Introducing our Nottingham Puppet Festival bursary award recipients

Date published: 7 Mar 2024

Posted by: Joe Pick

Promotional graphic with a vibrant coral background featuring bold black text that reads 'MEET OUR NOTTINGHAM PUPPET FESTIVAL BURSARY RECIPIENTS'. To the right side of the text, there is a whimsical illustration of a yellow puppet character with a surprised expression, peeking into the frame.

Two Nottingham artists and a theatre company have been awarded bursaries as part of the 2024 Nottingham Puppet Festival. City Arts and an expert panel awarded the bursaries to support the professional development of these innovative artists.

The work that bursary recipients make will be showcased during the festival. Keep an eye on the festival website and social media to find out when.

Meet the Bursary Recipients


Meander is a Nottingham based company of learning disabled and autistic creatives. The group produce bold new performances and art work that challenge audience. The company was established in 2011. The company have worked with various venues and arts organisations. They including Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham Playhouse, City Arts, Sheffield Crucible and Graeae Theatre Company.

Promotional image for Meander Theatre featuring three black and white portraits of smiling women against a plain background. From left to right: a woman with curly hair and glasses, a woman with straight hair and a confident gaze, and a woman with shoulder-length hair and a friendly smile. Above the images, the theatre's name 'meander' is displayed in bold, distressed orange letters.

Meander will revisit a short performance piece. It explores the group’s experiences of bullying, both in work environments and in friendships. The show features three different puppet characters. With the support of the bursary, they will enhance these puppets and explore new ways of puppeteering them.

We are delighted to receive the City Arts Puppet Bursary. It will give Meander Theatre and all the creatives involved an opportunity to develop, create, and share our puppetry and performance skills with a wider audience.

Bryony McCombie Smith

Bryony is a puppeteer and theatre maker, living and working in Nottingham. She has worked on various puppet projects. They include building a dragon for Nottingham Light Night and touring the UK and Canada, puppeteering for Nikki Charlesworth’s production ‘What Happened to You?’. Bryony is interested in creating puppetry that captivates and enlightens people.

A portrait of a person with a gentle smile, gazing directly at the camera. They have tousled dark hair with a playful fringe and clear green eyes. They're wearing a black blouse with a small white floral pattern, set against a background of warm-toned bricks.
A person in a medieval costume interacts with a vibrant blue dragon puppet. The dragon, adorned with sequins and sporting prominent white horns, seems to be playfully engaging with the individual, who is smiling and looking towards the creature with a sense of wonder. The setting is outdoors with a backdrop of lush green foliage.

Using her bursary, Bryony will create a show based around a zombie burlesque dancer. Aimed at adults, the comedic puppetry show will combine humour, glamour and horror.

I’m really excited for the opportunity to push myself and diversify my skills as a puppeteer and maker. I’m grateful to City Arts, for the support they’ve offered, helping me to get the most out of my project, not only now, but in the future.

Liz Johnson

Liz is a puppet maker, character costume maker and puppeteer. She started her company Promotional Props and Costumes Ltd in in the late 1990s. It specialises in making character costumes and puppets for commercial companies, as well as for theatre, film and advertising.

A woman with vibrant red hair and a warm smile sits casually in a puppet-making workshop. Behind her, an array of whimsical puppet figures with exaggerated skull-like faces are perched, showcasing different stages of the creative process. She wears a dark jacket over a playful t-shirt, and her sunglasses are perched atop her head, suggesting a lively and artistic work environment.
A characterful puppet with a detailed, expressive face is styled with curly hair, oversized round glasses, and a fashionable ensemble. The puppet wears a leopard print blouse, a knit cardigan, and is adorned with large earrings and multiple necklaces. She is seated before a luxurious red velvet background with the text 'Slightly Psychic Cynthia' in elegant script.

With the support of the bursary, Liz is developing a stand up comedy act called “Slightly Psychic Cynthia”. Based on the artist’s grandmother, Cynthia reads tarot cards and tea leaves. Her predictions are random, sometimes rude, and funny.

Receiving the bursary is very encouraging and affirming. The money will be used on workshops with professionals to develop my act as well as physical things for the show like head mics and costumes. This bursary is going to really help develop my act with Cynthia the puppet in so many different ways. Thank you so much.

About Nottingham Puppet Festival

Celebrating the artistry of puppets and puppetry along with the communities that inspire their stories, the third Nottingham Puppet Festival will bring puppetry of every kind to all corners of the city.

Nottingham Puppet Festival is produced through a partnership between the Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall and City Arts.