All the World's Our Playground Festival

From Giant lizards whose tummies can store 18 children to dazzling circus acts. From interactive re-tellings of Hansel and Gretel to wandering giant Neanderthals in search of home: Shepton Mallet hosed a curious range of fantastic acts and performers this March.

The Festival entitled All the World’s Our Playground is a collaboration between Make the Sunshine CiC, Bowlish Infant School, and five partner primary schools in Shepton Mallet St Paul’s, Shepton Mallet Infant School, St Aldhelm’s, Croscombe and Stoke St Michael – as well as a huge range of talented artists and theatre-makers. The concept of the festival is all about letting children’s creativity and imagination take over the town. Programming was steered by a student programming panel. For the event in March we also held a vote on election day in December 2019 where nearly 1,000 children took to the polls.

As well as professional companies performing across seven sites around Shepton Mallet over 900 children worked together to create a community performance. The show, which was performed on Friday 6th March at St Paul’s school, featured nearly 300 students from six schools performing a story they created about a young girl from Shepton Mallet called Rosie. Rosie travelled to many different worlds and lands – journeying under the sea to meet some miraculous jellyfish, travelling to a planet which is facing a climate emergency, to a magical circus in the sky and to an island where stories come to life. The story was created using the words of over 900 students – every student in each school got to play a part in creating it, and as well as being huge amounts of fun, the show also shares lots of the thoughts and experiences of younger people in Shepton, their concerns about the wider world and what they really value about home.

To create the performance students worked with an incredible range of storytellers, performers, shadow puppetry specialists and makers. Louise Lappin-Cook who runs Make the Sunshine CiC, and is working with the schools to organise the project, said “we’ve been so lucky with the huge range of talented artists who have been part of this programme. The students have seen some incredible theatre and gained advice and insights from Martha King who specialises in making shadow puppetry animation, from Emma Hill who run’s Shepton’s amazing Chapel Dance studio, David Reakes a storyteller from Glastonbury and dozens of other local and regional artists and performers.”

Thanks to support from The Arts Council, Wells Festival of Literature, Framptons in Shepton Mallet, Literature Works and the support of partnering organisations all events were provided free of charge.

There were some fantastic performances on the programme including a revolving range of shows from Higher Beings circus and from Emerald Ant CiC who brought Horace the Pilosaur from the Jurassic coast. PaddleBoat Theatre ran a free interactive theatre show of Hansel and Gretel which they performed to sell-out audiences in Exeter this Christmas. Festival regulars Noisy Oyster who tour internationally but are based in Frome performed walkabout theatre and also a marionette circus show, Tara Joy brought a magical musical reading of her story The Inner Essence of Trees, Brook Tate wow-ed audiences at Shepton Mallet Library with the musical My Great Giraffe and Somerset-based Wassail hosted some interactive walkabout theatre Pete and the Dragons of Shepton. 

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