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Newsletter #13

Here Be Dragons!

We are so excited to be performing at a brand new venue this summer. We are setting our Here Be Dragons family outdoor experience against the incredible backdrop of Heage Windmill near Belper. This unique historic building is the only working six-sailed stone tower windmill in England. Be sure to check out their website to find out about some of the events they put on there and the guided tours around the windmill itself via this link.

Heage Windmill
Heage Windmill

We’d love to see you this summer and share more memory making moments with you and your family. To get your tickets click on the links below. Hope you can make it. Tell your friends too. The tickets for these events are very limited as we wan to keep it intimate and personal, so do book ahead.

Seek us out in Grin Low Woods (Pooles Cavern), as part of Buxton Fringe, from Sat 20- Wed 24 July.  Tickets on sale from 1st June
Set sail with us at Heage Windmill Tue 30 July & Thur 1-2 Aug Book Now
Find us in Markeaton Park Craft Village with DerbyLIVE Mon 5- Sat 10  Aug. Book Now

Here Be dragons

Carnival of the Animals

This month sees us working with year 5 pupils across Buxton schools to create carnival inspired animals for the annual parade in Buxton on the 13th July.

Working in partnership with Buxton International Festival and Buxton Fringe Festival and using Saint-Sans as inspiration we hope to turn some heads this summer.

Don’t forget to follow us on the usual social media channels to see more of what we are up too. Facebook has changed their algorithms for business pages so be sure to click on our page as we might not be showing in your news feed.

Turtle made using willow and painted fabric
Turtle

Mask Making

Buxton International Festival would like as many families as possible to come dressed up for their Carnival of Animals performance on Saturday 20th July. If you fancy having a go at making a mask follow this “How To” video. They’d love to see your creations.

Head to our YouTube Channel and you will find videos to make a simple lion mask and bird mask. Happy dabbling!

"How to" mask making tutorial
“How to” mask making tutorial

Our Creative Process

New blog posts in the pipeline! I will let you know via our newsletter of the developments.
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.

Fun Finds This Month

Fleet Arts

A community arts charity delivering visual arts and music projects.
Check out the events they hold at their venue in Belper.

Fleet Arts logo

The Artful Parent

A great resource for creative ideas to make and do with your children.

The Artful Parent

Missing Link

A charming and beautiful stop-motion animated adventure film

Missing link

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 the Tribe.

Newsletter #12

Family Adventures Coming This Summer

We are pleased to announce that our new summer adventure for families will be part of Buxton Fringe Festival, Derby Parks Summer Program with DerbyLIVE and a venue in Belper. (TBC)

Seek us out in Grin Low Woods (Pooles Cavern), Buxton from Sat 20- Wed 24 July. Find us in Markeaton Park Craft Village Mon 5- Sat 10  Aug. You can buy tickets now!

This summer we are creating a unique experience for families titled “Here Be Dragons!” For this new adventure, we are drawing inspiration from those unchartered areas of maps where beasts and serpents may dwell.

Ever tangled with a five-headed Hottle-Spottle with a toothache? Or soothed a silver-tongued slimp-slatherer with a drooling problem? Meet the secretive ‘Creature Carers’ and help them to conjure a story to becalm a bewildered beastie.

man running in wood

Happy 40th!

We are excited to announce that we will be working with Buxton International Festival and Buxton Fringe in a schools project to celebrate their 40th anniversaries. We will be creating something wonderful with local school children for Buxton Carnival and BIF performance of Saint- Saens Carnival of the Animals and we will share our progress via our newsletter and our usual social media platforms. Can’t wait to see how this project develops.

Carnival of the animals

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.

Fun Finds This Month

boom Magazine

A great resource for anyone living in or near Belper with a young family. From articles on early learning, recipes and a full listing of local activities and eateries it’s definitely something to have on hand.

Boom magazine logo

Jungle Book

Derby Theatre production this for families this Easter
5-20 April

jungle book

Buxton International Festival Roadshow

A bitesize hour-long performance to dip your toe into opera, music and books in a friendly atmosphere

Buxton International Festival Roadshow

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 the Tribe.

Newsletter #11

Here Be Dragons

This summer we are creating a unique experience for families titled “Here Be Dragons!” For this new adventure, we are drawing inspiration from those unchartered areas of maps where beasts and serpents may dwell.

Ever tangled with a five-headed Hottle-Spottle with a toothache? Or soothed a silver-tongued slimp-slatherer with a drooling problem? Meet the secretive ‘Monster Menders’ and help them to conjure a story to becalm a bewildered beastie.
We will let you know the full details of the tour as it develops.

Old Map

Our Theatre Adventures Reaching New Heights

Last month we spent time at Greentop Community Circus working out and formulating ideas for a new project. With the help of Claire Crook, circus artist AKA Madam Mango, and Teo Greenstreet from Greentop Circus Centre in Sheffield and Ian Morley at Barnsley Civic Theatre we have been working on a new project idea with the aim to produce a circus production suitable for families which will premiere in 2020. Next will be the task of teasing out the story from our initial ideas and seeking out the funds to realise this shared creative adventure.

Greentop Circus Sheffield

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.

Fun Finds This Month

Meet The Storytellers Of Sound

It’s amazing the mundane everyday objects these people use to create the sound effects for films

Sound Desk

Wow! It’s Night Time

Touring nationally, if this comes to a theatre near you it would be worth a visit. Puppetry for 2-5 year olds

Wow its night time

Nurture Store – Creative and delightful learning

Head to this website and sign up for the newsletter if ever you need a bit of inspiration when it comes to entertaining the kids with art, play and sensory learning

Nurture Store

Newsletter #10

New Show For Christmas 2019

The fairy lights have only just been packed away and already, for us, Christmas is in the air. We have the task this year of writing a brand new story all about a Christmas Toy Shop. Where will our creativity take us? Who or what might be the next hero of our story? Rest assured if you follow us, you can follow our story as we journey on our next adventure together.
Some families have thrown caution to the wind and already booked their seats to see The Christmas Toy Shop Mystery. So if you want the best seats in the house then head to DerbyLIVE to buy your tickets.

Christmas Toyshop Mystery

New Adventures Planned for 2019

We are busy working on new ideas for the future. We are already thinking of the summer and submitting funding bids so we can take families on yet more memory making magical adventures. This year could see the rise of Dragons!

We are also developing a project with Circus Artist Madam Mango, Greentop Circus Centre in Sheffield and Barnsley Civic Theatre and we will let you know how things develop with this project through our newsletter and social media.

dragon in sketchbook

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.

Fun Finds This Month

The Dad Lab

Be inspired and follow one dad’s journey on creating many and varied fun and easy activities that he does with his kids

The Dad Lab

Hedgehog’s Home

A 10 minute award winning animation about a hedgehog defending his home from a fox, a wolf, a bear and a wild boar. A story that reminds us there is no place like home.

Hedgehogs Home

Just So Festival

Billed as the family weekend beyond your wildest dreams. For anyone looking to create unforgettable memories with their families.

Just So festival

Making Music – Our Process

Finding the Rhythm To The Music

When we compose our music for our productions, the process starts around our kitchen table. Not highly technical I know, but all we need is a space to be creative and the kitchen table seems to work well enough for the germination of ideas. Our musical friends come together and we give ourselves a day to do most of the groundwork for the songwriting. This has to be one of my favourite days on our calendar.

Musicians playing their instruments
Playing Out Ideas With Music

Playing with Ideas

Within the story, we will look for the scenes that would benefit from a song or music. Often a song can take you on a journey, explain more of the storyline and convey emotion in a different way than just dialogue. Once we have figured that out and talked about what the song needs to do within that scene we will start playing with ideas. I see it as a bit like writing poetry, looking for rhyming words and finding flow within music and the words on the page. Sometimes a melody will come first and the words are written to fit the tune. Other times words just tumble out and a rhythm is then found to accompany the words.

Writing the songs
Writing The Songs

It’s about listening to one another. Responding to the moment and not being afraid of putting an idea forward for it to be used or rejected. Some songs I find spine-tingling straight from the off. That excites me, wondering how it will feel when it’s sung out into an auditorium of people.

Guitar and playing chords
Music Making – Playing Chords

Some songs compose themselves quicker than others while some songs need more time to develop. This is after all only the beginning of the process. Matt Vale, our musical Director will then develop the musical score into something even more magical. In rehearsals, the actors put their own creativity into the songs so it then transforms into very much a shared collaborative process.

The music making process couldn’t happen without the creative input of Matt Vale, Rob Vale, James Swinburn and Bob Rushton and to them, I feel indebted.

Songwriting
Keyboard and keypad working together

Puppet Making – Our Process

First Steps In Puppet Making

Where do we start in puppet making? In our process, it starts with the story. Everything starts with a story! Once we have that we start to imagine what, where and when the puppet(s) may add to the visual storytelling. Can we add a puppet to help tell a section of the story? Take us on an otherwise impossible journey? Fly through the air, fight a deep sea monster or fall from an enchanted tower.

Types of Puppets We Use

Once those questions have been answered, then we have to decide what style of puppet we need. We tend to enjoy the use of shadow puppetry, tabletop puppetry and object manipulation.

Shadow puppets are just as it suggests, puppets that block light casting a shadow onto a screen or wall. We sometimes add colour and use 3D landscapes to give depth to a shadow sequence. Tabletop puppets are handheld. They need a platform to be seen by the audience, hence the name. Object manipulation is just that, using the same techniques as we use with a table top puppet but using found objects. A suitcase becomes a mouth of a crocodile or a screwed up sheet of paper an old grannies face.

Designing When Puppet Making

Sketches are drawn, ideas are gathered and once we have the feel for the puppet we make further drawings before we start to construct it.

Dinosaur Sketch
Initial Dinosaur Sketch

From these sketches, we develop the puppet into mock-up made of screwed up brown paper and cardboard. If you ever want to try this always add eyes (we have a drawer full of ping pong balls) as it makes everything come alive. This quick 3D version gives us a greater understanding of size and movability.

Initial mock up of a dinosaur puppet
Puppet Making In Its Roughest Form

Next Stages of Puppet Making

In this production, we have come to the conclusion that we need more than one puppet for the same character. This is because the puppet needs to do different things in different scenes.

We use clay to sculpt a version of our final idea from all the sketches we have made.

From this, we create a pattern. The clay version is covered in cling film and then masking tape. When its all covered, we cut it off and make a flat pattern. The finished pieces work in the same way as a  dress makers pattern. Using an Over Head Projector we can scale up the pattern to any size.

The pattern is then cut from closed cell foam, it is just like camping mats, only more robust. All the pieces are glued together and the form can come together quickly.

Pattern Making When Puppet Making
Pattern Making When Puppet Making

Any fiddly bits are sculpted from larger blocks of foam and then we piece it all together.  We work out the jointing system for the legs and head and figure out the mechanism needed to make any moving parts. It always takes longer than we think and is a challenge to make it move right but when it’s finished it is lightweight, strong and will hopefully stand up to the physical use within the run of the production.

Dinosaur puppet in its construction stage
Working Out The Moving Parts

Last Steps in Puppet Making

Once we are happy with the overall look and construction the last job is to paint it. Various sealants, primers and paints are used to create the finished puppet. Often perceptions of how it will be painted changes as the puppet forms and its character emerges. But working the way we do means we have the flexibility to make changes all the time. Many mistakes are made along the way, but its all about working together and solving the challenges that arise when puppet making.

Dinosaur puppet
One Of The Finished Puppets

Designing this puppet has been fun, but it has been a difficult process. Problem-solving has rated highly on this project. Mark has been the real brains behind all the working out and I’ve taken the lead on the fabrication and painting element of this puppet making process. Our budgets are never grand and we are always thinking of ways to make things cheaper. We reuse as much material as we can and always look at what we have in stock before buying any materials.

Time is another great factor. It’s a longer process than you might imagine. Many of our puppets are priceless due to the simple fact of the number of hours it has taken to produce a puppet which may only be onstage for a few minutes. When the puppets are finished you can always see room for improvement and what you would do differently next time. But that’s the great thing about puppet making. You are always learning.

Newsletter #09

October 2018 Newsletter

Designasaurus Workshops
Designasaurus workshops

Half Term Dinosaur Adventures

This October half term we are with DerbyLIVE running workshops for kids aged 3-11 at Markeaton Park Craft Village. It’s a fun interactive workshop that will provide some rip-roaring fun for your little raptors! You can book tickets via DerbyLIVE

 

Dinosaur production image
Our Christmas Production

Christmas Countdown

Can’t believe I’ve used the c-word. Yes, Christmas is on its way. We are already thinking about the festive season and have started making the puppets for the show. If you want to know more about our process look out for more blog posts on our website. There’ll be one on puppet making very soon.

The team at DerbyLIVE have informed us that ticket sales are already going well, and some performances are already limited tickets. (It’s only October!) So if you fancy a seasonal treat come and say hello to us at The Guildhall this December. Book your tickets from the DerbyLIVE website

 

Design sketchbook for The Dinosaur that came for Christmas
Mark sketches ideas for The Dinosaur That Came For Christmas

Designing Our Shows

If you fancy knowing more about how we design our shows head to our website and check out our latest blog posts where we give you insight into our process.

Fun Finds This Month

Sculpture_Geek

Find this talented artist on YouTube and Instagram. Watch them sculpt incredibly detailed models from clay.

Work by sculpture Geek
Sculpture Geek

Top Halloween Activities in Derbyshire

20 places to visit for a Halloween treat

Carved Pumkins
Carved Pumpkins

Red Ted Art

This is a great person to follow especially on Pinterest and Instagram. She is an award-winning blogger and full of inspirational craft ideas for children.

Red Ted Art cute and easy crafts for kids
Red Ted Art

 

How We Design Our Christmas Show

Our Set Design Process

The Babbling Vagabonds design process starts with the story we want to tell and a big sketchbook. We talk about the story and the scenes within it, the characters and the locations. Ideas are important at this stage and we try not to limit our creativity. It’s very much a collaborative process between the three of us. We are not afraid of being wrong when we voice ideas and to be honest I think the three of us have a very special relationship. We don’t censor our creativity, anything is up for discussion.

Sketchbook from The Dinosaur that came for Christmas
Getting ideas and thoughts on a page

Pinterest is a good source of inspiration for us and we have a shared board for the story. We look at characters types, environments, costume and Pin anything we think is relevant to our story.

Storyboarding Ideas

A storyboard of the essential action is drafted. We find creative ways in which to make the locations and where scenes can take place. There is usually only four actors in our Christmas show and whatever is designed has to take that into account.

Design sketchbook for The Dinosaur that came for Christmas
Mark sketches a storyboard for The Dinosaur That Came For Christmas

Making the Model – The World of the Story

This will be our 6th production at The Guildhall Theatre in Derby, we know space well and how to get the best from it. We don’t have to worry about touring the production and making the set fit in different venues, this means we can design a set that is bespoke to the venue. We have a scale model of the theatre and its within this miniature space that we start to realise the ideas from our sketchbooks.

Model Making for The Dinosaur That Came For Christmas
Starting To Make A Model

Making the model is all about playing. It is about seeing design ideas in a three-dimensional form and within this part of the process that you can see if an idea is going to work. We never see things as a problem, always as a challenge, and through design we find solutions. The model helps to see the theatre space as a whole and its often at this stage where you start to understand how certain scenes within the story will play out.

Working model for the Dinosaur that came for Christmas
The Beginnings of a Model for The Dinosaur That Came For Christmas

The model box changes all the time as we search for the ultimate design. Pieces are thrown away to make way for more exciting ideas and solutions. It is a vital part of the design process and an amazing way of sharing our vision. Colour becomes an integral element of the modelling stage and brings together all the elements of the design. The colour palette really helps when we venture into the next stage of building the set. Working as we do means we are flexible and have the ability to adapt throughout the whole process as things may change…again, and again and again.

 

 

Newsletter #08

 

Babbling Vagabonds present A Wild Walk - The Golden Thief Production Image
Wild Walk – The Golden Thief Production Image

This summer has been WILD!

Our outdoor summer adventure feels like ages ago. The kids are back to school and we are now firmly back in the office, report writing, thinking about Christmas and making plans for next year.

We had such fun this summer meeting our audiences. Great to see so many new faces joining our Tribe and heartwarming to see those families who support us again and again. So many fun-filled moments at the various venues we performed at and so many delighted faces as the audience ventured from scene to scene. Just magic, so thank you.

Babbling Vagabonds A Wild Walk - The Golden thief Production Image
High Fives at A Wild Walk – The Golden Thief

Blogging!

We’ve decided to start blogging about how we create our work. It’s a new adventure so there will probably be a few stumbles along the way, but if you want to find out more about our process visit our website or click here 
babbling vagabonds rehearsal
Rehearsal for The Golden Thief

Designasaur Workshop

This October half term we are with DerbyLIVE running workshops for kids 3-11 at Markeaton Park Craft Village. It’s a fun interactive workshop that will provide some rip-roaring fun for your little raptors! You can book tickets via DerbyLIVE

Fun Family Dinosaur Workshop

Writing a Story Babbling Vagabonds Style

Phil has written a blog post about how we write our stories if you fancy having a read.

Fun Finds This Month

FESTE in DERBY

So much street performance to experience you won’t want to miss this!

Feste Derby
Artists Performing at Feste, Derby

Giants of Liverpool

Get ready to walk in the footsteps of Giants. Royal De Luxe are the Worlds Leading Street Theatre Company

Giant Grandma - Royal De Lux
Walking With Giants – Royal De Luxe

Kubo and the Two Strings

We love this film and this is an insight into how they made it. Incredible!

Kubo and the Two Strings
Kubo and the Two Strings

Writing a Story the Babbling Vagabonds Way

Writing a Story

So now we are starting to develop the story for our next family Christmas show, The Dinosaur who came for Christmas. As a company we devise our shows – which means that we don’t start with a script – we begin with an idea, actually, nowadays we begin with a title. So where do we start in writing a story? We have a ‘process’ for creating our work. This has evolved as we have over the past eighteen years and although I don’t think we have ‘rules’ as to how we do it, we have some guidelines.

Firstly – What’s it about?

Well, I find lots of the conversations we have at this stage start with me saying:

“At the moment… it’s about this kid who finds a dinosaur egg!”

There’s not too much in that sentence to commit ourselves to something that we might get rid of at a later stage. Maybe there’s just enough to trigger a sense of excitement and anticipation.

A writers sketchbook
A sketchbook of ideas when writing a story

We’ve learnt a few things along the way particularly about story types. We start to chat about the type of story we think this might be. Is it a quest story? A transformation story? Journey and return? It’s nothing too detailed, we just let ideas play in our heads for a while. Hang about in our imaginations, think through a few ‘what ifs’ and ‘how about’.  I tend to go for long walks on my own, that helps my process. From someone finding a dinosaur egg, and it hatching… well, what could happen? What would be fun to see? What trouble would that bring about? Where is that going to take the characters? ‘what if this happened?’ 

 

Let’s start at the beginning…or at the end…or in the middle!

Sometimes we think about ‘the end’, or a significant moment that might happen ten minutes into the story. It can be really fun to think, how could that happen?

 

We can plot out several storylines, and try those out. What is interesting to us might not be that interesting to a four-year-old, or a seventy-year-old.

We watch films, read books, look at pictures and paintings, listen to music. Adding ingredients to our collective stew. Whether they will end up in the final show, we don’t know yet but they might trigger something somewhere.

Storyboard ideas
writing a story

 

What’s essential!

Eventually, we will arrive at a plot. Nine or ten chapter headings. These are the things that have to happen for the story to work. We call this our ‘Essences’. These are the things that have to happen for the story to progress.

Then we will storyboard ideas. Like a film. Sketch out ideas – how they might look onstage. Sometimes we will bring some actors in to play with rough ideas too. All the time shaping the story, defining characters and events. Adding the ‘groovy bits’. The pieces of the story that adds to the essences, bring the fun, the danger, the excitement.

 

All this will take place over the first few months of the year. We will share our ideas with the producers, they will pitch in ideas. Nobody ‘owns’ the story – we are all onboard adding suggestions to the journey.

It’s really fun. It helps create a very organic show, that grows and twists and turns with the additions brought by the collaborators.

But if you ask me now…

It’s about this Kid, who finds a dinosaur egg.

writing a story

Written by Phil Coggins