppetry at its heart.
Little Bobo, the young orang-utan is a performing puppet who actually plays the violin during the show! Expertly manipulated by puppeteer Joanne Foley, sometimes assisted by the musicians, the puppet constantly keeps the audiences interest and steals many scenes, with precise detail in the movement and expression of a young orang-utan clearly displayed. From the expressions on many children’s faces, meeting Little Bobo the puppet afterwards, made their experience even more memorable.
The Kaleidoscope Ensemble has undergone many changes since they formed in 2003, but what has remained constant is the passion and enthusiasm for discovering and sharing stories with music. ‘Playing music and making a story, telling a story with your music, that’s what it’s all about’ said Gillian Catlow, who had the original idea of turning the picture book into a musical stage show, and secured the rights to translate it from the original German to publish the book in Australia in 2010.
Catlow, Hoernemann and Reeves are an award winning and talented musical team, with songs as upbeat and melodic for adults, as well as for young children. The lyrics are catchy, and children not only have chance to participate in the performance, being invited onstage to play in the band but also after the show ends. The Kaleidoscope Ensemble are in no hurry to finish the show, and children are delightfully encouraged to ‘have a go’ and try out different instruments.
Playing a variety of exotic wind instruments (tarogato, furulya, sarunai), percussion, guitar, ukulele and of course violin, the musicians and puppeteer bring the story of Little Bobo to life in a unique and captivating production. With inventive sound effects to create the atmosphere of the jungle, and lovely humour for children and their parents, Little BoBo is an ideal introduction to music and theatre for young children.
For aspiring young musicians, sheet music from the show and a music cd of the Little BoBo song, are available to buy afterwards, to extend the learning experience back at home. Packed with fun, interaction, surprise and memorable original tunes, this show will delight audiences of all ages.
Little bobo

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Awesome audience feedback for Tom Thumb #TomThumbDNA

Adam Bennett writes: “It’s been a long three weeks. Ten hours a day, seven days a week is a gruelling schedule, but the forge of the rehearsal room is a hot cauldron of creativity and I wouldn’t be anywhere else.The test show gathered some really positive responses.”


“Today January 20th 2016 our wonderful hosts at Horse and Bamboo Theatre Company found us a quick audience. It was last minute. We were meant to be testing some ideas out in Halifax last Sunday but weren’t ready, so waited until we were able to perform with the show sorted out in structure and all the puppets, props, set and costume we needed. Sian Phillips the musician and I had been practicing music and songs for weeks, director Steve Tiplady came for 5 days, pulling the show apart and restitching the scenes together with greater emphasis on visual impact, character and humour. Designer/makers Liz Lempen and Georgina Solo arrived and for a few days to tidy, create and sort the various missing and physical elements of the show.”

“recommended for anyone from 4 to 73. Thank you for making an old woman think”

“the puppets were brilliantly conceived and truly pulled me into a magical world”

“an absolutely amazing performance, beautifully told. Puppets were magical, the music was perfect for the performance.”

“The story was easy to follow and there was a good mix of comedy and storytelling. The music was beautiful and the harp playing gave me goosebumps.”



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Puppetry in the UK

There is a lot going on in the world of puppetry in the UK and particularly in England right now. The British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild is working on a consortium bid for the National Puppetry Archive to become part of a Europe wide network of puppet museums celebrating the heritage of European puppetry. There is a funded consortium of English puppetry organisations and artists having meetings around the country and consulting widely on what can be done to strengthen the puppetry sector. Recently there have been some very successful festivals celebrating the artform of puppetry with performances, masterclasses and events.

Following on from this Rachel McNally of Puppet Place has written a provocative article called Has the popularity of War Horse killed off innovation in UK puppetry? and in response DNA’s Adam Bennett has written a post called Is puppetry and puppet theatre a separate art form? on his own blog.

Two new independent schools of puppetry for professional puppeteers have launched. One in London as a ten week intensive, launching next year, and the other as an ongoing series of short courses in Brighton. Horse and Bamboo near Manchester is offering a regular programme of performances and workshops as well.

Puppet Festivals have been taking place all over England and Scotland this year as well with Manipulate in both countries, Bristol Festival of Puppetry, Skipton Puppet Festival, Rossendale Puppet Festival, Beverley Puppet Festival, Stone Puppet Festival, and Suspense in London.

New and emerging puppetry companies are appearing to add flavour to the UK scene including Gyre and Gimble, Smoking Apples, Mirth and Misery, String Theatre and Odd Doll puppetry. These companies join many hundreds of groups and thousands of individuals working professionally in puppetry in the UK. There is a searchable database of puppeteers and puppetry companies as well as an overview of the puppetry groups and organisations on the Puppeteers UK website


Odd Doll – Red Rust



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Thurtinkle’s Fairy Tales at Little Feet Childrens Festival

IMG_20151028_223107Rachel writes – Thurtinkle had a wonderful time performing at the Little Feet Childrens Festival in Joondalup, Perth, Western Australia last weekend. With Amity Culver presenting, we had fantastic audiences, and inbetween shows had the DNA fairy puppets making magic wishes with children and parents for the Wishing Tree. Lots of beautiful and heart felt messages x

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