Ash Appadu and Samantha Lane on internship and LAT’s first Puppetry Festival
This summer the Little Angel Theatre (LAT) present their first ever Children’s Puppetry Festival. There’s a whole host of shows to enjoy, from both UK and international companies, along with workshops for people of all ages. As part of the festival, their very own puppetry design intern Ash Appadu will be debuting their show Where the Water Falls, where a timid monster takes on a journey of self-discovery.
We caught up with Ash to ask them about the show and their own journey to becoming a puppet designer, and with Artistic Director Samantha Lane to find out more about the theatre’s support for emerging artists.
Thanks both for taking the time to chat with us. First of all, Samantha – can you tell us a bit about how the Children’s Puppetry Festival came about?
We have been showcasing the work of other companies on both of our stages for some time, but it has been in an ad-hoc fashion and if/when there has been space between our own shows. Before my time at LAT, there was also a spring season of visiting work. I felt that it was a good time to bring all of this together into a dedicated festival – where we could not only showcase some of the most exciting children’s puppetry shows from our friends, but also run workshops and professional development, all under the umbrella of a festival (not everyone is heading up to Edinburgh after all!) But I cannot take any credit for this programme. Oliver Hymans, LAT’s Artistic Associate, curated the festival – and what a fantastic line-up of shows and activities there are on offer.
Why did you set up an internship in puppetry in the first place?
There is a lack of dedicated training in puppetry making. Some fine art students are lucky enough to touch on it in their degrees, but most get into it by accident later. I’m a huge believer in high quality paid training opportunities. I don’t come from a privileged background, but I was lucky enough to go to university when you didn’t have to pay fees, and I’ve also been incredibly fortunate to learn, albeit informally, through the various jobs that I’ve had, and so I wanted LAT to pay that back and provide real, on the job, paid work experience to designers. During my tenure, six interns have worked with us on year-long programmes, many of whom continue to work in the puppetry sector (and who we reemploy on a freelance basis). Ash is the seventh intern, but the third to have followed a purely design-focussed programme. Ultimately, LAT is well placed as a leading employer of puppetry artists to support and diversify the puppetry-making workforce.
And how does the recruitment process work? Do you have strict criteria for applicants?
It is a totally open recruitment process. We advertise on our website, through social channels and through arts advertising opportunities and the local job centre. We also work with Creative Access, who provide access to jobs in the arts sector for people from under-represented communities, to support recruitment. Ash was one of over 200 applications for the role, proving that there really is a demand for paid training opportunities in puppetry making.
Over to you then Ash. As well as making puppets in your internship, what else are you involved in?
The internship has been filled with a diverse range of things as well as making puppets. I have gotten involved with community projects such as Play Street where I made a giant fennec fox for local children to decorate. I have also been involved in an environmental responsibility group looking at how LAT can internally and externally be greener! There is a focus in the internship on my personal development as a creative in the industry so I am also given the opportunity to do a freelancers’ course, which gives me the tools to successfully freelance once I have moved on from the venue. As well as this, in the last six months of my internship, my mentor Ellie and I will focus on elements such as portfolios, websites and online presence so I can be as prepared as possible to get work independently.
You’re now debuting your own show. Can you tell us a bit about it, and how you feel with it fast approaching?
The show follows a monster called Moss through a fabric landscape after a dream they have inspires them to go on a journey. I don’t want to say too much about it, as I want it to be a surprise! The story addresses themes of identity and finding nuance in your individuality and how at times that can be tough to do. In terms of how I feel, definitely nervous but overall excited for people to see the world I’ve created. This is my first time doing anything like this and it’s really allowed me to learn the scope of skills it takes to put on a production! The show is experimental, vibrant and playful and most importantly celebrates puppetry as a diverse art form.
What do you see as the added value of working with an established organisation such as the Little Angel Theatre?
Before coming to LAT I knew I loved puppetry but found it very hard to find my way in. Working with this incredible place has given me the opportunity to work with a plethora of experts in the industry and gain connections I could only dream of. I have been able to gather a wide range of skills in a short amount of time and collect an arsenal of tricks that will help me in puppetry design from now onwards.
What are your plans for after the festival?
After the festival I will have a bit of a break and then I’ll be on to designing a new and exciting birthday party show for LAT. I will also be continuing with my personal development and learning all I can in the next few months!
Thanks to Ash and Samantha for telling us all about their work.
The Little Angel Children’s Puppetry Festival runs until 3 September. Tickets available here.