Reminding Us Who We Are

In just 41 days the second annual 4theRegion City Centre Conference takes place at Swansea’s National Waterfront Museum. As we count down to the event we’re celebrating the entrepreneurs, artists and communicators who are making this city a better, more vibrant place to live.

The art of puppetry dates back seven thousand years. It pre-dates Western civilisation and is intertwined with our storytelling traditions almost as closely as the spoken word. Puppeteers entertain and educate. They show us the world from a different angle.

Swansea is home to one of the UK’s leading practitioners. Mandy Fancourt launched Poppet Puppets in 1993 and has won an army of fans of all ages with innovative hand puppetry and marionette theatre. Her charming performances breathe life into figures of uni-cyclists spinning ballerinas and dislocating skeletons. Eager to share her talent, Mandy also offers training workshops, teaching people to design, create and animate their own models, telling their own stories in their own distinctive and memorable way.

In recent years the therapeutic benefits of puppetry have become more and more clear. With life expectancy rising, we’re finding that longer lives bring greater susceptibility to degenerative illness. There are over 50 million dementia sufferers in the world today. Their stories and the stories of those who care for them may be rooted in sadness but they offer a reminder of what it means to be a loved one.

The Alzheimers Society recently shared the story of Manchester couple Jim and Joan Pearson. Married for over sixty years, their final decade together was by far the hardest. Joan began to suffer from memory loss, which eventually led to a diagnosis of Alzheimers. When she was no longer able to recognise her children or grandchildren, Jim used photoshopped images of the family to make wooden marionettes of each of them. When one came to visit, Jim prepared by using their puppet as the focus of a conversation reminding Joan of what the person meant to her and what she meant to them.

Through the art of puppetry, Joan Pearson was not only made to feel loved, but restored to her rightful position at the heart of her family. It’s an example that strikes a chord with Mandy Fancourt:

I’m proud to be an entertainer, but storytelling also has an important function in healthcare. That can involve patients talking about their ailments or having important information conveyed to them as effectively and sensitively as possible. It’s no surprise that puppetry can be such a strong communication tool. It’s been helping us tell our stories for thousands of years and whatever message my friends and customers want to share, I’m happy to help them do it through a suitably tailored performance.

Mandy Fancourt breathes life into marionettes, into performances and into human communication. She’ll be joining us at the 4theRegion City Centre Conference on March 31st and in the meantime she’ll be doing what she does best as a teacher and an artist; telling stories that charm us, amuse us and remind us who we are. Take a bow, Mandy.

To find out more about Poppet Puppets, click here.

To find out more about Mandy Fancourt’s work with dementia sufferers, click here.

To find out more about exhibiting at the 4theRegion City Centre Conference, click here.

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