Taking the stress out of your child's annual celebrations!

Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Best shop in the world chooses Diane’s Puppets

It’s official, Diane’s Puppets has come of age!

The best shop in the world voted by the Global Department Store Summit in Paris  is Selfridges.

And lovely , lovely Selfridges have asked Diane’s Puppets to appear in their Xmas shop from early November to late December on Sunday afternoons.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this.

I’ve already spent the day at their Press show, showcasing my Xmas puppet show to a whole lot of journalists, a challenge to say the least. Important grown-ups really don’t know how to respond to such a child centred thing as a Diane’s Puppet show. But I’m really, really glad that the wonderful Harvey and Katie of Selfridges London office recognised the value and charm in what I offer and have totally understood the Diane’s Puppets ethos.

Quirky, very English in its charm , a little shabby , old fashioned but with a modern twist, with a genuine concern to bring the best experience possible for  its’ customers and just a little bit bonkers. That’s the Diane’s Puppets way.

It could also be argued that that is the Selfridges way too.

So Diane’s Puppets , in a Selfridges Xmas shop near you ( as long as that is in Oxford Street, London. )

Diamond Jubilee : My tribute to HRH

It’s Ma’am like spam

I’m  not much of a Royalist to be fair, but I do enjoy the pomp and circumstance that goes with the British Monarchy. As a very proud Londoner, I couldn’t imagine  not seeing the Horseguards with their big bearskins guarding St James’s palace, or witness the changing of the guard. I do enjoy a Royal Wedding too, I must admit.

So, this year we celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of our Queen. Whilst I am sick to the back teeth of all the Union Jack stuff everywhere, ( talk about overkill) I’m not going to be a total killjoy when it comes to the Jubilee celebrations. I’m going to be really busy this June 4th, with a street party plus a stint at a really lovely local pub that are putting on a mini beer festival and including a puppet show and facepainting. (that would be me).

Tiger Facepainting Diane's Puppets

Rarrrrrr!

London Children's Entertainer

Diane, the London Children’s Entertainer

Years ago, I’m talking probably 25 … I made a bunch of Marionettes. Here is my tribute to HRH, my puppet of the Queen.

Queen Marionette puppet

HRH waves at you

Queen puppet

One is having a lie down.

Does one like one’s crown?

Close up of Queen

One has very lovely clothes and shoes

Just to end this on a balanced note, here is my tribute to God Save the Queen ( and her fascist regime) I loved the Sex Pistols.

Portrait of a Punk Puppet, check out that bobble nose!

He looks so camp. I like that!

Check out the hairy armpit!

Both puppets are working marionettes, but need restringing and a control. They are old, so they have some wear and tear, but I think this adds to their character. They are both for sale and cost £60 each. Both characters stand a full 70 cm tall and feature hand carved wooden hands and feet and the heads are made from sewn and painted fabric.

Make your own Easter Bunny Puppet

A photo tutorial

Easter bunny puppet

Make this cute Easter Bunny puppet with her pocket for eggs.

You will need:

Bunny puppet pattern

A bunny template , feel free to copy this.

Materials to make puppet

Safety eyes, scraps of white and pink felt, scrap of material for pocket and two pieces of white fabric or felt for body

White knitting yarn, some pillow stuffing.

Scissors, glue and something to sew with, in my case a sewing machine. You can of course hand sew if you wish.

Step 1: Trace out the pattern and use it to lay on top of your two pieces of white fabric.

Pin it down.

Step 2:

Cut around the pattern.

Step 3:

Cut out these shapes from the felt. Set aside.

Step 4:

Mark the position of the eyes on one piece.

Step 5:

Push the eyes through a white felt circle

Step 6:

Step 7:

Do the same on the other side so you have two eyes fixed on the front of the puppet.

 

Eyes snapped in position.

Step 7:

Now finish the face using the felt shapes cut out earlier.Glue down.

 

Step 8:

Now sew the pink shapes onto the ears.

Ears and face all done.

Step 9:

Seam all around the pocket piece edges to neaten.

Pin and sew the pocket in position.

Step 10:

Now pin right sides together and sew around the edges leaving the bottom free

Sewing the puppet together

Step 11:

Clip the curves to ease movement.

Turn inside out.

Step 12:

Draw an oval the size of the head on two scrap pieces, sew around leaving an opening for stuffing.

Now stuff with pillow stuffing and sew up the hole.

Step 13:

Stuff the ears lightly with pillow stuffing and push up the head pillow into the head space.

Step 14: Almost done! Making the pompom for the tail.

Wind some white yarn around two fingers

Tie tightly in the middle

Trim pompom to shape and sew to bunny's bottom.

The finished tail.

You are now all done! Enjoy your Easter Bunny Puppet!

A perfect gift for someone special. Remember to fill that pocket with Chocolate Eggs!

 

 

The Year of the Dragon

It’s my year, the year of the Dragon!

My Chinese dragon puppet, the beautiful Pearl Dragon.

 

Happy Chinese New Year! I researched how to say this in Chinese and realised it wasn’t as straightforward as the one response. So for accuracies sake , here are the variations in the different Chinese languages;

Xin Nian Kuai Le, 新年快乐
Standard Mandarin (the most widely used Chinese)

Gong Hei Fard Choy, 恭喜发财
Cantonese (Mainly Hong Kong and Macau)

Xing Ni Ju Yi, 新年如意
Teochew/ Hokkien (Mainly in South East Asia and Taiwan)

The safest bet is “Xin Nian Kuai Le”. Even Tibetan understands this.

 

I am very fond of dragons. They’re beautiful, fierce and magical creatures. They’re also a little showy, the natural performers of the mythological world. I’m very proud to be born in the year of the Dragon : 1964. My eldest daughter, also fortuitously was also born in the year of the Dragon 1988. We’re both fairly similar creatures, initially shy in crowds but will dress up ostentatiously and fearlessly and once dressed in our magnificence, we exude confidence and breathe fire.At least that’s how I see it! Who else would have the guts to wear the clothes I wear to work out in public  if not a Dragon?

Birthday party entertainer/face painter and puppeteer Diane of Diane's Puppets

 

I’ve been painting lots of dragons on people’s arms recently as part of what I do as a face and arm painter as part of my kids entertainment services. It’s almost as if I knew my year was coming up ( I didn’t!)

Fire breathing dragon coming to life

I’ve recently remade my skirt for work and the first applique I sewed on was that of a fire breathing dragon.

My fire breathing dragon adorning my skirt.

One of my original puppet shows for children’s parties centres around  a bird’s quest to grow his wings quickly so he can escape his cage. The story takes him all the way to the golden moon where he has to find a pearl to give to the wonderful and awesome Pearl Dragon. I really enjoyed making this fabulous puppet, with her red satin chinese fabric body  and her papier mache horns and wings. She breathes fire like all self-respecting dragons and is strong and fierce but essentially kind and helpful. ( All characteristics that I value in any strong woman!) This visually stunning show also features a golden moon tiger  and a magic singing tree, the sort of story that fires up imaginations like the breath of the dragon herself.

To see further pictures of my show click here.

 

So I wish you all a very Happy New Year , especially to all my fellow dragons out there. Let’s go and breathe our magnificent fire of creativity and make the world a more vibrant and exciting place!

 

 

A tale of two Christmasses

So 2011 is drawing to a close. I’ve sung my last Jingle Bells for the year.

The Festive Season for a jobbing Children’s Entertainer can be a very busy time and Xmas usually starts earlier for us than most people. For me it started on the 3rd of December with my very first Nursery Christmas party. About a hundred verses of Jingle Bells later, I’m now packing up my Father Christmas and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer puppet  with the tinsel and the Xmas props. By the time proper Christmas starts it can feel rather rehearsed. I had a few days to prepare my own Xmas, buy presents and put up a tree. I did it in the (St) Nick of time. Christmas this year was pretty special as my darling granddaughter has just turned 18 months and her Christmas experience was wonderful to behold. From her saucer eyes and Donald Duck impressions as she spotted the robins on my Christmas tree to her clear excitement upon opening her presents, her joy was infectious. Christmas really is all about children.

I wish some of  my last clients had signed up for that theory.

My last Christmas party of the year was in Canary Wharf for a very large group of Investment Bankers and their families. For me it was a surreal affair. To be perfectly honest, Canary Wharf gave me goosebumps and not in a good way. It doesn’t feel human.  I’m not really a corporate animal, I’m much more Brighton in spirit than what is expected of someone in Canary wharf and it showed. I almost caused the security to have a heart attack at my raggedy pile of puppet stuff that I brought through the ludicrous glass revolving doors  in shifts ( I have a lot of stuff). Maybe they thought I was an anti capitalist protester ( my ribbons and bright clothes would fit the profile). I hated to disappoint them, but I was simply the Christmas Kids entertainment. No Flying Squad required.

After being asked for ID and being issued with an ID badge, I was shown into the place where I was to perform. I bumbled in with my various bits of wooden stage and equipment, ‘Merry Christmassing’ as I went along. I walked into a room full of children and a magician making balloon animals.  One man was introduced to me as the ‘Santa’ for the day. He was nervous about his impending performance. I  took note of his pink shirt and decided that he would be fine once he got into character. I reassured him that Fifi the Fairy would make sure his entry and time with the children would run smoothly and indeed it did. Fifi the Fairy charmed the children in her inimitable style and had her picture snapped as she chatted with children for quite some time. A good two hours of entertainment  was had by all including a very funny Christmas themed show where Fifi gets to be naughty and steal the star from the top of the tree.

Fifi in her new found freshness

Happy Christmas!

As I packed up , feeling satisfied at the very positive reaction from the children and their parents, one of the female staff said to me:

“Oh thank god you’ve stopped that fairy. Her voice was so annoying. I was about to come and throttle her if she had carried on any more. ”

Merry Christmas.

I smiled . What else could I do? I think that lady banker and I lived on different planets , there was no point in joining in with her debate.

I couldn’t wait to get out of there. As I waited for my cab, I watched the ice skating on the open air rink . It should’ve been festive what with all the Christmas music , fairy lights and Santa hats but there was something missing.

That something I found in bucketloads a few days later in Brixton. It was emotion.

I ran my very first Crochet stall at Brixton Makers Market on Xmas Eve. It was a very lovely experience, albeit a cold one ( in temperature). What the temperature lacked in degrees was more than made up by the warmth of human spirit that I witnessed from my fellow stall holders, the lovely Lisa and Tony who ran the market and the every day Brixton people who embraced my new stall with enthusiasm and pure delight.

People would double take in front of the stall and back track to come and admire my produce. Grown ups were walking past and shouting out compliments, many bought things even though they had already done Xmas shopping but they just had to have something. I was humbled by the reaction. I was so thrilled to have followed my heart and gone with what made me feel happy: bright colours and magical things ( and dogs of course). Clearly my love resonated with others as their reaction showed.

Christmas is about children and the child within us all.

Forget that at your peril.

A Very Merry Puppet Xmas

Today Christmas started for me in earnest.

I suppose it should’ve started last Sunday as I held a craft stall at Morley College Winter Fair and face painted lots of lovely children ( and a few adults too!)

Facepainting for Morley College Winter fair

Lots of bigger boys really loved having ‘tattoos’ painted on their arms. I did a whole array of fire breathing dragons and snakes.

Fire breathing dragon coming to life

One of the highlights of my day there was face painting lots of boys as vampires. Thanks to the Twilight movies and Robert Pattinson‘s blue sparkly face, I was easily able to convince the boys to indulge in a face full of glitter.

It’s not often a young man can have a sparkly face and be deemed by other boys to be ‘awesome’. That was some magic happening there.

Big up the sparkles I say.

 

Oh did I mention that I was also concurrently running a craft stall of my crochet goods that was being very ably (wo)manned by my youngest daughter? It was wonderful to find loving homes for my crochet creations and to feel genuine enthusiasm over things that I had created with my own hands. ( Nice to make a bit of money as well). I’m looking forward to my Christmas Eve Craft stall in Station Road Brixton on the 24th.

Oh yes, back to today Christmas started in earnest. I was working for a lovely Montessori Nursery School in Little Venice. I did two sessions for their children, telling my Christmas story featuring Bobby Bunny, Tabitha Cat and of course, naughty fairy Fifi who steals the star on top of Tabitha’s Christmas tree. Of course at the end Fifi returns the star as she is worried that if she doesn’t , Santa won’t bring her presents.

Santa and Rudolph the red nosed Reindeer starred in the story and the children were delighted to meet them. We sang Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer , Jingle Bells and When Santa got stuck up the chimney , Father Christmas ( he got stuck) and even managed to squeeze in a quick game of Sleeping Bunnies with Bobby Bunny.

It was a joy to bring Christmas Spirit to these wide eyed wonderful children. It really reminded me what I believe Christmas is really about : appreciating our children. Indulge in their wonderment, enter their belief in sleigh bells and Santa and Jingle bells, life is too short to go all Ebeneezer Scrooge. For me Christmas is not about money, it’s not about things, it’s about the feeling of being loved and loving.

 

Thank you Windmill Montessori for reminding me of the true spirit of Christmas.

Tomorrow another Montessori school and another Christmas show. I’m so lucky. I get to do Christmas at least 20 times each year with those amongst us who really care about the true spirit of Christmas.

There may be a global recession right now but we are rich beyond our ken.

Children are our gifts.

 

Christmas is a coming

So Halloween and Bonfire night have flown by, the nights are drawing in and the central heating is on. It must be almost Christmas.

Santa Claus is coming to town

 

Here at Diane’s Puppets, I’m taking bookings for Christmas parties for the home, corporate parties and nurseries.

I have a wonderful Christmas puppet show that is very festive but not religious, making it ideal for celebrating the Festive Season in our multicultural and multi-faith London .

I’ve taken my most popular characters Fifi the Fairy and Bobby Bunny and his friend Tabitha the Cat and they come together for one month of the year to tell a charming tale of the night before Christmas.

Expect chases and high action, peep-bo’s and sing songs with popular Christmas songs like Jingle Bells, Christmas trees and decorations and jolly good fun. Oh and there may be a visit from a puppet with a white beard, a big round belly and his red nosed friend.

This is a perfect show for all ages up to around 8 years old bringing the Christmas Spirit in stocking loads, all performed in an old fashioned Punch and Judy style booth.

Happy Christmas!

So if you fancy a festive puppet treat, hurry and book me now! Spaces are going fast.

The Christmas Booth show costs £140 for an  hours performance including a puppet introduction. Festive face painting is an optional extra.

 

 

Punch and Judy: The Debate Continues

Watching Mr Punch , age 5

That's the way to do it!

My first experience of puppets was on Skegness beach.

Here I am, dolly cradled in my arm while I was transfixed by the antics of Mr Punch.

I couldn’t understand his strange squeaky voice and I never really understood the story but I was drawn in to this weird world with its shouting and slapsticks and cries of THAT’S THE WAY TO DO IT!

The crocodile ate the sausages and sometimes he even ate the baby. I took it all in my stride. I was a little scared of Mr Punch and never understood why he kept hitting everyone with his big stick but the fear was part of the thrill.

That was way back in 1969, I was 5 years old and England wasn’t politically correct.

Some may say those were better days, I’m not so sure. I appreciate people being sensitive to others feelings.

I grew up to be a children’s entertainer and puppeteer,  an artist and a mum of two girls and grandmother to one beautiful granddaughter who is my continuing inspiration.

Puppet lady Diane and her granddaughter

Grandma, what's that on your face?

I also grew up to be a feminist and understood  that the Punch and Judy story may not be a mythology that is terribly healthy for children in the long term.

It took time for me to get to that position though.

When I first started out on my journey as a Children’s Entertainer I thought that doing Punch and Judy was what was expected. So I made a set of characters and very handsome they were even if I say so myself. I sent away to have a swazzle made ( the secret voice changer to make Mr Punches peculiar voice) and practiced with this strange aluminium and tape contraption sitting on my tongue. I had plenty of near misses and almost swallowed the swazzle in getting my technique sussed. Still, it remained a challenge to make Mr Punch understandable and I understood only too well why I struggled as a child to understand his strange buzzy voice.

Punch and Judy puppets made by Diane's Puppets

My Punch and Judy set, minus my very large crocodile.

Toby dog puppet by puppet show provider Diane

Traditional Toby dog to start the show

Punch and Judy puppets made by Diane's Puppets

The very dysfunctional family

Big green crocodile puppet for birthday parties

No Punch and Judy is complete without this character

Let’s just say I made lots of very small children cry with this very first performance. They didn’t cry because the show was terrible, it was just that I scared them. Today’s children are more sensitive than the 1969 lot! Maybe that is because in today’s world , there is a lot more to be afraid of. ( There’s a debate in there somewhere)

Punch and Judy didn’t start out as a children’s show. It was the satire of the day, the Spitting Image or Rory Bremner show of its time. This is why there is parody of domestic violence, drunkenness, child abuse and features classic characters such as the Beadle  and the Hangman. In a very silly scene, Mr Punch manages to trick the hangman into putting his own head into the noose to demonstrate how it was done, and Mr Punch hangs the hangman.

The show was a  morality tale , where Mr Punch is supposed to get his comeuppance in a final battle with the Devil himself. There was such public outcry when Mr Punch lost the battle to the Devil and was dragged down to hell, that the story morphed into Mr Punch finally beating the Devil and becoming the ante hero that we all know today. The morality tale  became twisted .

So unless I get a specific request and lots of nagging to bring Mr Punch out again I shall stick to making children laugh rather than cry at birthday parties and puppet show events.

Mr Punch will remain in hibernation until further notice.

THAT’S THE WAY TO DO IT!

Colouring in for Halloween

Here's a picture of Witchy Poo flying through the sky for you to print out and colour in

Which Witch is Which?

Halloween is fast approaching.

Here in the UK, Halloween isn’t really the big thing that it seems to be in the States, but it’s popularity is ever increasing.

It is very sweet to see groups of little children dressed up in spooky costumes knocking on doors and crying Trick or Treat! Well it is lovely in the nice areas where the people knocking on doors are young and innocent. In some of the inner city areas it isn’t as pleasant. But I won’t lower the tone of the post.

I like witches.When I grow up and I’m too old to be a children’s entertainer,  I might become a witch. It seems like a fun thing to do when your hair goes grey and wrinkles start spreading. It sure beats botox and hair dye. I’d rather use the power of wisdom and age and celebrate the changes rather than spend the rest of my years trying to hold them back.

Sings: ” Holding back the ears…”

In fact, I have my own handbook on witchcraft called The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries which to me is all about being a strong woman.

I’ve made a few witch puppets in my time.

One is a small pocket puppet, useful for quick storytelling. She’s only a few inches tall, not terribly terrifying, but lovely colours, with her green hair and blue face.

Green pocket witch

Then there’s Witchy Poo Poo, she’s a character from one of my original puppet shows .  Fifi the fairy creates her by hastily making a magic spell and getting the words wrong. Instead of wishing for a birthday wish for her mummy, she wishes for a Birthday Witch. ( see what I did there? ) So Witchy Poo Poo is a birthday witch, complete with fiery red hair, wart on the nose and a cloak covered in birthday candles. Look carefully, she doesn’t have any eyes, that makes her even spookier in my eyes. She sure can raise a giggle and a scream from my young clients. Older children really buy into her scariness, even though she is more silly than scary.

I'm a witchy, I'm a witchy poo!

Birthday witchy, come to bother you!

Then I have a very scary witch indeed. She isn’t your typical witch with a pointy hat and black cloak. She is the even more terrifying sort, she is the old lady in disguise. I made this one for my puppet show of Snow White. Here she is the evil queen disguised as a old pedlar woman selling combs. She has really big meaty forearms and one beady eye and a big jutting toothless lower jaw. I know I’d be wary of this lady if I came across here. Wouldn’t you?

Combs my lovely?

Buy my wares, pretty?

Come here my lovely...

Yes, she is a little scary. But don’t we all like a nice safe scare sometimes?

Finally, I’d like to introduce you to a puppet of mine who really has never been used. She is a marionette witch, and because I’m not really a great manipulator of marionettes, ( I prefer fast moving hand puppets) she has languished in a suitcase for years, gathering dust. Not that she minds, mind you. She rather likes dust. She uses it in her magic spells along with spider webs and slug slime.

She has rather fetching red pantaloons underneath her black dress, don’t you think?  She’s wearing  a fine black cloak around her neck. Her broomstick has gone astray, I think it’s flown away or maybe her familiar ( her black cat) has taken it somewhere and hidden it.

I'm casting spells

I'm melting Aargh!

My favourite witch of all time has to be the Wicked Witch of the West from the glorious MGM film, The Wizard of Oz. Can’t you tell?

So which witch do you prefer and why?

I’d love to know.

Tag Cloud