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Find out what we’ve been up to in our latest blog post

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

For a long time now We’ve all been yearning for a summer adventure. We have been adapting and making ourselves flexible to deal with changing restrictions and adjusting to different working patterns and this month has been no exception. I write this newsletter in isolation as my children have tested positive for Covid. (6 days apart!) Luckily no one is very ill, and for that, I am very grateful.

We should be reworking “Here Be Dragons”, instead it is line runs over video calls and getting Phil to drop off various materials in our front garden. Distractions are plenty and focus is difficult but there are deadlines to meet and you just adapt to another way of working like everyone else. So I raise a glass of homemade lemonade to all of you and celebrate the coming of a new summer adventure.

A glass jug of homemade lemonade

Here Be Dragons

Come and seek out Mark and Phil at Markeaton Park on Wed 21-Sun 25 July. Brighten their day and spark your family’s first summer adventure. Check out DerbyLIVE’s website for times and book your tickets here. 

Join the brave zoologists, the ‘Monster Menders’ as they take care of strange and peculiar creatures. 

If you have a big imagination and are brave enough to take a step into the unknown, then this wild walk is just what your family needs. Every time you find the Monster Menders a different story is made, each tale a unique experience.

Phil and Mark dressed as the monster menders holding a suitcase which has the words "useful Stuff" written on it

Rosie Red Boots at Buxton Opera House

This has turned into such a lovely story and has been a very fun project to be involved in. Mark has been putting together the audio for this and it’s been fun recording with our kids too as they have taken on some of the voices of the characters. We had a rehearsal in June and got to grips with the soundtrack and shadows so now we can’t wait to share it with you.

Workshop : Aug 12 at 1.30pm & 3pm
Want to know how we create the magical shadow puppets in our productions? Get up close and explore behind the screen and find out exactly how we create the visual effects. Book your FREE tickets here

Performance: Aug 13 at 10.30, 1pm, 2pm
Is Rosie brave enough to save the day? Can she help her forest friends and bring calm once more to her home? With a little help from her cat, Rosie sets off on an adventure where she discovers that even when you are small you can make a big difference. 

Join us on this mini shadow play summer adventure. Watch in wonder as shadows dance across a specially created screen to a captivating audio soundtrack. Book your FREE tickets here 

a black and white image of Mark  behind a table operating shadows and lights

A Real Awakening For Students

We are always grateful for new opportunities, and none more so than working with students at Sheffield Hallam University. It was an intense 2-week process called “Awakenings” whereby a show would be presented at the end of it. A tall order considering everything students have been through these past 18 months. Using an old folktale as a starting point we transformed the Old Post Office courtyard into a theatre space. 

In a high walled courtyard, performers dressed in black carry boxes as an audience watch on

They didn’t disappoint and showed us just how willing they were to undertake the challenge. Working with students from various courses across the university they came together and devised a script, composed music, made masks, sculpted a huge puppet, and performed in it too.

A close up of a student sculpting a clay face which has over the top features of a large nose and wrinkly forehead

Adhering to the Covid restrictions meant we couldn’t have a large audience but the piece definitely bought smiles to everyone’s faces. (especially the young child on the front row who shouted out after the performance “That show was awesome!”)

A close up of a giant blue water dragon puppet behind a sea of blue fabric

Tough Decisions on a Wobbly Road

Things are certainly getting busy for us. May has been full of meetings, funding applications, webinars, and getting creative in an actual rehearsal space.

As we look to those warmer months we have been forced into making tough decisions about how we program our summer. Tentative steps on a wobbly road map should mean we can take huge strides later in the year and find hope at the end of the rainbow.

Double rainbow over buxton buildings

Rosie Red Boots

The date has been set for sharing our shadow show of Rosie Red Boots. The wonderful story that we created with our online community will premiere on August Friday 13th in the Studio at Buxton Opera House. We are so looking forward to presenting it and we will let you know how to book your tickets nearer the time. 

It’s been fun designing the characters for the story. We always fill pages of a sketchbook and can often draw a character many times before we are happy with the result. It’s incredibly time-consuming and often takes longer to work out the mechanics of a puppet than the design. Sometimes you need multiple puppets of the same character as they need to do different actions. 

Shadow characters of a girl, a cat and an ostrich

Getting Back And It Feels Good

So this month we found ourselves able to get in a rehearsal space for a few days to explore circus skills with actual people! A project that has been trying to emerge since 2018 and with various set backs along the way it felt so good to realise some of the ideas surrounding this project.

We were looking into ways to combine storytelling and circus and learnt so much in a few days from our wonderful artists. So a big thank you to Claire Crook, Owen Gaynor and Alex Anderson for their patience and adaptability. There’s a good few milestones still yet to go but we hope to be able to explore this story for an adventure next summer.

A circus performer in a cross position hanging from red silks

Bubbling, Babbling Creativity

I’m not sure how it is nearly May already. For so long we have been in the clutches of winter and now suddenly it feels like summer is almost here.

We are pushing forward with projects and ideas and things look hopeful. We are thinking of ways to diversify our income and are already bubbling with our babbling creativity. So here’s hoping we can share with you soon our ideas for shadowplay story tents, puppets, and more!

Rosie Red Boots

We had such fun drawing with families over Zoom to create shadow images for our story Rosie Red Boots. We had over 70 participants help conjure this story. Then more families joining in for a big drawing of ideas. All the images that were sent in have been cut out and are ready to make their way into our performance. We are hoping to set a date with the team at Buxton Opera House of when we can stage it.

We couldn’t help but get excited by our new desktop laser cutter. What a game-changer! This machine can cut a puppet so quickly. Instead of taking days and possibly weeks to transform over 70 drawings , Mark presented them to me after two days! We are stupidly excited about what this could mean to future shadow puppet performances.

Capturing A Moment

The animated story is complete! Illuminos have conjured their magical skill in weaving together stories and images to produce a visual delight. All we need now is to find time to present it, so we are working with the Heritage Action Zone to confirm a date.

Up For Adventure

Next week we are able to develop our ideas for our circus project Adventure Shack. Partnering up with Greentop and Barnsley Civic we can finally explore what it means to tell a story using circus techniques. We hope to merge our storytelling skills with talented artists to produce something different from what we are used to. We are so pleased to be able to get this project going after so long. It’s not quite how we wanted it to be, but we are making the best of a difficult situation. It’s so wonderful to be in a space with other artists sharing ideas.

Newsletter #21

A busy start to the year

I was so grateful for half term, it really has felt like the last few weeks have been full of sunshine and shower moments in our household. Now we find ourselves on a “road map” journeying once again along a bumpy path, but with the ebbing short days comes light and hope for those long sunny days when the blue skies and birdsong lift your spirits. Our creativity is shifting with a bubbling of so many new ideas and possibilities, it’s difficult to keep a lid on it all. 

Drawings and Memories Take Centre Stage

We have been lucky enough to deliver a community project for the Heritage Action Zone in Buxton. At Babbling Vagabonds HQ we have been gathering people’s memories of Spring Gardens and asking children to send us their drawings of the animals or creatures that secretly live behind the shop fronts. We will then work with Illuminos, a digital company, which specialise in projecting video onto buildings, to conjure a short illuminated story in Spring Gardens. Once the restrictions have eased we plan to realise this event, so look out for this later in the year.

Share the Journey

We have had so much fun with our Zoom story-making workshops for Into The Woods – A Shared Journey with Buxton Opera House. Families typed in suggestions using the chatbox and then Mark crafted the story with me trying to draw along, it’s had some hilarious results! The stories that we crafted with our audiences will be moulded into one tall tale. Did you miss out on these workshops? Don’t worry, you can still get involved as the next part of the project will be drawing and shadow puppet making. We want your drawings and ideas to transform our story. The drawings that are sent to us might be in our final shadow puppet performance. Again, once we understand the restrictions, and what is allowed we will let you know when this performance can go ahead.

If you want a copy of our story planner for a quest or overcoming a monster story plot just drop me an email: tara@babblingvagabonds.co.uk 

We are always wanting to nurture the next generation of storytellers. 

Newsletter #20

Difficult Year Ends With A Big Smile

We can’t begin to describe how grateful we are to have been able to share with some of you our magical Elf Encounter. This 15-minute experience takes a single family on a heartwarming adventure with an Elf that can’t help but get in trouble.

This sell out run has bought smiles and festive cheer in a time when life is so very difficult for many. Unable to experience so much of what we take for granted this opportunity has left us feeling blessed and lucky. So many people working in the arts have found themselves without work and yet in these testing times, we know that it’s the arts that support people’s well being. I’m not sure what the future holds but by keeping our hearts open and having a willingness to adapt and change here’s hoping we can continue to bring memory-making experiences to families.

Bobby the elf holding a big letter addressed to santa

If you want to see our Elf Encounter you still can! DerbyLIVE have helped us by making an online version. If you head to their website you can watch our little show from the comfort of your own home and the kids can press repeat as many times as they like until January 3rd. For more details click here.

Buddy the Elf excitedly holding his magical invention the, I - Spy

What’s to come?

We are working on a few ideas and have been quietly waiting for things to bloom over the last few months. So I am please to announce that we will be working with Buxton Civic Association on a community project in the woods for the warmer months and we will be developing ideas for that next year. You can read about their grant success here.

We are also delighted to be working with Buxton International Festival on a story project surrounding Spring Gardens, Buxton. So if you have memories or stories you would like to share then you can by heading to the website. 

Our Armchair Adventure online shadow story making project will be ready to share in the new year too, Mark is just putting together the last few edits and we think it would be great to look forward to this in January when the festivities have ebbed away.

Design sketchbook for The Dinosaur that came for Christmas

Want Some Free Useful Stuff?

An audio version of our summer production of Here Be Dragons is available on our website alongside a Monster Menders Journal. (an activity booklet for kids that links to the story) Check it out on our website and click on Here Be Dragons  Have fun with it and why not share your creativity with us too.

Phil and Mark holding a suitcase which has the words "useful Stuff" written on it

Thursday Throwback 

This year we celebrate two decades of working together, so I thought I would celebrate our work by sharing a photo from the past twenty years every month. We feel blessed to have met so many wonderful people along the way and to have formed a great many friendships.

We are not going back far for this memory but it is still one of my favourite Christmas Shows. “The Dinosaur That Came For Christmas” Remember that catchy tune! You can relive it here!

PJ looking shocked holding a baby dinosaur

Spread the Word

Know anyone who would enjoy reading about our work, please feel free to forward on our newsletter and invite them to join our community.

Newsletter #19

Christmas Encounter Set To Bring A Smile

We are so pleased to be able to bring festive cheer to families in the Christmas period. We have worked hard with DerbyLive to create a Covid safe experience for a family household (up to 6). This intimate 15-minute encounter with one of Santa’s elves will warm the hearts on even the coldest of days.

Set in a cabin on Derby Market Place, encounter an Elf with a talent for making trouble. Santa’s magical machine turns children’s letters into presents – all with a little sprinkle of elf trickery of course – but one day, with Christmas just around the corner, the machine breaks down. Can you help get Santa’s machine back on track, and get a naughty Elf back on the nice list?

For more information on the event head to the DerbyLIVE website where you can read about what is in store.

Artwork from Elf encounter showing an elf trapped inside a tv screen

Here Be Dragons

The disappointment of not touring this summer was too great so we decided to record an audio version and make a Monster Menders Journal. (an activity booklet for kids that links to the story) Check it out on our website and click on Here Be Dragons The audio is free and so is a downloadable version of the Monster Menders Journal. Have fun with it and why not share your creativity with us too.

Monster Menders journal with a man in the woods leading a line of children

Thursday Throwback 

This year we celebrate two decades of working together, so I thought I would celebrate our work by sharing a photo from the past twenty years every month. We feel blessed to have met so many wonderful people along the way and to have formed a great many friendships.

As we are into rehearsals for our Christmas Elf Encounter I stumbled across this rehearsal shot form Captain Sprout and the Christmas Pirates from 2016. It’s very different this year as we bubble and work one on one and over digital platforms but where there is laughter there is joy and it’s always important to be grateful.

two men in rehearsals for our show, one of them is bending over and laughing really hard

Newsletter #18

Bouncing Forward

Life is certainly still very different. The juggle of childcare and homeschooling is making a significant impact on our working hours. With that said we are working towards some fun things that will spark the families creativity.

We have been very fortunate to be able to work with Buxton Museum and we are planning a small online story making project for families that will be delivered in July or August. We want our audience to help us make a brand new story which will then write up and record. It’s our aim to help nurture the next generation of story makers so we hope you’re up for being involved. Be sure to keep an eye on our social media pages where we will post up developments.

handwritten words, once upon a time

New Story, New Adventure

We have been working on a new story that we would like to tell hopefully next year if we are able. It’s about a young girl in a circus who decides it’s time for a new adventure. We are exploring many themes in this new piece and hope that there might be a way for our audience to help shape the story. It’s exciting to be able to work on something new even if it has meant working more on the computers than meeting face to face.

Thursday Throwback 

This year we celebrate two decades of working together, so I thought I would celebrate our work by sharing a photo from the past twenty years every month. We feel blessed to have met so many wonderful people along the way and to have formed a great many friendships.

For those of you who saw our production of “The Golden Thief” and remember Barry the Wolf and his love of Jam sandwiches….well here is his first appearance in “The Firebird” back in 2002. An outdoor production that toured Derbyshire.

Large processional puppet with characters of a wolf and a king
We are creating more content for our blog so the website and have a read. There are a couple of headings “Let’s Create”, where we will share some craft activities and “Our Process” where you can find out about how we write the story, design for the stage, puppet making and songwriting.
A big thank you to all of you who have donated to babbling vagabonds via our website. We are truly grateful.

So if you like what we do and your income is not affected by the current pandemic feel free to give what you can using the donate button on our homepage and know that you would be supporting a big-hearted little theatre company.

Newsletter #17

Some Good News

We are so very happy to tell you that we were lucky enough to be awarded an emergency funding grant from Arts Council England. It means we have an opportunity to find our way in this new environment. The future is still grainy but we are hoping that our little theatre company can be agile and flexible enough to continue to make heartwarming memories for families.

So many questions! If you have any thoughts on this then please get in touch. It’s not too late to help shape our new project. Either hit reply to this email or contact me on tara@babblingvagabonds.co.uk. We look forward in hearing  your opinion.

The grant will enable us to create a series of online story making sessions with you, our wonderful audience. Now more than ever we need your input. We are hearing from people that they are all Zoomed out and often the last thing they want to do is engage in more screen time. So what’s our best option? We are making a set of tutorials that our audience can access anytime but we are also thinking….
Is there scope to run some story-making sessions live?
If so which platform is the easiest to use?
What time and day would suit the majority of our audience?
Is this an experience that people would pay for in the future?

sofa on the beach in the waves

Thursday Throwback 

This year we celebrate two decades of working together, so I thought I would celebrate our work by sharing a photo from the past twenty years every month. We feel blessed to have met so many wonderful people along the way and to have formed a great many friendships.

In 2002 we toured a production that was entirely told with shadow puppets. It was titled “The Shadow of the Firebird” and it toured to theatres, schools and rural venues across the East Midlands. The best thing about this production was that some children thought it was a film. Then when we took down the shadow screen after the performance and revealed how we did it all the look on their faces was brilliant!

puppeteers holding shadow puppets on a screen

Babbling Vagabonds Blog

We are creating more content for our blog so head to our website and have a read. There are a couple of headings “Let’s Create”, where we will share some craft activities and “Our Process” where you can find out about how we write the story,design for the stage,puppet making and songwriting.

How To Create Cute Toilet Roll Characters

This week we have had fun creating characters from empty toilet rolls. There’s so much inspiration online here’s what we came up with.

You Will Need:

  • Toilet roll tubes
  • Pens, pencils
  • Paint and paintbrushes
  • Scissors
  • paper
  • Tape/glue

Renn really wanted to make a butterfly so we started by drawing out some wings on a coloured piece of paper. We folded it in half so we had symmetrical wings. We used the cardboard tube to make sure we made them the right size.

drawing butterfly wings on paper

After we cut the wings out we put blobs of paint on them.

Paper butterfly wings covered in blobs of coloured paints

We then carefully folded the wings in half and pressed down. We carefully peeled open the wings and it revealed a beautiful mix of all the colours.

Painted paper butterfly wings

As the wings were drying we set about making the body of the butterfly. We painted it and stuck on pipe cleaners for antennas. Once it was dry we added eyes and stuck on the wings

Painting a toilet roll for the butterfly's body

Toilet roll butterfly

We then had lots of fun making other characters. Then we were able to make up stories with the characters we created.

Monster, owl and a fox toilet roll cardboard tube character
Alien, butterfly and owl toilet roll cardboard tube characters

How To Make a Mayan Mask

One of the tasks from school this week was for the kids to make a Mayan mask so I thought this might make a good blog post. We had lots of fun looking at images with the help of Google and I really believe that the way to nail this activity is all in the design. We also split the activity over two days. A day for designing and a day for making the mask.

You Will Need:

  • Paper and card (cereal box is great card use)
  • Pencil and coloured pens, pencils, chalks, oil pastels
  • Tape and stick glue (a stapler is very handy but not essential)
  • Scissors
  • old magazines (optional, but make fun mosaic patterns)
  • Imagination and patience!
materials of paper, card and pencils

Start by having a good look at Mayan masks online and look at things like colour and shape. Some of them have animal shapes in them and use small mosiac tiles.

Child's drawing of a mayan mask

Then draw your design on the paper and give it colour. This is a very useful exercise as it will really help when you come to making the mask.

Child's mayan mask drawing

Once you got a finished design you can now think about how to make it as a mask. Look at the shapes you have with it and start to cut those shapes out. We found it much easier to cut the shapes and colour them as we went, then all the pieces can be assembled.

We looked at the size of the feathers compared to the face and discovered they were about the same length. Renn started by drawing and cutting out the feather headdress and then we drew around a plate to get the right-sized shape for the face. She coloured in the feathers and the face and we found some gold card for the earings and front on the headdress. Having her design made it much easier for her to understand the process and what she needed to do next.

Colouring the feathers for our Mayan mask

Wilf’s wanted his mask to be more three dimensional so we made slits at the top corners and folded them in securing the card with a staple. He then used his design to redraw the features and then he used paint to colour his mask. He then added coloured feathers to the top of the mask and we secured them with tape.

To fit the mask to the face I used a cardboard headband. You cut strips of cardboard and measure it around the child’s head. Then you put a central band across. This stops the mask from falling down over the eyes and it always seems to work better than elastic as it’s more structural.

I was really proud of their efforts and they were very pleased with the finished results. Hope you have fun making your masks, feel free to share your efforts on our social media pages.