Celebrity puppets raise funds for Norwich Puppet Theatre

They are unique and unusual artistic creations made by a whole host of famous faces - and yesterday these 61 celebrity-designed glove puppets went under the hammer to raise funds for one of the city's theatres.

Illustrator Quentin Blake, singer-songwriter David Gray, and TV style guru Gok Wan, were among the celebrities who sent in puppets for last night's auction which is part of Norwich Puppet Theatre's 30th birthday celebrations this week.

About 100 people turned out to see the star-studded group of puppets go up for auction at The Forum.

The sale was conducted by auctioneer Elizabeth Talbot, from TW Gaze, with BBC Look East's Stewart White as the compere, and by the end of the evening the event had raised �7,200 for the theatre.

The top-selling puppet was made by Terry Gilliam - screen writer, film director, animator and member of the Monty Python comedy troupe - and his puppet sold for �460.

The work of the many designers who had sent in puppets proved to be some of the biggest hits with the bidders - Jan Constantine's artwork went for �360, Sir Paul Smith's, Cath Kidston's and Wayne Hemingway's puppets each sold for �300 and Sir Terence Conran's work went for �250.

Illustrator Quentin Blake's creation sold for �310, and other celebrities whose puppets went for three-figure sums included Rolf Harris, Sir Peter Blake, Bill Oddie, Sir Derek Jacobi, Michael Palin, David Gray and Tony Robinson.

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Event organiser and theatre trustee Debbie-Lee Pinching, who had spent months gathering the weird and wonderful array of puppets, said the response from celebrities had been phenomenal and she said she had still been receiving new puppets for the auction right up until the day before the event.

She said: 'I am absolutely thrilled the auction raised as much as it did. It was fantastic and the money will help us with new projects for the theatre.

'I would like to thank the people of Norwich for all their support.'

Nic Hopkins, chairman of trustees at the theatre, described the auction as a fantastic celebration of puppetry as art and puppetry as fun.

He said the theatre was privileged to have received such a wonderful and magical set of puppets for the auction,

and he said throughout the evening there had been some really strong bidding for some iconic pieces of 'pup-art.'

He said: 'We have raised a huge amount. It shows how much support there is for the theatre - from all the celebrities who have created the puppets, to all the people who made the auction possible, to all the people who took part in the bidding.'

He added: 'It is a fantastic launch for the next 30 years of the Puppet Theatre. We are going to be able to start thinking about more new work and perhaps help new artists gain experience.'

t Are doing something creative for charity? Call reporter Emma Knights on 01603 772428 or email emma.knights@archant.co.uk

The auction of celebrity puppets is just one of the ways Norwich Puppet Theatre is marking its 30th anniversary.

t Every day until Saturday there is a special free exhibition charting the history of Norwich Puppet Theatre at Fusion, the digital screen gallery in the Forum.

People will be able to see photos and film footage of productions through the ages, as well as footage of the theatre's most recent show, The Chalk Giants.

t Norwich Puppet Theatre is hosting a free open day at the Whitefriars theatre on Saturday from 10am until 5pm. During the open day there will be performances of Thumbelina and Little Red Robin Hood, puppet-making workshops, films and displays.

t On Saturday evening there will be a special 30th Birthday Cabaret featuring the founders of the Puppet Theatre, Ray and Joan DaSilva, and a whole host of other puppeteers with connections to the theatre.

The show starts at 8pm on Saturday and tickets cost �10. To buy tickets call 01603 629921, email info@puppettheatre.co.uk, or visit www.puppettheatre.co.uk