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Puppets to put Borders town centres back on centre stage

Published: 1 Nov 2012 09:301 comment

THE region's very own puppet master is hoping to pull a few strings in a bid to bring Galashiels town centre back to life.

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Kerry Jones will oversee a day-long series of pop-up puppet shows in Channel Street's empty shops next Easter.

And she hopes the message of saving our high streets which will come across from the five-minute acts will appeal to shoppers.

The woman behind community arts group Ruffled Feathers has already started recruiting an army of primary school puppeteers to help with her Windows to the Future project.

Kerry told us: "I am going round the primary schools in Galashiels to show them the how puppets are made and tell them what the project is about - and hopefully some of them will want to become involved.

"Windows to the Future will show Galashiels in four puppet shows - starting with high street life around the 1900s and finishing with the children's view of how the town's high street will look in the future. I've been living here for only nine years, yet I struggle to remember what the town centre was like before Tesco and Asda. Although this is a fun project it does have a serious message."

Kerry's Ruffled Feathers collective will recruit helpers between 6 and 16-years-old over the coming few weeks ahead of a series of out-of-school workshops starting next month.

As well as puppet making, mask making, story development and animation the sessions will also help the youngsters learn about public performance and set building.

Several artists have already been recruited to help with the workshops, which will take place two or three times a week, but the door is still open to any other adult volunteers who have some puppet, arts or crafts experience.

Windows to the Future will take place on the final Saturday of next year's Easter holidays. As well as taking over four empty shops for the project, there will be additional street performers to create a carnival atmosphere.

Kerry added: "We hope shoppers will start at one end of Channel Street by watching the first performance and follow us down the street watching each performance in order. Each performance will only last five minutes and when all four are performed we will go back to the top of the street and start all over again in our first shop window."

Work to improve Galashiels town centre is ongoing with a new cultural space at the top of Channel Street to be used for street theatre and performances.

Scottish Borders Council's spokeswoman for culture, Vicky Davidson, believes the Ruffled Feathers project will be a hit. She told us: "I watched some of their puppet making at a workshop during the recent WASPS art studios open day in Selkirk and it looked great fun for kids and adults alike.

"The plans for pop-up puppet theatre performances in shop windows will bring colour and fun to the centre of Galashiels but will also give young people a lot of creative enjoyment leading up to the events."

Scottish Borders Council's Arts Development team helped secure funding from Awards for All for the workshops and performances.

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