A few weeks ago we were in Europe filming for PuppetVision: The Movie. While we were there we made a whirlwind trip to the Skipton International Puppet Festival, the largest puppetry festival in England. We spent two very intense days in Skipton seeing a mind boggling number of puppet shows and interviewing six puppeteers from across Europe and as far away as Asia – Irene Vecchia (Italy), Clive Chandler (UK), Yuki Muramatsu (Japan), Anne Klinge (Germany), Andrew Kim (U.S.A./UK) and Fatna Djahra (Switzerland).
Many of the puppeteers that we met in Skipton told us how much they love coming to the festival and it’s easy to see why. I’ve been to a lot of puppet festivals, but Skipton is perhaps one of the best and takes place in one of the most picturesque settings. To say that it’s popular is a bit of an understatement. I was told that almost every single performance sold out (the festival couldn’t allow us to film inside several venues because there was literally no room left to set-up a camera) and even if you can’t get a ticket to a show you can still occupy yourself all day at the festival hub, where free performances were happening around the clock.
A big component of the Skipton Festival that I love is the level of community involvement (I’ve never been able to attend Puppets Up! here in Canada, but I suspect it’s very similar). Everyone is encouraged to get involved and workshops are held during the weeks leading up to the festival to build puppets for its signature event, a giant puppet parade through the streets of town.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get very good coverage of the parade because of some technical issues, but Malcolm Stoney also has a great gallery of photos from the parade on Flickr. Melvyn Rawlinson also posted this short montage from the parade on YouTube:
If you’d like to read more impressions from the festival, Puppeteers UK has a collection of thoughts and memories on their web site.
A big thank you to all of the artists who took time out of their hectic festival schedule to speak with us for PuppetVision: The Movie as well as all of the festival’s wonderful volunteers for being so welcoming, helpful and accommodating throughout the weekend.
The next Skipton International Puppetry Festival is tentatively scheduled for September 25-27, 2015 and if you can make plans to be there, you really should make the trip. You can learn more at SkiptonPuppetFestival.co.uk.