– Featuring the West End’s Disney’s THE LION KING  –

Tunbridge Wells is set to become a colourful showground for world-class puppetry when the popular Tunbridge Wells Puppetry Festival (TWPF) returns to the town this October.  Promising an even bigger, more varied and more colourful line-up of puppetry fun and entertainment for everyone, organisers are also excited to announce their partnership with global theatrical phenomenon
Disney’s THE LION KING.  In a first for the county, members of the cast and production team from the landmark musical will be travelling from their West End home to host a series of unique and exciting events as part of this year’s line-up.

Following the success of the first TWPF held in 2015 that drew huge crowds and brought the magic of live theatre to the town, this year’s festival takes place on Friday 13 and Saturday 14 October.  A packed line-up where all ages can come together to enjoy the work of celebrated puppetry, animation and object theatre artists from around the UK at venues across the town centre.

Funded by Arts Council England, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Kent County Council, and with thanks to many local sponsors1, TWPF’s exciting partnership with Disney’s THE LION KING will get underway the week before the official festival launch with a series of exclusive activities that offer a rare glimpse behind-the-scenes of the acclaimed stage musical which features more than 232 puppets.

THE LION KING festival programme

  • Workshops for local primary schools (9–14 October) – NOW FULLY BOOKED.
  • ‘From Inspiration To Realisation’: featuring some of the complete costumes, full-scale puppets and masks with costume sketches and behind-the-scenes photographs, this fascinating exhibition will bring to life the journey of how the legendary production made the transition from screen to stage (Trinity Theatre Gallery 9-14 October)
  • Discover The Inspiration: An on-stage masterclass to officially launch the festival.  Join some of the team behind the London production of THE LION KING in this interactive presentation and Q&A session, and learn how puppetry from around the world is used to bring the Serengeti to life on stage (Trinity Theatre Friday 13 October)

Friday 13 and Saturday 14 October –a diverse programme of world-class puppetry, animation and entertainment for all ages:

  • Twinkle Twinkle by Touched Theatre at the Assembly Hall.  A beautiful adventure in music and light, featuring high quality puppetry, magical interaction and live music making for all (this show takes place on Thursday 12 October)
  • Old Saw’s Duvet Day for babies, toddlers and their families is a magical show taking place at the Assembly Hall
  • For primary school children and their families there’s Finger and Thumb Theatre’s charming shadow puppetry versions of The Carnival of the Animals and The Ugly Duckling with live music at Trinity Theatre
  • Indefinite Articles’ Claytime and Norwich Puppet Theatre’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier will perform at the Adult Education Centre, suitable for children aged 3 and over
  • In the evening for adults and teenagers there’s Smoking Apples’ In Our Hands and Clementine’s Fabulous Road Show by Mark Mander both at Trinity Theatre.  Plus a saucy, fun Puppet Cabaret can be seen at The Forum!

Saturday 14 October – a programme of FREE outdoor events taking place on
The Pantiles from 10am to 5pm

  • Robert Styles will bring his traditional Punch & Judy to the Bandstand
  • Squashbox Theatre’s The Sea Show and The Fetch’s Clapper Box interactive puppet booth experience will perform at intervals during the day
  • Vamos’ Midwives on Call is a fun and colourful, mask theatre walkabout show that will start at The Pantiles, encouraging members of the public to take part as they travel throughout the town!Circle of Two’s Bambolina and Dodo will present a short show at 11.45am and provide a spectacular 45 minute finale of the programme on The Pantiles at 4pm.

TWPF is dedicated to bringing world-class puppetry to new audiences and enthusiasts, supporting both established and emerging talent.  The inaugural festival in 2015 was the vision of local, Tunbridge Wells-based theatre producer, Linda Lewis2, which drew thousands of local people and live theatre fans who enjoyed the many sights and sounds, including the striking image of War Horse Joey trotting through The Pantiles to the delight of onlookers.

Linda Lewis comments, “There are only a handful of puppetry festivals in the UK and ours is the only event in the South East region, so we are very excited to be bringing such a broad range of artists to Tunbridge Wells and are thrilled to have Disney’s The Lion King as our partner this year.  Our aim is to bring contemporary puppetry into the mainstream and give local people an opportunity to experience something different.  Our first festival surpassed all expectations and with an even bigger line-up of performers this year we hope we might encourage those who haven’t previously considered a puppetry show to come along, take a chance and give it a go.“

2017 festival tickets are priced from £5 and will be on sale from 4 July.  All outdoor events on
The Pantiles on Saturday 14 October are free.  For full details visit www.twpuppetryfestival.org.