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

Newsletter #14

New Year, New Projects

Here’s wishing you a very happy new year. We are currently busy in the office planning and scheming fun adventures for this year and we hope you can join us on the way.

We are very excited to be working in partnership with the Macclesfield Museums and presenting a fun hour-long story-making adventure for families at West Park Museum. Join a confused and muddled Archaeologist and help him find the objects that create a magical story. For more information about this project make sure you follow our social media pages.

West Park Museum
West Park Museum

Schools Workshops

We are currently offering workshops in story making and shadow play. If you are a teacher, PTFA member or know someone who would like a Babbling Vagabonds workshop or want more information then please get in touch. Want longer than a days workshop? We have a great wealth of experience in delivering residencies too.

Shadow puppet characters
shadow puppet characters

Summer Adventures Underway

With the success of “Here Be Dragons” last summer we are keen to share it with more families again this year. We are in cahoots with other communities and seeking further partnerships to help make this happen. Look out for more news nearer the time. If you know of a beautiful venue that we can transform then contact:

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.

This photo takes us back to 2005 where we undertook some pyrotechnic training with those wonderful creatives Vince, Sally and Jim from Soft Touch Arts

Fireworks raining down

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.

Meet The Illustrator

In this blog post, you’ll get to “Meet The Illustrator”. The person who creates our wonderful images for all our Christmas productions with DerbyLIVE and this year’s summer outdoor adventure for families, “Here Be Dragons!”

Here be dragons poster image for a family outdoor adventure

Welcome, Andy. He runs Karate Graphics based at Friar Gate in Derby. I got to ask him some questions and here’s what he said:

What inspires your Creativity?
I am often inspired by something that will catch my eye or things that stand out from the normal. Quirky cartoons and stories, popular culture.. Things that are a little bit macabre too! Visually I try to keep abreast of what other illustrators are doing. Growing up I was a big fan of the Tintin and Asterisk books and these still influence me today.

Andy's pencil drawings of mythical creatures that might be lurking in the woods
Andy’s initial sketch drawings for “Here Be Dragons!”

How did you become an Illustrator? I have always loved drawing. I studied fine art at college and then went on to complete city and guilds and evening classes in desktop publishing, Web design, Illustrator (software) and Photoshop. I then got unpaid work illustrating a magazine and from that set up my own graphic design company which eventually became me doing my illustrations!

Andy's pencil drawing of a woman adventurer running
Andy’s initial sketch drawings for “Here Be Dragons!”

What Type of Projects do you enjoy and why? I enjoy most of the work I do. I enjoy working in a variety of styles as I think it keeps the work fresh. Projects, where I have some creative influence, can be nice as opposed to “draw this like this”. But, those too are rewarding in there own way.

Andy’s initial sketch drawings for “Here Be Dragons!”

Looking back, what advice would you have given yourself when you were just starting out in your career? I guess I probably wouldn’t have listened to myself, but I’ll have a go:
Learn to take criticism – not everyone’s vision is the same and if someone is paying you, they’re the boss! Having said that people will come to you because they like what you do. Buy a tablet and pen for your Mac about 2 years before you did.

Andy's pencil drawing with colour . It depicts a male adventurer running through the woods followed by children
Andy’s initial colour sketch for “Here Be Dragons!”

If you love Andy’s work as much as we do you can follow him on Instagram “Karate Grafika” or email him

Buxton Festivals – Making Large Puppets

Babbling vagabonds have been lucky enough to work with Buxton International Festival and Buxton Fringe Festival on an outreach project for Primary Schools in Buxton. This project would celebrate the festivals 40th years and use Saint Saens “Carnival of the Animals” as inspiration to create large puppets.

The idea behind the project was to inspire and ignite creativity in local year 5 pupils. The outcome would then be part of the Buxton Carnival Parade in July. Then displayed around town in the lead up to Northern Chamber Orchestra’s performance of “Carnival of the Animals” during the Buxton International Festival.

The Design

Using the theme Carnival of the Animals by composer Saint Saens we decided to choose four animals from the music he created. We designed the large puppets with the idea that they would be processed in Buxton Carnival this summer.

sketch ideas for "Carnival of the Animals
Carnival of the Animals: Initial sketch ideas

How the big puppets would look in a parade

Working in Schools

We then assigned each animal to a School and gave ourselves the challenge of creating these in one day. Working with around 10 school children at a time in short sessions we were able to construct a large puppet through the course of a school day. The impact was significant. The groups who worked on the animals in the first session could hardly believe the transformation of their work. 

Fish puppets
Fish for the Aquarium

Turtle made using willow and painted fabric

Bird Puppets


Babbling Vagabonds ended up working with over 200 children, over four days, in four local Schools. The children work collaboratively and helped shape the finished sculptures. They gained new skills and were empowered by what they had created. It was a very positive experience for us as artists and the schools. It was certainly an ambitious project in the timescale but everyone rose to the challenge. We are proud of how the children worked as a team to create these wonderful large puppets.  I can’t wait to see them come to life in the carnival this summer.

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

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.

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


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