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This is fun - but with strings attached ; PUPPET FESTIVAL: Performers comefrom as far afield as Holland to entertain crowds

September 26, 2013

YellowBrix

WITHAM was invaded by giant spiders, 12ft bugs controlled by red demons and the famous metallic robot, Titan, as the annual international puppet festival wowed crowds all over town.

Adults and children alike were entertained by a variety of puppet theatre, from traditional Punch and Judy shows to performers walking on five-metre stilts.

More than 60 performers came from as far afield as the Netherlands and County Durham to entertain the crowd at four sites, including the Newlands centre, on Newland Street, the Grove centre and Witham library.

Charmaine Tuke, 31, of Maldon, brought her young family, Layla, eight, Alicia, six, and Harry, three. The kids can't get enough of Titan the robot, she said. They've been watching him on YouTube for weeks so I'm here for all three of his performances today.

We've been coming here for the last couple of years and we always have a great time, it's always a fun day with something for everyone.

The library was open during the festival for the first time, hosting The Suitcase Circus and The Yarn Spinner acts - along with storytelling.

Laura-Jane Smith, 35, from Witham, and her sons Archie, seven, and Alfie, four, were at the free festival for the first time.

The kids absolutely love the shows - it's great because it covers all ages so my little ones can engage with the smaller acts whilst the older kids like the larger, scarier acts, she said.

Spider Young Archie added: It's been really good, the spider wanted to eat me up.

Mark Squire, 52, is the town clerk at Witham Town Hall and was marshalling the 17 volunteer stewards. It's been a pleasure to organise the puppet festival, he said.

It's always one of our biggest days of the year entertaining young and old and making Witham the focal point.

It's important that the event remains free and today we've been pretty lucky with the weather so it's a big crowd.

Local businesses also attract extra custom and it's always good to see people dragged away from computer screens and seeing live entertainment.

There was a hog roast at the back of the White Hart pub, a variety of stalls and even street performances from local children who danced and sang for the crowds. Witham resident Chris Banks, 29, brought his children Mia, three, and Archie, four, to the event. She said: We've been coming here for the last six years and it's always been a spectacular day out for the kids, being from the local area we look forward to the festival. It's always well organised and everyone is in good spirits - they loved the galaxy walkers.

Although Archie disagreed, adding: I liked the big bugs.

Erik Vink, 32, from The Netherlands uses 2.5 metre stilts to perform as a giant ant.

He said: I love the reaction of the crowd here, that's the best part of my job and today I've had some funny moments. In different countries you get a different response but here is really positive - it's all about joy and fun. Erik, who performs for the Closeact group, added: It's really relaxed here and a great experience for me as a performer. I've been doing this for a long while so I can't wait for next year.

Local schools also took part in a puppet-making competition with their puppets on display to the crowds throughout the day.

Gill Burns, 30, came from Yorkshire to perform as a hippo trainer. She said: I loved some of the puppets the kids made at school, they were fantastic.

We've heard about the festival on the circuit and we know that Witham is a good festival to perform at - it's fabulous to see all the different types of acts that are being shown today, from the more traditional puppets to the large musical acts - it's a great mix.

Karin Bell, 40, of County Durham, spoke to The Chronicle from her seahorse-drawn chariot.

She said: It's so fun to see all the children so happy. Because I'm quite low to the floor I try to interact with the smaller children, so there's something for everyone. That's something the festival has really been good at, providing entertainment for everyone.

WERE YOU AT THE FESTIVAL? For more photos from the Witham Puppet Festival VISIT OUR PHOTO GALLERY essexchronicle.co.uk

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