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The symposium will take place at Newman University Birmingham in England, 17th -18th April 2019.

The Community & Applied Drama Laboratory (CADLab) at Newman University Birmingham in collaboration with the UNIMA Research Commission and the UNIMA Commission for Education, Development and Therapy are delighted to announce a 2-day symposium exploring ways of training professional performers and health practitioners in approaches, techniques and embodied empathic relationships between performers, puppets, healthcare professionals and audiences.

For paper/workshops/skype submissions, please contact Dr Persephone Sextou at p.sextou@newman.ac.uk  and copy in both Cariad Astles at cariadastles@gmail.com and Emma Fisher at beyondthebarktheatre@gmail.com

According to the All-Party Parliamentary Government Report ‘Creative Health:

‘We recommend that the arts education institutions initiate undergraduate and postgraduate courses and professional development modules dedicated to the contribution of the arts to health and well-being’ (2017:155).

This symposium recognises the need to introduce into curricula a stronger Applied Puppetry dimension and encourage universities, acting schools and puppetry schools to play their part in raising awareness of Puppetry in relation to Applied Theatre. We will seek to explore ways of creating training and professional development opportunities for performers (actor-actresses and puppeteers), healthcare professionals, nurses, therapists, teachers, social workers and play specialists to use puppets to address social issues and problems of individuals of all age groups and communities in health and well being contexts and environments.

This is the third in the ongoing series of Broken Puppet Symposia exploring puppetry in relation to disability, health and well-being, which follows on from the August 2017 symposium set up by the UNIMA Research Commission hosted by University College Cork and as part of the Cork Puppetry Festival in Ireland and the April 2018 symposium organised by the Arts and Social Change Research Group at Bath Spa University with UNIMA.


 Newman University CADLab is the inter-disciplinary and publicly engaged Community and Applied Drama Laboratory hosted by Newman University. CADLab research-based projects are linked to research in the field of Applied Theatre and Wellbeing, Puppetry and Storytelling, Theatre and Society and Medical Humanities evaluating theatre’s effectiveness in supporting the wellbeing of children, young people and those suffering from illness during their stay in hospital. CADLab operates in partnership with NHS Trust (Birmingham Children and Women’s Hospital, Heartlands Hospital Heart of England Foundation Trust), the James Brindley School- the Local Educational Authorities, Acorns Children’s Hospice, Forward Thinking NHS and The REP Birmingham. CADLab has gained recognitions and awards with most recent being a grant worth £50K from BBC Children in Need to develop work in Applied Theatre and Wellbeing to improve the lives of young sick children in local hospitals. 2016-2019, in the West Midlands in partnership with NHS Trusts across the UK. For more information see https://newman.ac.uk/knowledge-base/cadlab/

The UNIMA Research Commission, a Commission of the international puppetry association, UNIMA, aims to: promote, encourage, develop and support research into puppetry, material, visual and object performance and fields related to these; support and encourage publication of research into the above areas through collaborations with publishers and other research institutions; work closely with Universities and other academic institutions to support and disseminate information about theses and research projects in the field of puppetry and related fields; assist in the promotion, visibility and accessibility of historical and theoretical puppetry research through partnerships with other bodies, making visible bibliographical material and research resources and through the formulation of puppetry research fields; explore ways to support practice-based and practice-led research; increase the participation of puppetry researchers in international conferences and symposia and support the visibility of puppetry research within these conferences,; work towards increased dissemination of puppetry (and related forms) research through international networks; work closely with other UNIMA Commissions to explore joint initiatives; encourage new puppetry (and related forms) research and the participation of young and new researchers in projects of the Research Commission. For more information see www.unima.org/en/commission/research/.

This symposium will bring together actors, puppeteers, nurses, therapists, scholars, and members of the public to reflect on, analyse, and further develop work in the field of Applied Puppetry and discuss the requirements of professional training and the development of educational courses in the field.


Themes to consider include (but are not limited to):

  • Puppetry, Community, Health, (Dis)ability
  • Empathy and Compassion
  • The Puppetry performer/facilitator in community contexts of wellbeing and health
  • ‘Participatory’ puppets in performance: the practitioner’s skills
  • Puppetry and audience participation in healthcare such as in hospitals, hospices and care homes.
  • Puppetry and languages of pain
  • Education on Puppetry and cultural change in training institutions
  • In which ways do the intersections of theatre, puppetry and therapy challenge the ways we understand each?
  • The accreditation of the puppeteer/ facilitator in contexts of health and wellbeing
  • Ways forward for a more coherent and widespread provision of professional training opportunities on Puppetry in health, wellness, (dis)ability and community contexts and professions

We welcome proposals on these or any other relevant topics within the area of puppetry, community performance, health and wellbeing.

For paper/workshops/skype submissions, please contact Dr Persephone Sextou at p.sextou@newman.ac.uk  and copy in both Cariad Astles at cariadastles@gmail.com and Emma Fisher at beyondthebarktheatre@gmail.com


Image credit: Dr Emma Fisher's Practice based research "Pupa" photo taken by Emma Mac ceramic puppet made in collaboration with Sheila Stone.