When the Beverley Puppet Festival was forced to cancel its live offering in July due to Covid-19, the festival founder, Anna Ingleby, and fellow Co-Artistic Director, Kerrin Tatman of Newcastle’s Moving Parts Puppetry Festival, acted quickly to save the biennial event, this year in its ninth iteration, by taking it online.
Now, instead of three days of live puppetry action on the streets and in venues across the town, festival followers and people in lockdown across the globe have been given access to two months of 25 puppetry activity workshops filmed by 24 individual artists and puppetry companies, and posted as a permanently available resource on the festival’s website.
It was a huge task to turn around and deliver for an opening date of 18 May and a schedule of at least three videos to post every week until Sunday 12 July, but the festival is now up and running successfully with both children and adults sending in photos and videos of their creations to the website with submissions coming in from as far away as California and Iran.
One of the priorities of the festival, which this year is themed on the concept “Back to Nature”, is accessibility and both directors felt an important way to expand this was through subtitling to make the activities accessible for their potential audience in the deaf or hard of hearing community.
Festival Administrator, Louise Gregory, spotted a link to a company called Stagetext which took her to a series of YouTube training videos. These provided a comprehensive course of around 2.5 hours covering everything you need to know about using subtitles: the benefits, guidelines on best practice and practical instruction on how to go about using subtitling for your organisation.
Louise takes up the story: “Kerrin asked me to transcribe the subtitles for the Runner Glove Puppets activity which was a great opportunity to put that training into practice. I guess he was impressed, since I’m doing all the subtitles now!”
Stagetext, which was established in May 2000 by Peter Pullan, Merfyn Williams and Geoff Brown, each of whom had varying types of deafness and a determination to improve access to the performing arts for all deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people is a charity which provides captioning and live subtitling services to theatres and other arts venues to make their activities accessible to people who are d/Deaf, deafened or hard of hearing.
“One of the most important things I learned from them,” said Louise, “Is that subtitling is not about just writing down what’s been said in the video but about creating equal access, which means that you should be able to watch the video on mute and get the same experience as someone watching with sound.”
Kerrin and Anna are delighted that they have been able to incorporate this facility into their offering.
“When I founded the festival in 2005 my aim was to try to bring the magic of puppetry to as wide an audience as possible. Then, because of the pandemic, it looked like we were going to lose that audience. Going online suddenly meant we could expand our reach worldwide. But access isn’t just about geography. Now, with the subtitles, the deaf and hard of hearing – especially young people – can take part in all of our fantastic puppetry activities as well,” said Anna.
The Beverley Puppet Festival will run until 18 July and there is an online competition for two festival passes for 2022 and other merchandise for the best submissions overall and for each activity. More information and links to these can be found at https://www.beverleypuppetfestival.com/activities
Want to know more about the festival? The festival website can be found at: https://www.beverleypuppetfestival.com/
The Stagetext subtitling training videos can be accessed on their YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/user/stagetext
The festival is also presenting an online Scratch Space for puppeteers to try new work while the educational outreach programme has taken a remote pilot project into a number of local care homes and sheltered housing facilities, producing Covid-safe materials and training carers in giving residents the chance to express themselves creatively through shadow theatre.
For press queries, please contact
Margaret Pinder: Festival Coordinator and Communications Manager firstname.lastname@example.org
Anna Ingleby, Festival Founder and Co-Director
Tel: 07855 328552