Hever Festival Theatre Team Take Over Tunbridge Wells Puppetry Festival

Linda Lewis, who founded Tunbridge Wells Puppetry Festival in 2014, is retiring and has handed over the strings to Ailsa Molyneux and Alison Bundy who head the team behind Hever Festival Theatre.

“Alison and I are very excited to have the opportunity to continue this fabulous festival into 2021 and beyond. Linda is leaving a wonderful legacy and after such a trying year for everyone, we are planning to bring some fabulous puppetry and the shared enjoyment of live performance back to the community of Tunbridge Wells.”

Linda dreamt up the family-friendly biennial festival six years ago. Every two years she has delighted our audiences with the magic of world-class puppetry and spectacle. Creating a palpable puppetry festival buzz in Tunbridge Wells and the South East each festival has been bigger and better than the last.

“I am delighted that Ailsa and Alison are taking over the helm. Both are experienced arts producers and their commitment to their new roles will ensure that the festival will continue to develop and thrive. I wish them all the best for this exciting opportunity. 

Many thanks to all the volunteers who have worked for the festival since its inception in 2015. I am sure they will continue to enjoy involvement in this special event under the guidance of our new directors. I look forward to the festival in 2021.” 

We would like to wish everyone a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year

Unlocked: Finalists Announced

We received many high calibre video entries for the Unlocked project which were reviewed by our expert panel in December.

The mission of the project remains to:

  • Identify, support and nurture new, emerging young talent
  • Provide opportunities to present the work to audiences either online or in person during the Festival in October 2021

We are delighted to announce that the videos which are going to collaborate and developed are:

Daydream Productions
Life is a Dream
Megan Crighton
Unlocked Act 2 ‘Wake up’
Alicia Haines & Harriet Edwards
Granny’s Brownies
The Lockdown Daydreamers Theatre Company
Life is a Dream
Phoebe Hyder
Splodge Designs
Cuckoo Cuckoo
Emily King
Reborn a DJ
Mengqiu Xu
Zhaolin Zhou

We are enormously grateful for the support of the panel who have agreed to give their time and mentor the artists later on this year:

  • Cariad Astles, Course Leader, Puppetry Design and Performance at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London University)
  • Dr Kasia Lech, Senior Lecturer in Performing Arts, School of Creative Arts and Industries, Canterbury Christ Church University
  • Sean Myatt, Senior Lecturer, School of Arts and Design, Nottingham Trent University
  • Shaun May, Senior Lecturer in Drama and Theatre, University of Kent
  • Linda Lewis, former Director of Tunbridge Wells Puppetry Festival

Keep an eye on our website and Social Media Pages for further updates.

New Project – Unlocked

Introduction to ‘Unlocked’ – a puppetry video project

The Tunbridge Wells Puppetry Festival, created in 2014, is a family-friendly biennial festival of world-class puppetry and theatre for the people of Tunbridge Wells and the South East. Our aim is to introduce puppet theatre and animation to local audiences, with a focus on bringing the community together through shared enjoyment of live performance.

In the run-up to the fourth festival, in October 2021, we are keen to offer opportunities to recent arts graduates to present puppetry work on video which has been created ‘at home’ during the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more here

New Puppet Club dates announced

After all the fun of the first Puppets & Pastries workshop, where we enjoyed two performances of Beached, handled puppets and constructed intricate paper prawn puppets (not to mention enjoyed a fabulous afternoon tea), we are delighted to announce more dates!

Saturday 7th March

Saturday 28th March

Saturday 4th April

Saturday 18th April

All sessions: 2-5pm

We’re looking forward to seeing our first participants again, and also warmly welcome new members! No experience is necessary. Our next step is creating paper cup puppets. Three afternoons will be spent making and, in the final one, the puppets will be brought to life. ‘This is the most revealing part!’ says Russell Dean, artistic director of Strangeface Theatre, who leads the Puppets & Pastries sessions.

Come to all four sessions if you can, but there’s no need to commit – if you miss one, you can catch up, and in this friendly, supportive group situation, everyone will help each other.

Feedback from the first Puppet Club:

‘Excellent show followed by excellent practical activity’

‘Quite challenging! Very effective!’

‘Lovely coffee and walnut cake, scones etc!’

‘When can we do it again?’

Please contact daisy@twpuppetryfestival.org or call on 07785 904118 to reserve your space.

Cost: Pay what you can, donations welcomed

Click here for directions to Age UK, Wood Street, Tunbridge Wells, TN1 2QS – five minutes walk from Royal Victoria Place, car parking at Royal Victoria Place and Camden Road car park.

Full details here.

Board Members Sought

The Tunbridge Wells Puppetry Festival is growing and seeking expertise of all kinds. If you would like to get involved in a voluntary capacity, please read on:

About us

Tunbridge Wells Puppetry Festival, a Community Interest Company, is the biennial live puppetry festival based in Tunbridge Wells supported by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, Kent County Council and The Arts Council of England.


What we’re looking for:

The Festival is looking for new and additional Board members to assist in guiding the organisation though a period of growth and transition.

In particular we seek people with experience of:

Accountancy; law; marketing, especially in the cultural and arts sectors; performing artists interested in contemporary art forms; and venue management.

The time commitment is attendance at 4-6 board meetings a year, plus support for staff in the various areas of work in which you are experienced.

People with different expertise are also welcome. For example, in 2019, we programmed a number of international artists, and we are keen to receive applications from all nationalities and faiths.

What you can do for us:

  • Help our organisation to grow and develop
  • Liaise with members of staff in their various roles
  • Give the benefit of your experience, contacts and knowledge

What we can do for you:

  • Introduce you to a vibrant, exciting, professional art form
  • Work with other professionals in a fast-moving project
  • Introduce you to the needs and demands of government funding bodies, trusts and foundations and local sponsors
  • Provide you with additional experience for your CV through your voluntary work with us.

What we can achieve together: make a difference for residents and visitors of Tunbridge Wells by delivering a high-quality, accessible festival open to all.

Please send an expression of your interest, including what you feel you can bring to the Board, to matthewjamesadcockbrown@yahoo.co.uk by 28 February 2020.

Further information

Tunbridge Wells Puppetry Festival (TWPF) has continued to grow in size and ambition since the first festival in 2015. In 2015, the festival received a warm welcome as a new arts experience for the people of Tunbridge Wells and surrounding areas. The second festival, in 2017, built on the success of the first, generating 40 press mentions. The third festival, which took place in October 2019, overachieved in audience numbers, earned income and excelled in receiving an enormous amount of press coverage.

We presented 22 different shows with 55 performances, 7 workshops, 1 exhibition and achieved 63 different pieces of press coverage in 2019.

The feedback this year has been amazingly positive:

‘Best day ever – it’s wonderful and lovely people!’

‘Really so enjoyed making my thoroughly, absolutely confused Magpie’

‘Fantastic show!’

Behind the scenes of TWPF 2019 by Festival Director, Linda Lewis

The 2019 festival began for me in early 2018, when I was scouting for remarkable puppetry shows, which would please and excite our audiences in Tunbridge Wells, at festivals and showcases around Europe. This was an exciting year.

Once I decided on the programme, the really hard work started:  raising funding, sponsorship and contracting companies to ensure that they would be available from the 11th to 13 October. As many of these companies came from Europe and were constantly touring, it was often difficult to make contact. For the first time I had to learn how to apply for exemption of foreign entertainer’s tax, as most were young, emerging artists.  That was only one of the many things both I and our team learned this year.

In the end, the preparations, arduous as they were, provided us with the most amazing experiences – my most memorable one was of Cal y Canto performing A-TA-KA! outside in the gardens of Trinity Theatre with children who had participated in a workshop only two hours before. We were very lucky that the performance could take place, as the rain poured down. However, the brave company found a way to shelter their lighting so the show could go on. I wasn’t the only one with tears in my eyes when the performance took place against the backdrop of the beautiful Trinity windows, attended by a huge group of spectators who turned out in inclement weather to see this amazing performance.

Earlier in the year in the summer term, we worked with Age UK and St Barnabas school on an inter-generational project called Sea of Stories inspired by the sea. It was amazing to observe how Katie and Eleanor, directors of the puppet theatre company Rust and Stardust, made the most creative puppets and encouraged the children and the participants from Age UK, who live with dementia, to work together, to talk together, to laugh together. The children were totally oblivious to the fact that these participants were special. Some of the photographs of this touching project show a young boy asking an old gentleman where he had been in the world when he had been a sailor.

Our partnership with Tim Tempest and the Sherwood Men’s Shed project was a highlight of the year as he and his team designed and made four wonderful striped puppet booths from which we could be noticed in the town and distribute programmes to passers-by.  I also bought 13 puppets for use by children who wanted to try their hand at making a puppet show in the booth.

Our most important partner this year and indeed, since the inception of the festival was Trinity Theatre, who provided box office, marketing, and technical services, training for our volunteers as well as support from their members of staff and volunteers. We presented shows in the auditorium, as well as the gardens and the foyer small stage. The gallery was home to the Rust and Stardust magical exhibition. Trinity is the heart and hub of the festival where we meet, network, sit, talk and plan.

Now the third festival is over and I’m coming to the end of reporting back to our funders and supporters with our evaluations and financial reckoning.

We did it! We delivered a highly successful artistic programme which reached more than 4,000 people and we did it within budget, thanks to all the sponsors and supporters as well as the funders, volunteers, and venues –Trinity Theatre, The Assembly Hall Theatre, The Forum, AGE UK,  Camden Centre and Royal Victoria Place.

Before I sign off for 2019, none of the above would have been possible without the extremely hard work, commitment and enthusiasm of our small and professional team.

Thank you Laura Lewis, who project-managed the two outdoor sites for our free street shows and had the foresight to think of a plan B in case of rain – and we needed it! We were warmly welcomed and well looked after by Nicky Blanchard, Centre Manager and staff at Royal Victoria Place where we enjoyed large audiences on Saturday and by Karen Wood at Woods Restaurant on the Pantiles on Sunday. Laura’s organisation, attention to detail and spreadsheets saved the two days.

A big thank you goes to Holly Whytock, who designed and constantly updated our website as well as creating that beautiful poster. A huge thank you to Justine Rutland who, as our marketing manager and social media specialist, came up with lots of ideas which helped us sell 1,208 tickets. Thank you Daisy Pashley, who joined us as volunteer organiser and also took on the role of outreach manager, delivering seven fully booked workshops in schools and in the town. She led 54 volunteers, including five students from Skinners Kent Academy, to work backstage, act as front of house and help with workshops, not to forget the team of drivers who picked up and dropped off our foreign visitors from Gatwick airport.  And last, but certainly not least, thanks to Sarah Turrell, our PR consultant, who delivered 63 pieces of press coverage as well as organising a BBC radio interview and a South East Today special report on the puppetry festival by filming all our artists at Trinity Theatre on Friday 11 October.

So now the excitement is all over and the hard work starts again.

Here’s to the challenge for 2021.  I hope you will enjoy coming back to see us again in two years’ time.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

Linda Lewis, Director.

A round-up of 2019

Well, it’s been a fantastic year!

October brought the third puppetry festival to our town and it was the biggest and best yet: three days of rock-star marionettes, hand puppetry, lost dogs, little monsters, magic, black comedy, pirouetting in the rain, giant magpies, circus, jubjubs… and more. Around 3,000 people attended our free programme, over 1,200 tickets were sold for our shows and workshops, four schools hosted puppet-making sessions and a record-breaking 54 volunteers helped make it happen. The weekend exceeded all expectations and if you’d like to check out our brilliant press coverage, have a look here or take a trip down memory lane with the highlights video on our homepage

Di Filippo Marionette: Hanging By A Thread

Back in the spring, our first intergenerational project, Sea of Stories, brought together children of St Barnabas Primary School, guests of Age UK Tunbridge Wells and theatre company Rust and Stardust to make puppets and create mini puppet shows. These sessions went swimmingly! Watch what happened over on the Sea of Stories page.

Work is well underway for the fourth Puppetry Festival in October 2021. Meanwhile, January will see the launch of Puppet Club: Puppets and Pastries a sociable, puppet-making get-together for everyone over 65 – at Age UK on Wood Street on Saturday 29th January (session to be confirmed). Email us at info@twpuppetryfestival.org to find out more or look out for details after Christmas.

Russell Dean, Artistic Director of Strangeface Theatre, leading a puppet-making workshop

We’re also looking into the possibility of touring a puppet theatre show into residential homes for older people during 2020. If you know of anyone who might be interested in hosting a performance, please email us.

We would like to thank you for your continued support for the Tunbridge Wells Puppetry Festival and we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sun 13 Oct Weather Update


Good morning. The mixed forecast means that two of today’s shows (four performances) will be moving inside to Woods Restaurant & Bars on The Pantiles. These are Tweethearts by Rust and Stardust and Hanging by a Thread by Di Filippo Marionette, which wowed crowds at Royal Victoria Place yesterday.

Other acts are too large to go inside so will be dependent on the weather. Please keep an eye out for updates or best of all, just come to the The Pantiles – the shows will go on whenever it’s dry.

In other news:

Around 10am there will be 11 more tickets released for the sold-out The Hunting of the Snark at Tunbridge Wells Forum at 4pm. Click here to book.

Need more marionettes in your life?! We do! A few tickets remain for our friendly, feelgood Di Filippo Marionette finale at the Forum at 8pm. Rhoda will be singing; there’ll be ukelele; pizza and salad from Estro Pizza and More; and the first full-length performance of Hanging by a Thread in all its wondrousness. Anyone who has already seen a snippet can attest to their artistry and inventiveness! Show only is £10; show + food £20. Tunbridge Wells Forum bar will be open. Doors open 7.30pm for 8pm start. Tickets here.

Sat 12 Oct outdoor performances now indoors!


We are moving INDOORS today for our free puppetry theatre programme. Find us in Royal Victoria Place outside Boots on level 2. Each performance will take place twice.

10.30am and 2pm Di Filippo Marionette – Hanging by a Thread
11.10am and 3.40pm Smoking Apples – Arbor
11.50am and 2.40pm Seb Mayer – Don Quixote
12.30pm and 4pm Judith Hope – Puppet Maker – The Cloud Travellers

THEATRE SHOWS – morning performances

We have availability for 10.30am The Kukuryku Magic Show at Tunbridge Wells Forum but 12.30pm and 3pm are SOLD OUT. Please hurry if you would like to see the amazingly talented Ola Muchin!

10am performance of Lost Dog has been moved to 5pm.

Availability for 10.30am The Adventures of Curious Ganz at Trinity Theatre described last night as ‘brilliant, absorbing, entertaining’!

Please book for these shows here

17 days to go!

It’s less than three weeks to go and here’s all the latest…

Snap up your tickets!

Get into the festival groove with our multi-buy offer – save 10% when you book for two or more TWPF shows**. Visit or call the box office at Trinity Theatre, Church Road (tel: 01892 678678) open Monday to Saturday, 10am–3pm. (Online booking fees are £2 per order.)
Click here for the full programme

Warm-up weekend

We’ll be upstairs at Royal Victoria Place with artist and puppet-maker Judith Hope leading two Make a Magpie rod-puppet workshops for children aged five and up (Saturday 5 October, 11am and 2pm). Please book in advance.

How much can you fit in?! Click the links for some suggested itineraries:

For very young children

For children, ages 5+

For young people, ages 12+

For adults

For European theatre

Group discount offer

There is a new group discount offer for Little Monster at the Assembly Hall Theatre on Friday 11 October – tickets cost just £5 for parties of 10 and over – perfect for nurseries and groups of friends. Little Monster is the brand-new show from the award-winning Touched Theatre and is suitable for children aged three to five. Performances take place at 11am and 1pm (tickets for this show only are available through the Assembly Hall Theatre or call the box office: 01892 530613).

Puppet booths

We’ve been having a lot of fun with our puppets and mini theatres – they’ve rampaged all over town, from the Pantiles to the food festival! Children and, more surprisingly, grown-ups, have tried their hand at puppeteering! Come and say hello:

Saturday 28 September: Tunbridge Wells Independent Farmers Market 11am-2pm

Saturday 5 October: Upper level, Royal Victoria Place, alongside Judith Hope’s Make a Magpie puppetry workshop 11am-3pm (Please book ahead for workshop.)

Sunday 6 October: The Forum 3-5pm

Take a photo with the puppet and enter our #twpuppetryfest competition to win show tickets. The puppets look forward to meeting you!

Puppet club

Sociable, creative get-togethers for everyone over 65
Saturdays 26 October – 30 November
3pm – 5pm
Have you always wanted to have a go at puppet-making? Join us on Saturday afternoons at Age UK in Tunbridge Wells for tea and puppet-making with Russell Dean, artistic director of Strangeface Theatre – six friendly sessions of chat and creativity with like-minded folk. Come and create a puppet character of your own design in a relaxed atmosphere using simple and easy techniques – no previous experience needed.
Tea, coffee and pastries will available.
Pay what you can, donations welcomed
Click here for more info

*The exception is Touched Theatre: Little Monster
**Excludes free events and workshops, as well as Out of the Hat at Trinity Theatre, and Little Monster at Assembly Hall Theatre.