This time last week I was in Newscastle – well, actually, on the city fringes, over the River Tyne, walking across the High Level Bridge into Gateshead. Although I got there too late for the opening ceremony of Anime Attacks 5, and the video Q&A with voice actor Greg Ayres, I spent a wonderful morning talking about cosplay and listening to amazing shamisen playing by Hibiki Ichikawa and Japanese folk songs beautifully sung by enka artist Akari Mochizuki courtesy of the Japan Foundation. There were also some fascinating presentations on Japanese life and culture by students and staff from Newcastle University’s School of Modern Languages.
The afternoon was even better. I was in a puppet making workshop with a gang of the most creative individuals I’ve ever worked with. I gave a presentation on creativity, puppets and techniques of puppet-making, then using very basic techniques and tools we dived straight in to create a diverse and fabulous bunch of puppets.
My two workshop rules are that everybody plays nicely – sharing, supporting, helping and respecting everyone’s work – and everybody takes part. The group had, I would guess, a six-decade age spread and the usual diversities, but everyone was united by the passion for making stuff. And what stuff! I suggested to some of the Gateshead Library regulars that they might want to talk to the amazing staff there about possibly getting a group going to wirte and rehearse a manga-based puppet play for the next Anime Attacks, and I hope they do that – the talent is certainly available.
I’ve got photos of every puppet to post and I’ll do that soon. All will be posted anonymously and if the maker wants to claim ownership in a comment they’re welcome to do so. But first I want to showcase something that emerged from the workshop – puppet yonkoma. (You could make one as a conventional photocomic, a slideshow or a perfrmance piece.)
Five plastic straws, one piece of paper and a black felt tip pen, plus a devotion to the word balloon and a truly twisted imagination, created a new artform. (Warning: may be distressing to sensitive Bronies, and the last panel will mystify almost everyone who doesn’t know the artist.)