One of Norwich’s key arts venues has secured a five-figure sum to help it produce new shows, broaden its audiences, and give more opportunities to puppeteers.

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History of Norwich Puppet Theatre

Norwich Puppet Theatre, at St James Pockthorpe, was found by puppeteers Ray and Joan DaSilva as a permanent base for their touring company.

With a wealth of support from local people, it opened in December 1980 with the show Humbug Humbug.

Over the next three decades, the theatre’s puppeteers and visiting companies delighted countless audiences but in 2008 it came close to closure when Arts Council England withdrew its annual £60,000 funding.

The theatre was saved after an Evening News campaign and after Norwich Town Close Estate Charity stepped in, and other donors made contributions.

In 2011 it secured a three-year grant of £150,000 from the Monument Trust which among other things enabled a new theatre director to be appointed, a role that was taken up by current director Joy Haynes.

Norwich Puppet Theatre, in Whitefriars, is to receive an £85,000 grant over 18 months from Arts Council England.

The theatre’s director Joy Haynes said it was a great boost, giving the theatre scope to undertake new shows and projects, and offer something for everyone.

She said: “The projects we plan to do with the new funding are about extending our audiences, about spreading the excitement of puppetry and how it is relevant to adult audiences as well as children and families.

“They are about bringing more people into our venue to see shows from our exciting, challenging and diverse programme.

“The projects will also help give work to local artists and practitioners - through the production process we can offer so many opportunities to students and professionals.”

The first of the projects is this year’s Christmas show, a re-telling of the Hans Christian Andersen story The Tinderbox which will also go on a national tour. The theatre last performed a version of the story in 1988 directed by Peter O’Rourke. This time Miss Haynes will direct the show, working with a local team of animators, musicians and puppeteers and interns.

The money is also enabling the theatre to team up again with Puppet Animation Scotland to put on adult visual theatre festival Manipulate in February next year and in 2014 - next year’s festival will include performances by companies from Russia, Iran and the Netherlands, and also the UK company Paper Cinema.

A new interactive show for young children called Three Colours will be created in partnership with Polka Theatre in Wimbledon. The show will be about exploring worlds created using the colours red, blue and green, and its first performance will be in Norwich next July followed by a run in London and then back to Norfolk for summer 2013.

The final show to benefit from the funding will be the 2013 Christmas production Beauty and the Beast.

Part of the grant will also support an upgrade of the theatre’s box office system so people are able to book tickets and choose their seats on the theatre’s website.

All these exciting new projects are a far cry from a few years ago when the theatre came close to closure due to funding cuts, and Miss Haynes paid tribute to the hard work and commitment of everyone - including volunteers, staff, board members and supporters - who has helped the theatre on its journey.

“It is about the sum of all the parts, the people working together and the commitment to see the theatre really thrive.” Miss Haynes said.

• Visit

• Anybody interested in volunteering at the theatre should email

• Are you involved in a new arts project? Call reporter Emma Knights on 01603 772428 or email

1 comment

  • so if the grants stopped this theatre would go bust within days?

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    Wednesday, August 29, 2012



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