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Archive for the ‘Kids’ Category

Out of Africa

an Axatse (rattle from Ghana)

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I was born in the midlands, England ( ahem) years ago. When I was ten my parents decided to emigrate to South Africa so I packed my teddy and prepared  to see lions.

I never really did see lions, except in a Zoo. My childish ideas of Africa were born in the mythology of the childhood Jungle where the Lion is the king. I didn’t expect the bright lights and heaven forbid, fish and chip shops! Cape Town and the beautiful Table Mountain became my home for over a decade.

I lived at the very tip of Africa for eleven years, and soaked up the sun and the culture and vibrancy until I decided it was time to return to my roots. I didn’t regret my African experience, far from it, Africa fired my loins and gave me my love for bright colours and a deep passion for African music ( and an awakening of my political awareness as I was dropped into Apartheid South Africa which shook me to my very core).

Today in my job as a children’s entertainer and storyteller, I told African stories at a South East London school. It was lovely to be able to bring a piece of my African memory and passion to such lovely children. They lapped up the stories of the trickster Spider Anansi, and were enthralled at my clumsy rendition of Nyame the Sky God,

My vision of Nyame the Sky God, in papier mache

as I hid behind my paper mache mask. They chuckled at the burping Lion and the silly witch called 5 and we explored yams and beautiful African fabric.

The box of stories and the sticky doll

I spoke about the web of stories that Anansi has spun around the globe, reaching far and wide from their origins in Ghana , travelling across the Caribbean and over to North America and all over Africa and we ended the stories by jumping on an imaginary bed with Jaffa, my monkey.

The cast and crew from the Anansi Spider tales

It was a delightful day at work.

The last time I told Anansi stories at a school in Brixton, upon showing the children the Sky God mask and the magic box of stories, one boy declared that he was going to call the police as I had stolen stuff from the museum. Bless him. I had to get him up to the front so he could see that the mask and box were just made of cardboard. 🙂

Storyteller Diane of Diane's Puppets tells Anansi Stories

The things children say

Michael Jackson, cropped from Image:Michael Ja...

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a couple of things that children have said to me this last few days:

(On hearing a Michael Jackson song) A five year old girl who was being painted as a butterfly, said: “Michael Jackson is dead isn’t he?”

I replied: ” Yes he is . But he lives on in his music.”

Five year old ponders this for a moment and then replies with very serious expression: ” He’s in another body, he’s still alive. Yes he’s still alive.”

 Woah… Seriously strange dude.

After emerging from my puppet booth dripping glowing with sweat dewdrops , a young lad of around 7 years old says to me:

” I think you’re the best puppeteer in the world EVER , the best EVER invented. You’re just the best!”

Did I say I loved my job?

I love my job.

Just a regular day at the office NOT!

Space mouse is ready to blast off

Oh how I love my work. I’ve just got back from the most inspirational day of storytelling at the very well respected children’s theatre Chicken Shed.

I was booked to do an early years Storytelling performance for this fantastic theatre company through a mutual acting friend.

I was so excited, I mean SO excited. I’ve always known about Chicken Shed and the fabulous work that they do and had admired them from afar, now was my chance to become part of them, if only for a day!

So Fifi the Baby Fairy and I set off with Space Mouse and headed off to Cockfosters, all the way to the end of the Piccadilly line. Took ages to get there, luckily the weather was fine so we didn’t have to worry about the ten minute walk from the station, even though I did get just a few stares from the Southgate locals.

My stage was prepared with gorgeous glittery curtains and a sweet sofa covered with astroturf and cherry blossom. It was a chair surely fit for a fairies bottom. I felt very privileged to sit on it.

I was to do two half hour story telling sessions and my first session got off to a cracking start, blowing bubbles and putting the audience at ease.

Fifi the fairy worked her feisty, cheeky magic and soon had the boys and girls wrapped around her little finger. She brought giggles galore before settling down on her fairy sofa for a bedtime story.  She had chosen the theme of stars, moons, a mouse and a cow. Space Mouse fitted the bill perfectly. So before I knew it, the stage manager was whispering to me that the second session was about to come in. So Space Mouse came to a hasty conclusion and Fifi was found to be fast asleep.

I got lovely feedback from the audience and a few little children requested a photo with me on the fairy sofa. I felt like a popstar!

The second session started and finished in a blink of an eye. They say time flies when you’re having fun, my goodness it went at warp speed! I then packed up and went to watch the main performance on the main stage with the full audience.

It was a rare privilege indeed to be able to join in with the Chicken Shed experience. I love how inclusive their ethos is , celebrating every child and young person no matter what their physical or mental challenges may be. The thing that pulled everyone together was just having fun. I certainly had fun and judging from the great big grins on everyone’s faces, I think fun was the order of the day.

Sigh. I love my job.

 

Fairy love

London lady entertainer Diane gets a hug from Fifi the Fairy .

We all know that girls love fairies.

Can I let you into a secret? Boys do too.

Well at least the boys I meet at puppet show parties  do.

Even  older boys in primary school workshops fall head over heels with her .

They start off by pulling faces at the prospect of meeting a fairy but after meeting her,

they are  more keen to get  a bit of ‘Fifi love ‘( she gives a mean high five and cuddle) than most.

We all need love and affection in our lives and someone to tell us we are special.

That is Fifi the Fairy’s magic gift to children.

Want some?

An invite to a free London Puppet Festival

It’s not often that you get owt for nowt.

Coinciding with my birthday each year, ( serendipity rocks!) the beautiful St Paul’s  Covent Garden ( The Actors church, where Gwen Stefani married, incidentally) hosts the splendid May Fayre.

It’s FREE folks! Yes you heard it right, FREE.

A whole day of entertainment for the kids ( and for those young at heart) celebrating the art of puppetry.

So , the 36th Annual Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival

at St Paul’s Church Garden , Bedford Street WC2 on Sunday 8th May 2011  from 10.30am -5.30pm .

ADMISSION FREE

If I’m not at a birthday party, I shall be there.

Encore!

I just got back from entertaining  in my capacity as Diane’s Puppets at a clients birthday party. It was a joy. I love my work ( how many people out there can hand on heart honestly say that?) as it brings me such joy to see children having such a good time.

Adults make the most polite audiences: if they like you, they clap and shout Encore! If they don’t like you, they still clap ( probably not as enthusiastically, but they still clap). It is sometimes hard to gauge your performance with an audience of adults.

Not so with children.

Children are different, they do not have that applied veneer of manners and social niceties.

They are simple in their needs: if they don’t like you, they just walk away.

If they don’t like you, and there are toys around, guess who gets the vote? The toys.

If they don’t like you and there is space to run around, they run around, usually screaming.

If they don’t like you and there is food, they eat, or if they really don’t like you, the food gets thrown … at you.

The list of distractions is endless but suffice it to say, an audience largely made up of children can be, to some, an intimidating prospect.

Not me.

You see, even knowing all this, knowing that I could walk into a party and literally fall flat on my face in front of an audience ( and then get covered in popcorn etc) I’m still excited to go to work.

Because when it goes right there is no pay off like it. When children get you , they GET you. They feed off your every word, spellbound and entranced.

When they like you they give you untold attention, follow you around the room wanting more. They join you in the shared magic that is the imagination world of puppetry, believing in the shared knowledge that the monkey may puppet not be real , but for that moment the experience of that monkey is real.

A birthday gift is always good to receive, but for me, every time I go to a birthday party I am showered with untold gifts of laughter from  my precious unsophisticated ( aka genuine) child audiences.

As I was leaving the party , climbing into my taxi , tired and satisfied, little Ry-ry came running up to me.

‘Will you come back to my 5 birthday?” he eagerly asked and continued: ” Will you come tomorrow, will you come the next day? ”

That’s all the encore I need.

Imagination: Children’s gift to our mundane world.

The more I work as a children’s entertainer doing puppet shows for London’s kids birthdays, the more I am entranced and inspired by the breadth and scope of children’s imagination.

My most memorable moment was a comment I received when a child was staring intently at me at a party.

Before I continue, let me explain, when I turn up for birthday parties, I’m not dressed in regular clothes but in clothes that are designed to appeal children: bright colours, sparkles, texture, shine and sometimes even bells for an audio element.

This is my look: In my hair I tie in a myriad of ribbons of every single colour of the rainbow, some fluorescent and some metallic. Sometimes children ask me if my hair is real, that should give you an indication of how many ribbons I have tied. I tie in a bell or two so my head jingles when I nod it.

I wear a sequined top ( gold or bright pink) and a purple cardigan ( or cyan blue with pink sequins sewn on) .

I wear  a purple skirt with colourful teardrops or leaves hanging off of it, interspersed with strands of ribbon of all hues. A purple rose hitches the skirt up on one side. Depending on my mood I may also wear a frilly purple and sparkly bustle complete with more bells.

On my legs, rainbow striped socks or purple tights. I don’t wear clown make-up. I don’t consider myself a clown but a ‘puppet lady’. I’m aware that my job relies on children being able to make a rapid character assessment of me to allow the trust that is so important with any work with children. I only usually have about half an hour maximum for this to happen so I avoid any possible pitfalls, like heavy make-up  face paint.

So apart from my face, you might say when I’m at work, I  look a little unusual.

So back to this young fellow staring intently at me. He stared for quite a while, perhaps even a full five minutes before saying:

” I know what you look like” …

I held my breath. It was normal to be called a silly lady, a clown, funny lady, etc, so I wondered what version of insult was coming next. Ah .. me of little faith!

“You look like a melted rainbow!”

My heart melted. This was pure  gold. Poetry at it’s finest. And from the mouth of a young child, no older than 5 years of age.

So when children ask me what I am dressed as, I always say: I’m a melted rainbow.

Don’t you just love them?

Children: so inspiring.

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