Puppet Making with Bridging the Gap

The basic materials before the puppets were created.

Paper and string invades Bridging The Gap! (by Neil Packham, Citizens Theatre)

We arrived at Bridging the Gap, loaded with our materials ‘brown paper and string’. We know the environment well – the glorious chaotic environment of the Thursday ‘drop in’, where local Glaswegian people mix, talk, help and cook with refugees and people who are seeking asylum. Despite the difficult situation of many of the people there, it is always a positive atmosphere with a lot of laughter. We knew that no matter how much we prepared we’d have to be ready to read the room and respond accordingly.

It was quiet to begin with but momentum quickly gathered as we crushed our first piece of large brown paper, creating lots of big smiles and laughter. We soon recognised that we would constantly be on the move assisting people, particularly in the early stages. We noted that we mustn’t take over, it is very easy to help too much. Gradually people grasped the method, some people raced ahead! At Bridging The Gap there are many people from the African continent and it became apparent that they were incredibly quick to grasp the concept. One woman from the Sudan recalled how it took her back to her childhood, how she made dolls like this, when she had no other toys. She enjoyed the memories. Another woman commented on how she became so focused on the making of the puppet that she could switch off from her worries and recognised that her puppet represented her and that, in her life, she was always being pulled in different directions.

It was strange at the end of each session as the puppets went back to being brown paper and string when bundled away in a plastic box until the following week. Each week when the boxes came out people were eager to renew their bond with their puppet, however sometimes new folk would adopt a partly made, discarded one and continued to work on it. At the end of session three we started to talk about how we might use the puppets in some kind of performance.

Participant quote – “It helps to bring out the person’s own character. It’s kind of like you’re building yourself.”

The basic materials before the puppets were created.

Neil is preparing the paper and string for the first session at Bridging the Gap.

Scrunching and tearing paper.

That’s the head, body and arms done. The puppet is ready for the legs now.

What a busy and productive room!

A puppet with a walking stick.

The puppets are packed away into a box until next week.

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Angela Smith

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