Workshops for refugee women

Julia Dunbar McLean
Julia Dunbar McLean

A Hastings-based puppet theatre company is working with local refugee and asylum seeker women in a series of autumn workshops.

Julia Dunbar McLean, who runs Idolrich Theatre Rotto Productions, has received funding from the Arts Council and Community First to host the Shaking Hands workshops.

The women have the opportunity to make their own puppets and these creations will then be displayed in an exhibition at Forward St Leonards the week beginning November 10. There will also be a puppetry show at the Hastings Storytelling Festival from November 11 to 17. Julia said: “There are different puppetry traditions in different parts of the world and the women share these traditions in a kind of cultural exchange. I have been doing puppetry since the 1990s. I’d been in drama and acting before then but then I really got into puppets. I think that audiences love them because it is inanimate objects that come to life. I think it is really expressive as a performance because you have got these characters coming to life. There are all kinds of other skills involved, such as making the puppets and lighting, a lot of visual arts are involved in puppetry. I also found that it really opens up communication and really is a great tool for communication.” With a grant from the Foreshore Trust, Julia is also running Frog SOS, a fun fact-funding mission to look for a missing frog puppet. The trail, which is led by character Tripper the Skipper, will end with a puppetry show. Children and adults are to meet near the Fisherman’s Museum, Rock-a-Nore Road, at 10.30am, every Sunday, September 21 to October 12.

Shaking Hands takes place on Mondays, 12.30pm at Concordia Hall, St Leonards, until October 23. Visit