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.

Newsletter #16

The Facing Unknown

Over the last few weeks, things have changed massively for everyone on a global scale. In the face of this pandemic, it is difficult not to get swept up in all the fear of what this virus is doing to everyone’s world.

Life has changed as we know it. The future is uncertain too. Shedding a tear most days for what is lost and trying to figure out how your family is going to cope on so many different levels can sometimes feel too much. Many of us are used to a rigid routine of work, school, after school commitments and to suddenly find yourself without a schedule for the foreseeable future is unnerving. 

But one thing that I’m hanging onto is the resilience of humanity. The kindness of people stepping in to help their community and the NHS is proof that we are stronger together. Supporting where we can, when we can. It’s also important not to feel guilty or cross with family members or friends if you don’t agree with how they are behaving. Everyone is doing their best with the resources they have available, and people are just trying to cope with the enormity of the situation.

Already we have been bombarded with a huge amount of online resources, some for free and others charging a minimal amount. It’s brilliant what you can now access and it’s inspiring to see people change and adapt and be so incredibly creative and resourceful. 

people holding hands
Let’s get through together

Making The Best Of It

If I’m honest I’m not sure what the future holds, but when we make it through I know we will be more resourceful and creative than ever. Having work cancelled is devastating, not being able to see one another is equally hard. So much of our work takes place together and although the chats via the web and the phone means we can stay in touch, it’s not the same. But we have a new story to come up with and we are looking at projects in the future so we can build a robust little company that can weather this storm.

We are working out how to record from home in our houses with limited equipment and tech skills so check out our social media channels, we hope to be sharing some useful stuff with you all by next week. We decided we are not going to charge for our content all we ask is that you get a friend to like our page or share and tag our posts in social media. Please help us build a strong community and let’s help one another through these unsettled times.

The monster menders, characters from Here be dragons hold a suitcase of useful stuff
It’s all useful stuff

Celebrating 20 Years

Not exactly how I thought we would be celebrating two decades of working together but celebrate we must! We feel blessed to have met so many wonderful people along the way and to have formed a great many friendships. Thank you.

I’m taking us back to 2017 when we toured “The Golden Thief” to beautiful spaces across Derbyshire. I will never take for granted being able to take our audience on a spine-tingling shared journey in a beautiful landscape.

The Gardener takes the audience on a wild walk
The Gardener takes the audience on a wild walk

Our Creative Process

Ever wondered how we create our work. Head to our website and read our blogs.  Under the heading, ‘ Our Process’ there are posts about how we write the story,design for the stage,puppet making and songwriting.

Newsletter #15

Storytelling Success At West Park Museum

We had a great half term at this beautiful museum in Macclesfield. The event was part storytelling and part shadow puppetry with a good dose of interactive family fun.
We had lots of positive feedback from this event and it was a delight to see the children mesmerised by the shadows and the wonder in their faces when their own shadow puppet found the light and the screen was truly heart-lifting. 

Thanks to everyone for making it a sell-out success. You’ve given us a warm happy glow.
“Wonderful event, fantastic storytelling and super activities for all ages. Thank you so much” Participant.

West Park Museum - Magical Storytelling Machine
Magical Storytelling Machine at West Park Museum, Macclesfield

Here Be Dragons Back For The Summer

We’ve been working hard to find partners and venues who are up for having fun this summer. In the next few months, we’ll be able to confirm when and where you can come and play.

It’s not too late….If you know of a venue that we can transform then contact: 
mark@babblingvagabonds.co.uk

Characters celebrate from babbling vagabonds here be dragons
Here Be Dragons At Heage Windmill

Celebrating 20 Years

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.

I’m taking us back to 2005-2007 which saw us touring a tabletop puppet show of “The Lonely Giant” to schools, communities and venues.

A lonely giant and a litlle girl called Morag meet one another
The Lonely Giant and Morag

Our Creative Process

Ever wondered how we create our work. Head to our website and read our blogs.  Under the heading, ‘ Our Process’ there are posts about how we write the story,design for the stage,puppet making and songwriting.