Monday 30 April 2012

Liverpool's Sea Odyssey

I’m really delayed in writing this, but had a fantastic weekend in Liverpool for their Sea Odyssey festival with Royal De Luxe’s amazing Giant figures. There doesn’t appear to be any company quite like Royal De Luxe, and kudos to Liverpool and all involved in arranging the logistics of such a fantastic day. It can’t have been easy closing all those roads and just administering the movement of the huge puppets from one end of the city to the other, but it was so worth it.

 Literally thousands of people lined the streets to watch in awe as these larger than life characters roamed around puppeteered by some of the most energetic and enthusiastic performers you could wish to see. From the excitable and brilliantly life like dog, his tongue was wet and he even had a wee in the street! 

To the rather eerie site of the 50 ft tall diver slowly lumbering his way along roads where he could glance into 2nd and 3rd floor windows with ease. My favourite though has to be the little girl giant, I think possibly because she is so life like, eerily life like, but at the same time representing such a big, monstrous marionette. 

The rustic slightly unfinished nature of the Royal De Luxe creations gives it that steam punk, mad inventor type feel that makes you wonder in awe how they got the things to move at all. It’s all looks a little haphazard thrown together (in a good way) natural and effortless, however anything that looks this good clearly has taken years to perfect. Well done to all involved, I hope this is just the beginning of more exciting collaborations between Royal Deluxe and Liverpool.

Sunday 15 April 2012

National Puppetry Archive - Hogarth Puppets Donation

The Puppet Centre was recently contacted by a museum in Devon. The museum had a loans service that loaned items out to schools, but due to funding cuts the service had to close and many of the items were donated to the various schools in the county. Some however were deemed too valuable and the museum set out to find homes for these. Amongst them were seven puppets which once belonged to the Hogarth Puppets. 

The Hogarth Puppets, founded by Jan Bussell & Ann Hogarth in 1932, were one of Britain’s largest touring puppet companies. They are best known for the character "Muffin the Mule" who appeared with Annette Mills on the BBC programme from 1946 to 1955.  Muffin had been a member of the Hogarth’s circus Since the 1930s, but was chosen by Mills from the vast array of Hogarth puppets that could appear on the show. The Hogarth Puppets toured the world, playing West End theatres, Australia, Canada and all over Europe. In summer they toured the parks of London with their caravan and tent theatres. Jan wrote many books on their adventures.
Ann Hogarth performing Muffin (with Annette Mills)
There are 6 puppets in the donated collection, consisting of;
  • ‘Grump’ the night watchman from the play ‘Fly by Night’
  • ‘The Green Man’ a disjointing puppet
  • ‘Charlie Acorn’ the Pianist from the Hogarth band that opened each show
  • ‘Clifford Sax’ the Saxophonist from the band
  • ‘Captain Jack Smyth’ the drummer also from the band
  • ‘Tickler’ the Sword Swallowing clown
  • ‘Muffin the Mule’ in armour to fight the crusades (this is all made from tin)

All of the puppets now reside in the National Puppetry Archive (you can see the archive here and the official website here ) some of the puppets will be on exhibit at the AGM of the British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild in May. What’s so wonderful about them is not just the puppets themselves, which are superb examples of the Hogarth’s work as well as Jack Whitehead carved heads, but the fantastic display boxes that each puppet arrived in. Purpose built and fitted with bespoke foam for traveling - once opened out they can be easily displayed inside their boxes within a few minutes! 

Saturday 14 April 2012

SEA ODYSSEY - Liverpool

Ever since Royal De Luxe brought their Little Girl Giant to London many years ago (and I wasn't able to get there) I have been desperate to see their work. I didn't think they would bring the Girl Giant back, so I couldn't believe it when I saw they were bringing it to Liverpool next weekend and really am so excited. looks set to be a spectacular event. here is the blurb from the official site;
In April, the world's greatest street theatre company, Royal De Luxe, will bring their Little Girl Giant to Liverpool in one of the UK's most spectacular events. Sea Odyssey is a magical tale of love, loss and reunion played out on a gigantic scale. It will take place in key city spaces, moving across North Liverpool and the city centre, wowing the hundreds of thousands of people who are expected to descend on the city over the three days.

For more information including the routes that the parade will take visit the official site here

'Paper' App by 53

I've been looking for an app that would allow realistic drawing on the iPad. Tried Sketchbook pro, Bamboo Paper (by Wacom) as many as I could find, but none of them have really cut it for me. Although I like the idea of being able to sketch into the iPad, I'm a big believer in why recreate something electronically when you can do it better with an actual pencil and paper, and none of the apps so far have convinced me otherwise........however 'Paper' by 53 has nearly converted me.
Firstly I'd recommend watching the video, (below), this shows what the app is, and does so very neatly. Many of the guys behind the app worked for Microsoft on the short lived Courier software. However where Microsoft runs on the amounts of options and complexities it fits into software, Paper's success for me is its pure the video and you'll see what I mean...

'Paper' allows you to create as many different sketchbooks as you wish and populate them with a range of sketches, notes, doodles and designs. What's so wonderful to begin with is how simple and intuitive it is. There is a range of tools, which although the main app is free you have have to buy, and these include; dip pen, pencil, two pens, and a watercolour brush. Each work so well, the dip pen in particular, that it makes you want to keep picking it up. You can customise your sketchbooks with covers of your choice and name them, add/delete pages as you see fit..but that's about as far as it goes and lets face it do you need more? 
That's what I think the key to this is - its simplicity! Yes I'd like more colours (and I hope they add a few in the next update) and true it would be nice to be able to change your books to Portrait for longer drawings, but overall this is all we need to be able to sketch and sketch quickly. As long as you have an intuitive reactionary app like this, that actually does what you ask of it why do we need hundreds of options? You don't, and the guys at 53 have realised this (perhaps through working for Microsoft!) and have given us an app which is a joy to use. Its made me want to draw on the iPad, something I never thought I would achieve.
'Stongman' drawn on 'Paper' April 2012 (MDixon)
53 have endorsed the Wacom Bambo Stylus for this app. I have the Bamboo Stylus and yes it is good. However the nib is a little spongy (and from what I have heard rips easily when used often) it works well and the lines follow pretty much as you draw them, but we are crying out for a really good stylus pen, that feels like an actual pen both to hold and use - one that allows you to lean your hand on the iPad whilst drawing without making a mark...and it looks like it is coming in the new Blue Tiger stylus from Ten One Design. Lets hope so because that would make this app even better.
Some quick sketches done on Paper after it was dowloaded
Overall 53 have created with 'Paper' a really nice, simple and intuitive app which makes sketching on the iPad effortless and enjoyable. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they come up with next and if they make any additions to 'Paper' without making it option heavy - at least give us some more colours!
For more about 'Paper' or to download it click here