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I came back from New York at the end of September with a crash into playing catch up with my ordinary working life. October was upon me and I was facilitating a week of professional development alongside my longterm colleague Alan May.

Thanks to Bedminster Winter Lanterns achieving a successful Grants For The Arts bid from Arts Council England, I was delighted to co-lead a professional development in lantern making with Alan May last October. Blessed with a fabulous team of artists from those at the beginning of their professional practice to those with many years experience we set to work designing an experience in animated lanterns.

As a team of lantern makers it was an opportunity to explore light diffusion and puppetry within lantern making and develop new ways of working with colleagues in the region.

Hard on the heels of my return fron New York City it was a fabulous chance to Experiment with some new technical skills inspired by working alongside Processional Arts Workshop last September.

Alan May and I trained fresh artists from DNA arts and Boom Satsuma in the art of delivering a fast and furious community workshop. We collaborated with Richard Headen from The Desperate Men to develop a narrative for our large structures and built 3 new animated lantern structures.

FLO the giant girl, her jar of wonders and the moth were drawn to five different lantern events between October and January. Radstock Light The Night and Bath City Farm Bonfire Produced by DNArts and The Natural Theatre Company, Devizes Lantern Parade produced by DOCA. Church Road Lantern Parade produced by The Lamplighters and of course Bedminster Winter Lanterns.

Many thanks and credit to all the creatives involved Alan May, Steph Reeves, Megan Bentall Clarke, Ali Brown, Amy Peck, Ruth Ramsay, Becky Prior, Ruth Patchett, Niamh Peace, Dik Downey, Richard Headen, Phillips Haynes and Amber and Kathleen fromBoom Satsuma.ArtsCouncil_BritishCouncil_Lockup_Black

The lanterns for Morningside Lights are progressing well.

I haven’t posted much this week as I was a little confused by the process as described to me. PAW have a different approach to the one adopted by most lantern builders in the UK. It’s great but I was baffled for a few days.
Lantern frame building here is done with rattan and wire. In the uk it would be withies, rattan and wire and the principles are the same.

However the approach to covering the lanterns for the most part of the week left me baffled. Initially we covered the lanterns in a paper mache glue mix and till receipt roll which is translucent. Then there was much talk of a cheesecloth layer when dry which I had (wrongly) assumed was muslin. This turned out to my great relief to be muslin scrim!

imageThis layer is followed by white tissue and coloured tissue.

In the UK amoungst to my fellow makers we definately have a more minimal approach. Frame making, wet strength tissue paper ( 1 layer)  or similar and then colour tissue or crepe paper. Maybe this comes from our candlelight traditions, we definately wouldn’t have the luxury of the time taken to complete the layering process within the UK arts funding streams.

The storytelling element is as simple as I described in an earlier post and I look forward to seeing it in action.

The workshop is a busy one see a mini film on the Processional Arts Workshop Facebook page  and some stills below

Today is the day for colour on the lanterns…




And so the day of the parade came…

after a week of workshops with both the local community and PAW regulars there was a calm before the storm. The workshop was hyper organised but I was struck by a few things.

We processed mostly on the pavement which I am told is normal for New York. The pavements are much wider here, but there is something powerful about taking the street with hand crafted fragile objects powered only by humans.

Even on the procession day it was predominantly an adult affair which is interesting to me. I wonder if there will be differences next week when I work on a more established event.

I have learned lots of new tricks during the week in terms of both production and making. One of my quests in coming here was to research how PAW uses storytelling within its processional work. In this particular project the story was well designed before the workshops and the input from the public was in the crowd sourcing of imagery to decorate the generic puppets.

What is the key to the storytelling being well designed

A strong concept & brief.

A reasonably financed project development phase.

A well developed mailing list of keen makers and volunteer performers.

Good use of a wide range of social media tools.

A good visible workshop area which encourages crowd input.

Also yesterday at the other end of Manhattan, workshops began for Morningside Lights. I move over to that project today and the second phase of my research trip begins.




For the last two days I have mostly been covering the puppets in a variety of printed materials reflecting each of the 5 themes of Astor Alive.


Imigrant Populations

Radical Politics

Theatre for All


Scholars, thinkers and writers

All the images used in the surfacing have come from suggestions in workshops, group Pinterest page and Internet searching in workshops.

The thing that strikes me most about this week of workshops is the constant flow of capable adult volunteers. It’s community arts without a pre-schooler in sight.

Workshops have an age 10 plus guidance. WHY? To ensure the work is taken seriously, to ensure four year olds are not dropped off to be entertained as parents chat and to enable the adherence to complex themes, suggestions and aesthetics.

Puppets for Astor Alive have been made from domestic materials. cardboard, paper and glue but the integrity of the way the design has been maintained is excellent.

PAW have a steady flow of regular enthusiasts who follow their work when they are in NYC and volunteer to work alongside new recruits. They bring a great work ethic, a welcoming atmosphere (sometimes cake) and much needed skills and assistance. In the UK, there is a nervousness about inviting “outsiders” as the funding streams are led by the indices of multiple deprivation in particular areas. But why? These figures are often out of date and art is the best tool for breaking down boundaries. 

Workshops are taking place in an empty shop – many local workers & students have joined in through intrigue  based on its visual prescience, returning more than once. This I believe is entirely due to the quality of the experience and products.

Notes on how the quality of work is achieved.
As I near the end of the making of the work for Astor Alive alongside Processional Arts Workhop I just want to share a bit of the pre-production process which I believe really helps the artists in their story building for this particular project.

At least a week full time was spent by the artists in visioning, designing and creating a “flat pack” experience for participants to quickly achieve a sense of satisfaction.

Workshops are targeted to age 10 plus –  this is a deliberate tactic to ensure the work is taken seriously. Whilst children younger are not turned away its is made clear that this is an art project and not a children’s activity.

Workshops are signed up to in advance via a web page which details the project and reminders are sent.

Participants contribute in advance of the project via a Pinterest page.

PAW partners with a host organisation, in this case it was the village alliance a BID (business improvement district)  for the Astor place area. THe host invites the community to participate in workshops and runs front of house.

Weekend workshops begin at midday and last for 6 hrs with a second entry time three hours later. Evening workshops begin 2-8 pm and run on the same format. many adults come after work. PAW have a group of regular keen enthusiasts who follow their work in NYC and attend most workshops. These enthusiasts work alongside new recruits and bring an inviting atmosphere (and cake) with them.


The first few days of workshops on Astor Alive led by Processional Arts Workshops were largely de dicated to introducing the concept of sharing imagery, the building of puppets and many cardboard tributes to a locally well loved piece of spinning public art The Alamo Cube.

Participating in a creative workshop designed by others has been a sheer pleasure for me. I was out of my traditional comfort zones of plastazote, tubing, rattan, willow and fabric and in a land of cardboard construction in a really quality way. The mas – production also gave me the energy to reflect on my own processional arts workshops and the differences between the two.

Significant planning has gone into this six day run of workshops (at least a weeks work.) The workshop day begins at 2pm on a weekday and ends at 8pm allowing participation from adult volunteers with other professional roles of which there is a reasonable amount. So far I have met systems analysts, former Wall Street traders, healthcare workers, teaching assistants, self employed business people, native New Yorkers and newcomers and only one child. There is a policy of participants being aged 10 plus, the reasoning behind which is to get the work taken seriously and it is.

My own work in the UK is often either school or health setting centred. Workshops in the community are more often than not perceived as places where children are ‘entertained’ while adults sit back. Or it is seen as having therapeutic qualities – which I believe it does but then workshops are institutionalised and therefore closed. It’s great to witness this wide open community arts workshop it has clearly created a well adult community performing to create dynamic events.

Below are a few geek shots for workshop junkies…



Welcome to my blog. I started this blog with good intentions four years ago (check the date.) I am writing the first post today, September 4th 2016. I had great intentions about talking about the amazing variety of my life as a community artist. However, this is my very first post!

In the last four years had you been following this blog you would have heard about the Giant Mecano Marble run made with Kerry Russell during the wonderful  project I embarked upon with Tom Docherty and Juice Community Project  celebrating his book Ruby Nettleship and the Ice Lolly Adventure.

You would have read about the Staple Hill Story Quilt and other creations for ‘YOUR STORY, MY STORY, OUR STORY.’ With fellow artists Ruth Ramsey, Stephanie Reeeves & Edson Burton.


You would also have read about lanterns, lanterns and more lanterns…and of course The Church Road Lantern Parade now being hosted by The Lamplighters who are a collection of resident creatives in our neighbourhood committed to local community based creativity in our public spaces.



You might have found time to flick through pictures of the Exeter 5 nations Rugby World Cup Parade where I was honoured to be designing on behalf of Georgia for WalkThe Plank.


You may have seen giant puppets I made with my Gynormous Rawkus colleague Steph Reeves for a Fleetwood shopping centre.

You would have viewed the specially commissioned Gynormous Rawkus puppet for Boomtown Fair.

When I started this blog I had a 1 year old and a four year old and I was lucky to get anything done. This blog is where you will come across my works and the works of the people I work with. I look forward to sharing the products of my gluey fingers with you.

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