Ready To Blossom

I love April and we are ready to blossom. Things start to feel greener, the days feel longer and it’s like we are on the starting blocks for another blossomingly good year. 
We have taken a bit of a holiday over Easter and enjoyed taking a dip in the chilly sea water. It certainly refreshes the senses. It’s always such a treat to visit the coast when you live in the centre of the country. Taking in the colours of the sea and sky are always so inspirational.

Whatever The Weather

Our work is now fully installed in the local woods in Buxton. With any luck people can enjoy them for the next few years whatever the weather. What a priviledge it’s been. The concept behind our work was to spark imagination and to get people (particularly young famililes) to look at the woods from a different perspective and then engage collectively. The cut out animal shapes give a window type view into a forever changing landscape.

The seated area in Grin Low was ambitious and exciting to build. If you come across it as you walk through the beautiful woodland know that it’s been hand crafted by people who love these woods and have a special connection to Buxton.

Thank you to Buxton Civic Association and the team behind the Stronger Roots project. You can wander, Gadley, Corbar and Grin Low Woods to discover these fun installations.

A collage of photos  of boards with cut out animal shapes situated in Gadley Wood.

A Helping Hand

We are working hard to create a more sustainable company. Looking at ways in which we can grow and transform to develop our big ideas. We have been lucky enough to meet Darren Walters, a producer and strategic developer. He has also become a helping hand as we take the decision to transform Babbling Vagabonds into charity status.

Black and white image of a notebook and pen. The book i s open and a lightbulb has been drawn on one page

New Year, New Adventures

As we start the new year things still feel a bit tentative. We are waiting on funding bids for projects to take flight so find ourselves with enough time to take stock and find focus. We strive to build partnerships, seek out new ones and make new friendships along the way. So although the start to this year looks quiet we will look to the horizon with hopeful hearts and find ways to conjure stories and share spine tingling new adventures with you all.

View of the hills looking out towards the leek road from Solomen's temple

Adventure Shack

Now this seedling of an idea has been brewing and bubbling for way too long so we hope that this year will give us the opportunity to unleash a story of epic proportion. We have funding bids in and on the side lines to help realise our ideas. We are hoping for good fortune and if all goes to plan we can make this production our summer offer. So keep an eye on our social channels and keep opening our newsletters to see the developments that are taking place.

Female circus performer hangs in a crucifix position from red silks

Christmas: Plan B

It was always a risk. As covid cases soared in November and December we saw our ticket sales drop dramatically. We weren’t even sure if we would end up finishing the run of “The Hungry Troll’s Christmas Dinner” but our determination to provide a heart warming production for families shone through. That was no more apparent than when one of our actors tested positive on Christmas Eve. We are a small company and often don’t have a stage manager let alone an understudy, but this year we knew we needed a Plan B. I decided to step into the role of stage manager and as a last resort the understudy.  (You might have seen my posts on social media “Day in the life of a Stage Manager”) After performing in the last 8 shows of the run I can confirm that I definately know where I feel most comfortable. At the side of the stage and not on it!

If you came to see us in Derby thank you for trusting us to create a fun show for your family. We will continue to do our best to create memory making moments for all.

The hungry troll is disgusted when they taste sausages

Warm Festive Wishes

As I write this, productions up and down the country are being cancelled due to performers and crew coming down Covid. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? We are just praying we get to finish our run with DerbyLive and we all stay fit and healthy so we can bring some festive cheer to families.

So although there still feels great uncertainty in what lies ahead we are choosing to stay positive and find gratitude in the small things, like a sunrise on the commute to Derby. 

If we pause for a moment of reflection and look back at 2021 we can see marvellous achievements. We have managed to create and perform 6 different theatre shows this year, work through an R&D project during the covid restrictions and platform a digital projection, so we definitely feel like there’s a reason to celebrate.  

Our audiences, partners and funders make all of what we do possible, so it we want to take this opportunity to thank you for your support and wish you and your families  a very merry Christmas.

The Warmest  of Festive Wishes,
Tara, Mark and Phil

 A sunrise through trees along the A515 to Ashbourne

Our Hungry Troll Serves Up a Festive Treat

It’s been a joy to share this story with our audiences. What a privilege it’s been to be asked back by DerbyLive for another year of festive fun. The #DerbyLovesYou venue in the market place feels airy and spacious for  our story of The Hungry Troll’s Christmas Dinner.

We have had such great feedback from everyone attending and hearing the reactions from some members during the show makes our hearts sings and affirms this is what it is all about. Sharing a heart warming story that then becomes a positive lasting family memory. 

Photo taken from behind the set. Looking through the window of the oven door we see two actors making beany banger bonanza!

Festive Beginnings

As we see out November and feel a cold chill in the air, we have one more treat in store to share.

Light switch ons, Christmas markets, may get us in the christmassy mood, but surely nothing says Christmas like a trip to the theatre to see our latest festive creation. The kitchen table has been covered for weeks as we design, make and craft the costumes and props for “The Hungry Trolls Christmas Dinner”… we’ve even got the kids involved!

The Hungry Trolls Christmas Dinner

Come and see us this Christmas in Derby Market Place. In a purpose built indoor theatre space we will share with you a heart warming story for all the family to remember. A tale of trolls, dinner ladies, and  yummy scrummy food. 

When a strange new dinner lady turns up to school the kids are going to get served up more than a plateful of trouble. Wait until they discover what’s really on the menu for their school Christmas dinner!

The origins of this tale comes from the ideas of school children. We held a workshop several years ago and one class came up with such a good story we knew that we had to retell it some day. We had to tame down some of the ideas as they were far too gruesome, but if you can make it to the show, you can sit and watch knowing that the seeds of ideas came from a bunch of nine year olds.

Flyer image for the show of a cartoon drawing of a Troll in a kitchen setting

The Lost Tales Of Grinlow Woods

What a fabulous time we had in Grin Low Woods. We delighted audiences and gave hearts a warm glow with our three stories. The glorious colours of the changing leaves gave an dramatic backdrop to our performances. The idea of following little tree sprites and discovering fairy doors along the pathways to find the next story have given inspiration to our friends at BCA. They are now talking about making an ever changing route around the woods for children to seek out.

Three characters dressed in hats and clothing with a woodland theme stand together and smile at the camera

Bogtastic!

Two fairies fly above a peaty bog character while 2 chiclren walk above them on a moorland

Thank You

We know some of you couldn’t make it for numerous reasons but it means a lot when families show an interest in our work.

We had a fabulous four days presenting our story and we know the weather was a bit of a shocker at times but we were bowled over by everyone’s enthusiasm come rain or shine. It was a pleasure to work alongside Moors For The Future Partnership in creating this informative piece on the important role our moorlands play in fighting climate change.

The photo is taken behind the audience. There is bunting a stage and a backdrop of greenleafed trees

Make a Bog Fairy

Don’t forget to visit our YouTube channel so you can see how to make your very own bog fairy.

If you want another resource head to our website and download a fun booklet that has been designed by Moors For The Future Partnership that gets you all thinking about the themes within our production.

Bilberry the bog fairy shows Cottongrass her family as little puppets
Bilberry the bog fairy sits next to a giant big eyed puppet called Peat

Every Summer Has A Story

So Mark got out of isolation just in time to present Here Be Dragons at Markeaton Park. It was wonderful to see families laughing and smiling and enjoying a shared moment together. I felt very grateful that we could provide a fun and safe memory-making experience for all.

As we head further into summer we adapt and change with our situation. I find myself isolating again as I’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive so we’ve had to reschedule our rehearsals for Rosie Red Boots. Not an ideal situation but just like Rosie Red Boots, I’ll keep my chin up!

Here Be Dragons outdoor family production

Bogtastic!

We are so excited to have been awarded a grant from Arts Council England to create an exciting outdoor theatre adventure for families. We are working with Moors for the Future to tell a story inspired by the biodiversity of local peat moors and the role they play in climate change. The performances will take place in Buxton Pavillion Gardens and tickets will be free but booking is essential.

Keep an eye out on our social media channels for developments on this project.

We also can’t wait to see the finished publicity image. Andy, from Karate Graphics, in Derby, has sent through his initial sketch ideas. We love how he draws his characters and brings fun and humour into his work. We feel like he is the perfect match for our company. 

Pencil drawing of the first image ideas for our theatre show Bogtatstic

Rosie Red Boots at Buxton Opera House


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 adventure. Watch in wonder as shadows dance across a specially created screen to a captivating audio soundtrack. 

If you can’t get to the performance we are planning on making the audio story available on our website and on our YouTube channel. I’ll let you know when it goes up.

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

Stronger Roots

In October we start a project with BCA (Buxton Civic Association). We are making up a story about the woods with members of the community and are running workshops at the beginning of October and it will be free to anyone who wants to join in. We will take everyone’s ideas and weave them into a tall tale for a storytelling event in the half term.

Sunlight coming through the beech trees in Grin Low woods

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.