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

Posts tagged ‘Puppetry’

Don’t judge a fairystory by it’s cover : A story about self-esteem

It’s been a while since this happened, but it’s  now time to tell the story.

me and Fifi

Here I am with probably my most important puppet, Fifi the Baby Fairy. Fifi is a baby in that she says what she sees with no filters and innocent eyes, but she has pretty sophisticated communication skills and a wickedly silly and irreverent sense of humour. This combination of silliness and honesty makes her a very popular character, loved by both girls and boys alike. Actually, I’d probably go as far as to say that boys love her just a little bit more than the girls.

But that is for a different post.

I made this fairy puppet around 20 years ago. She is a permanent baby. Such is the magic of puppets.

You may notice from the picture that Fifi the fairy puppet isn’t exactly a Disney style fairy, looks wise , although she has a naughty character that would rival any Tinkerbelle.

Firstly she has a coffee coloured complexion rather than the ubiquitous pink and pale that fairies usually have. This is deliberate. I’m proud to say I live in probably the most multicultural city in the world ( London) and my little clients are often of beautifully varied shades . Some children will suggest that she has a dirty face, this gives me an opportunity to discuss diversity in an open and honest way. One thing I know about children is that they aren’t born bigoted.

Next she has large iridescent purple eyes with no pupil. This can seem freaky to many adults but children ( and those adults with a playful soul) understand the magic in those eyes.

She is a sewn puppet and sometimes the seams can look like scars. This was not intentional, but it has become a very useful jumping off point to be able to talk again about diversity and disability in a non judgmental way.

Her mouth is permanently upside down, giving her a permanent sad expression. Again, this was not intentional but has proven to be useful. We don’t always have to smile ( especially girls) to be taken seriously or be friendly.

She doesn’t wear trendy clothes or designer labels or trainers . She wears a fairly bedraggled dress that is pretty in a Lady Haversham way.

For all intents and purposes, this fairy should be a disaster. She should be rejected by modern children for not looking like a fairy should look.

But I believe in children. I know that they don’t judge books by their covers, even weird , freaky fairytale books.

 

So, are you ready for a story that will gladden your heart?

Come closer and I’ll tell you what happened at a school workshop with children in Year 6, top juniors , on the cusp of going to Secondary School.

Firstly, there is a whole bunch of educators out there who would think that my working with a Baby Fairy Puppet with children of this age is highly inappropriate. They will tell you that it is patronising and age inappropriate.

I vehemently disagree. Do not throw the baby out with the bath water, it’s all about how you approach things.

In this instance, I was very lucky to have done lots of work with Southwark Council with my close working with Scary Little Girls Theatre Company. I’m proud to say that they believe in the power of fairies. Good folk to be sure.

Well, there I was, with a bunch of ‘challenging’ children who were from a behavioural support unit at a Southwark school about to embark on a fact finding session to feedback to the council the children’s experience of the councils service. On the surface this could’ve been a very dry exercise indeed. But I had brought my Fairy Fifi with me. Things were about to get interesting.

I introduced myself to the children as a puppeteer and explained that I was going to introduce my favourite puppet to them . As usual, I told them in my own silly way that of course she wasn’t a real fairy, ( this is the not patronising stuff, it’s all about the approach) but she was a real puppet. This approach always works a treat, as the children start to realise I’m not going to try and convince them that anything silly was going to happen. Then I told them that she was a special fairy and pulled her out of her bag.

Cue a few screams and a few boys made a very melodramatic dash out of the door ( but of course still hovered round the doorway as they weren’t going to miss this for anything).

As the fairy starts into her routine, singing silly songs and making me look very silly ( there has to be a fall guy for comedy, and for this act it is always me. Sigh) the recalcitrant chaps subtly shuffled back to the group and their initial disdain turned very quickly into intense concentration and hilarious interaction. Soon the children were eating out of Fifi’s hand, she had them all in fits of giggles and they were all swearing to be her best friend forever.

Then I put her into a ‘sleep’ and had a chat with the children . The warm up was over, now it was time for the fact finding part of the exercise.

I asked the children what concerned them about moving from Primary School to Secondary school and what would make things easier for them.

Their answer was simple and unanimous: being popular.

So I asked them what did being popular mean to them, and how do you become popular?

The answer made my Feminist heart weep.

The girls all chorused : “Being pretty” . The boys nodded in agreement.

I challenged them, asking ” Are you sure? ”  They all nodded, yes, being pretty was the answer to being liked.

I then asked them to consider if they thought Fifi was popular.

They all shouted out that they loved her and of course she was popular , everyone wanted to be Fifi’s friend, she was the essence of popular.

So I then asked the children an obvious question.

“But is Fifi pretty?”

Cue a stunned silence. Then some children started saying , yes of course she was.

I reassured the children that Fifi was asleep and that telling the truth wouldn’t hurt her feelings. I told them that I was glad that they thought she was pretty, that they weren’t looking at her outside but her inside. I then reminded them of the initial shrieks and shocked reaction at first seeing her. Then I asked them again: `”Really and truly, is Fifi pretty? ”

There was a mumbling amongst the group and eventually the consensus was a reluctant , no . Fifi wasn’t exactly pretty.

Then I asked: ” But is she popular? ”

I didn’t have to say any more.

The children were smart enough to work out that it was personality not prettiness that wins friends.

Fairy puppet Fifi

Fifi eating her wand

Fairy puppet Fifi

Look at her pretty hair!

Sometimes our imperfections can be our greatest strengths.

 

Advertisements

The Power of Puppets : See you Later Alligator!

Yesterday was a very special day. In my previous post I shared with you my granddaughter’s very special second birthday moment.

But what was I doing earlier on in the day?

Well, I was helping a very lovely client find closure for her daughter through the power and play of puppets.

Like a few of my clients, this lovely lady and her family had decided to uproot and move her family to Switzerland. She had called me and asked me to perform a puppet show for a goodbye party where her daughter had the opportunity to say goodbye to her school friends and have fun at the same time. Could I perhaps include references to saying Goodbye in my show?

I considered it for a brief second and my answer was ‘of course!’

With my 20 years of working with children as a children’s entertainer, I’ve encountered many a child who has trouble with saying goodbye. Goodbye  is hard for the adults, so why shouldn’t we expect children to be upset at the prospect of saying farewell?

I’ve had my fair share of tears after a puppet show where children have burst into tears the minute a puppet show has ended .

The reason? They didn’t want me to go, they didn’t want the fun to end and most importantly, they didn’t want to say goodbye.

My own way of dealing with this outburst is to gently reassure the distressed child that you have to say goodbye otherwise you can’t say hello another time, and hello is the most wonderful, exciting thing to say!

Ending with a ‘ See you later Alligator , in a while Crocodile , (Bye Bye Apple Pie!) ( Fifi the Fairy’s own invention) is a sure fire way of using the power of silly to put the smile back on those tear stained faces too.

Snap! Snap!

So I tootled off to Belsize Park yesterday and set up my puppet theatre outside in the very welcome sunshine. ( It made a brief appearance yesterday, we just had to make the most of it before it rains again).

Bobby Bunny was sad that  Tabitha cat was going to Australia and had lost his will to hop. The children were encouraging him to hop and have fun and reassured him that Tabitha would still be his friend even though she was going to Australia.

In between the silly behind-you’s and the silly slapstick humour and chases, I inserted lots of chat and references about using Mummy and Daddy’s  Internet to keep in touch and spoke about having friends to visit. Rather than focusing on the leaving aspect, I stressed the new adventures ahead. Tabitha cat was excited to be going, it was her friend that was sad. This allowed the little girl in question to be able to chat to the rabbit about her leaving in a safe and reassuring way; indeed it was a little bit of a therapy session without anyone even knowing it! Lots of hugs were given to the girl in question from the puppets and she said goodbye with a smile on her face- which was painted just like my lovely puppy puppet Toby

Traditional Toby dog to start the show

So bye bye lovely Taya, we will miss you here at Diane’s Puppets. Don’t forget to send us a postcard from Zurich ( some chocolate would be nice too! ) Only joking. Silly Sausage.

Let’s hope that fun and laughter and puppets have eased the pain of farewell.

The power of puppets never cease to amaze me.

 

Related posts:

The Power of Puppets for Change

Silly is a Serious Business

Puppets: An Emotional Connection

 

Puppets, Puppets, and more Puppets!

Leap Year: A Puppet Making Day

Today was a special day, a day that only comes around once every four years.

So did I propose marriage to my long term partner? Nah! We’re happy as we are thank you very much.

No, I did something much more special : I made 20 , yes TWENTY ‘how to’ videos for the video production company Videojug.

The lovely Duncan came round bright and early at 9am with his camera and lights and we spent the entire day filming and making puppets.

The last puppet was made at 6pm, ten hours later. Phew!

So here I am exhausted , back aching but feeling very satisfied. I’m looking forward to seeing the edited results up on Youtube in a few weeks time. As soon as they are finished I shall give you all the link. But for now, here are photographs of today’s toil.

Puppets

The result of a long but creative day of puppet making

Animal felt finger puppets

Animal felt finger puppets

Paper bag monkey puppets

Cheeky monkey paper bag puppets

Hand made puppets

Cats and dogs and birds

Junk puppet crocodile

Snap! Look what I made from rubbish.

Barn owl hand puppet

Beautiful barn owl puppet

Finger puppets on the farm

Finger puppet animals on the farm

lion puppet hand puppets

Lionel with friends

Scary monster paper plate puppets

Monsters and cats

So, would you have a go at  making a puppet now? Soon you can watch me show you how it’s done.

A New Skirt for the Kids Entertainer and Puppeteer, Diane

2012 and it’s back to business, back to being a London Children’s Entertainer and puppet lady extraordinaire…

Time to brush off the cobwebs of 2011, throw out the old and bring in the new.

I’ve just taken down my Christmas tree, well better late than never. I was loathe to take it down this year as my darling granddaughter Erykah-Rose was totally fascinated by it and did the most marvellous Donald Duck impressions upon spotting the robins that nestled within its’ branches. I put it up rather late too as the life of a Children’s Entertainer in the Festive Season is rather a busy one and your own celebrations tend to have to wait. So the tree overstayed it’s welcome with permission.

Such a cutie!

So that was the old out.  Or was it?

I looked at my skirt that was hanging up, waiting for the next outing at a Children’s birthday party and I saw it with fresh eyes, horrified fresh eyes! My goodness, all my hard work of being a puppeteer/ children’s entertainer and face painter  in 2011 showed in that skirt. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

Evidence of the wear and tear of life as a kids entertainer

Still can’t see it? Let me zoom in for you.

The scars of hard work.

See the patches and tears? That comes from kneeling on the floor.  I do that rather a lot when behind a puppet booth when I’m performing a puppet show at a child’s birthday party. Even before the show starts, I do like to sit on the children’s level, it goes with my child-centred philosophy of playing with children rather than merely performing at children. But all this getting down to floor level  does take its’ toll on my clothes: my shoes have dents in the toes. Strange side effects from my job!

Anyway I digress. It was time to use the lovely sewing machine that  Santa ( well, my lovely partner) had bought me for Christmas. Out with the old skirt, in with the new and improved puppeteer /entertainer skirt.

Ta Da!

So here it is.

As you can see, I’m rather partial to a bit of applique ( who wouldn’t want a fire breathing dragon on their skirt? )

I’m sure over the course of 2012, the skirt will evolve. I’ll add bits and pieces to it, inevitably given my obsession with all things crochet, it will acquire a crochet embellishment or two, but this is the start of the new skirt.

I think it’s rather splendid, don’t you? It sure beats having to power dress for the office! This is my sort of power dressing: dressing with imaginative power, the super power to charge little minds with creative visions and fantastical imaginings.

The skirt is on its’ maiden journey today. I’m off this afternoon to entertain , paint faces and do a puppet show in a traditional style puppet booth for a lovely 4 year old girl’s birthday.  I shall wear my skirt with immense pride!

 

Here’s to a splendidly creative 2012. I’m off to breathe fire into the New Year.

Toodle pip.

 

 

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!

Make your own puppet

At a Diane’s Puppets party there is always an option of a simple craft session as part of the entertainment.

I will design the craft around a theme of the clients choice or to complement  the puppet show or story session.

Recently I entertained at a lovely four year old girl’s birthday party where we made our own finger puppets as part of the entertainment session.

Finding a craft that can be easily done in 20 minutes and is not too messy and do-able for tiny fingers isn’t always that easy.

Fifi the fairy

My frken

My friendly piggy policeman

WitchyPoo the birthday witch.

I drew up simple characters from my fairy puppet show and copied them on to card. Cut holes in the bottom for fingers and cut around the outside.

I brought along feathers, yarn and sequins and self adhesive jewels and stickers.

The children were encouraged to colour the pictures in and stick on their own decorations. With a little help from the mummies, this was easily achieved.

Everyone produced their very own lovely puppets which they proudly took with them at the end of the party to show to Daddy.

 

A brief history of Diane’s Puppets in Pictures

Puppets, puppets, puppets!

A picture is worth a thousand words , so how many words are lots of pictures worth?

Here is a collection of my puppets and I, let the pictures tell the story.

London Kids entertainer and puppet show provider Diane with Bobby Bunny puppet and Tabitha cat puppet

Bobby Bunny, Tabitha Cat and me, Diane.

London Kids entertainer and puppet show provider Diane

Before the recession hit I used to have lovely Aunty Lena

London kids entertainers and puppet show providers in action

We made a great team

Kids moving at a birthday party at a Diane's Puppets party

Getting the children to stretch and wiggle

Child entranced by a puppet show at a birthday party

Bobby Bunny hopping in his show

London Kids entertainer and puppet show provider Diane in her puppet booth after a show

Now it's just me but the show must go on!

London Kids entertainer and puppet show provider Diane with her face painted like a tiger

Diane can be fierce and brave like a tiger

London Kids entertainer and puppet show provider Diane with her face painted like an Easter Bunny

Or gentle like a bunny

London Kids entertainer and puppet show provider Diane face painted as a butterfly

Or magical and colourful like a butterfly

London Children's entertainer Diane painting faces

What would you like to be painted as?

Child with butterfly facepainting

You're a pretty pink butterfly!

Fierce pirate face painting

Or you could be a fierce pirate oo arrgh!

Pirate captain puppet by kids entertainer and puppeteer Diane

with a pirate show to match!

Pretty mermaid puppet by puppeteer Diane

We all love a pretty mermaid, this one can fight too!

Shark puppet in pirate puppet show by Diane's Puppets

Watch out , there's a shark behind you!

Jester rod puppet

Whatever show you choose, Diane promises to keep it silly and to keep you laughing

London Children's entertainer Diane waves

Until it's time to wave goodbye!

Diane’s Puppets guarantees a fabulous time for all boys and girls at their birthday party and Diane promises to  be a silly sausage always. Hope to see you soon at a London Children’s birthday party near you!

Tag Cloud