A Very Hungry Caterpillar! Giant Puppets in the UK

In July 2015, I volunteered as a puppet maker for the Cock and Bull Festival, a music festival near Bath (UK) run by Jamie’s Farm, a charity that’s transforming the lives of vulnerable children in challenging urban schools. The organisation provides a unique combination of farming, family and therapy through a short stay residential and follow up programme. 

I worked with the amazingly creative and talented Ben Reynolds, Camillia Langoux, puppeteer Emma Fisher (from Beyond the Bark Theatre) and a myriad of friendly volunteers to construct a giant puppet of a caterpillar, complete with articulated legs, antennae that lit up like light sabers and a body that could change colours to resemble colossal Christmas lights. It was created to fit in with the festival’s theme, ‘Insect-i-cider’ and made its sweeping debut at the festival’s big parade.

How did our team come together you may ask? Emma met Ben and Camillia at the Giant Puppet Project in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and this is the same project that I volunteered for in 2011 with Emma (you can see our fun photos and videos here). Em and I studied together at the London School of Puppetry and she’s a very good friend (I even stayed with her family once for an Irish Christmas in Limerick!).

Cock and Bull resized

Unlike the Giant Puppet Project in Cambodia (where we had what seemed like a squillion children and volunteers to help create the puppets), our caterpillar puppet team was comparatively tiny but mighty. We built the puppet using cane, tissue paper, PVA glue, masking tape and LOTS of cable ties. I had made giant puppets before but this was the first time I had to shoo away a goat during construction! Ah the novelty of puppet making on a farm 🙂

Kay's paper cut-outs for the giant caterpillar My favourite part of the process was creating the decorative paper cuttings for the caterpillar (seen in the photo above). I used black paper that I folded and cut with scissors and a craft knife. See if you can spot the insect, farming and cider references 🙂

I also very much enjoyed the many farm and insect-related costume puns that went around during the festival, including ‘House fly’ (wearing a house with wings), Venus Fly Trap Williams (A tennis racquet with wings), and my personal favourite ‘I can’t believe it’s not butterfly’ (i.e. a person wearing a giant margarine costume with antennae).

Here are some videos of the Giant Caterpillar in action:

Caterpillar Highlights (video by Michael Grubb Studio – Creative Lighting Design Agency)

Caterpillar Parade: Emerging out of the barn and straight to a big parade of dancers, musicians and merry festival goers. Watch for the moment when it ‘releases’ an apple and someone goes to pick it up… and eat it!

Caterpillar Concert: After the parade, the sun goes down and the fun continues! The caterpillar decides to check out a concert – watch it light up and dance 🙂

Dance Caterpillar Dance! See the caterpillar rock to the music one more time!

The festival itself was great fun. We camped in tents, ate delicious fare (like wood fired pizzas and BBQ burgers) while sitting on hay bales, tried a ukulele workshop (which sparked a new hobby!), and danced along to some amazing live music – everything from African Rumba, Gypsy folk to Electronic Pop, all while dressed up as insects (my little costume was a ‘Veggie-mite’, paying homage to my Aussie homeland). 

If you’re in the UK this summer, why not go along to Cock and Bull 2016? (22nd-24th July, 2016). The theme this year is ‘Turnip the Beet’ and the puns are already mounting (Rhubarba Streisand, Elvis Cressley and Tina Turnip to name a few!).

For more information about the Cock and Bull Festival and Jamie’s Farm, go to http://cockandbullfestival.co.uk

or check them out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cockandbullfestival

7th June, 2016|Blog, Charity, Festivals, Workshops|