© 2018 by Broken Puppet Symposium


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symposium overview

Bath Spa University’s Arts and Social Change Research Group


in conjunction with


The UNIMA Research Commission


Puppet Place


We are delighted to announce a 2-day symposium exploring the ways puppetry and disability intersect to produce innovative art forms.

Recent puppetry work such as Hijinx Theatre’s Meet Fred (2016), Graeae Theatre Company’s The Iron Man (2011), Daryl Beeton’s A Square World (2017) and Corina Duyn’s Life Outside the Box (2016) use puppetry to explore stories of those with disabilities and to engage with disabled culture. At the 2017 Bristol Festival of Puppetry, Diverse City and Extraordinary Bodies facilitated workshops and labs to explore intersections of disability and puppetry. Guerilla Dance Project and OpenUp Music conducted alab to develop eye gaze assisted puppetry, and Hijinx Theatre worked with puppetry companies Blind Summit and Green Ginger to explore tabletop puppetry with learning disabled adults. These diverse performance-based projects engage with and provoke areas of inquiry around the ways in which bodies and social spaces can be understood and performed differently.


This symposium will bring together artists, scholars, and members of the public to reflect on, analyse, and further develop this emerging work in the field of puppetry and disability performance.

This is the second of the ongoing series of Broken Puppet Symposia exploring puppetry in relation to disability and health, which follows on from the August 2017 symposium as part of the Cork Puppetry Festival in Ireland. While the 2017 symposium focussed largely on puppetry, disability and therapy, the 2018 symposium will focus on puppetry and disability in performance.

The Arts and Social Change Research Group at Bath Spa University brings together researchers across the university’s College of Liberal Arts whose work engages with issues of social justice and the facilitation of social intervention and change through the arts. Its members draw on interdisciplinary approaches to making visible, interrogating and mapping societal structures of power and oppression, and to engaging ethically and efficaciously with marginalised individuals, groups, identities, bodies and voices. Members develop and respond to research themes including resilience, cultural heritage and humour; with methodologies including participatory action research and critical ethnography; and with provocations including the roles and risks of instrumentalism and efficacy.


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, (where they are not specifically puppetry (and related forms) – focused); 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/.

Puppet Place is the Bristol-based hub for all things animated on stage and film in the UK. They are dedicated to sharing a passion for puppetry and animation with the wider public and supporting artists and professionals working with these artforms. Their building, on Bristol’s Harbourside, is home to a community of resident companies and artists producing brilliant work in puppetry, animation and the creative sector more widely. They support the greater puppetry and creative sector through residencies, networking and training. For the public they run events, workshops and activities in Bristol and beyond, including the internationally recognised Bristol Festival of Puppetry. For more information see www.puppetplace.org.