As part of Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival, we’ve been working with a group of young people from Wiltshire. They were all carers for someone in their family, and this was rare respite time for them. They get to choose how they spend it, and our workshops were a time to play and focus on making something for themselves.
They made shadow puppets with us, of all sorts from footballers through owls to spaceships. There were politically vocal puppets and delicately romantic scenes. Then, this weekend, they shared their new skills with visitors to the festival.
We were overwhelmed with people — about 300 of them came to make and try out puppets under the supervision of our group of teenagers — but what struck us what how well the young people dealt with everyone. They worked really hard to make sure each visitor had what they needed and talked them through the process, and what to think about. They brought people’s puppets to life for them, and let them join a scene when they wanted to. They repaired puppets that were fragile or hastily cut, and encouraged the shy to participate.
We have never worked with a group quite like this before. It was extremely rewarding for us to see how the arts can play such a transformative role, and how valuable a space for creative play can be.