Students create films about the Hartlepool Monkey legend for popular festival
A series of short films about the legend of the Hartlepool Monkey created by students on The Northern School of Art‘s Acting, Production Design, Visual Effects and Model Making and Film and TV courses have been featured as part of a popular community festival.
The films were the result of a collaboration with puppet designer and director, Toby Olié, from puppetry company Gyre & Gimble, who worked on ‘Warhorse’, and local theatre maker and director, Ruth Mary Johnson, and were shown as part of BloomInArt’s Wintertide Festival in Hartlepool.
The project was a re-imagining of the 2017 hit stage show by Gyre & Gimble and independent live theatre production company Fuel based on the tale that has survived the test of time and captured imaginations for over 200 years,
Together with numerous local partner organisations, including BloomInArt, Great Places Tees Valley and Hartlepool Borough Council, the 2020 project joined forces with people across Hartlepool to explore the myth and mystery (or fact and history!) of the monkey who came to town.
The resulting films were inspired by over 500 responses received from school children, community groups and families about the best places for monkeys to play and hide in Hartlepool, along with ideas for new stories for the town.
Ruth Mary Johnson, the project leader, said: “A big part of the project is about celebrating creativity in the community of Hartlepool, and supporting the development of early career artists locally.
“The students have shown such energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the project. They’ve learnt new skills, and had an opportunity to present work in a brilliant local festival.”
The twenty-five students worked within five different production teams, taking on the roles of producer, health and safety coordinator, writers, directors, puppeteers, set designers, animators and editors.
Ruth added: “All students have worked within elements of their studies whilst taking on roles that have been out of their comfort zone and learning new skills in digital storytelling, which will no doubt prove useful in their future careers.”
Acting student Sherkeighra Garnham, along with fellow student India Robertson took part in community conversations via Zoom, interviewing people about what the Hartlepool Monkey meant to them.
She said that working on the project had given her a really useful insight into her future career: “After graduation I’m interested in working within drama facilitation which is what Ruth does.
“Having the support from Ruth for my own individual work which I am creating for my course was really helpful too. Fuel is also such an important company and it is always good to have the opportunity to work alongside industry professionals as it is a valuable learning experience.
“All in all, it’s been a really fun project to be involved in and really has helped with getting an insight into possible career routes in the industry.”
Jonny Bussell, Acting Faculty Leader said: “We’re really proud of the work the students have produced.
“The project has been in the planning for nearly three years and it has been great for our students to work on a collaborative and dynamic project. It has shown the students how projects can shift and change through a process.
“It also shows the flexibility of skills that the students gain on their degree programmes in that they were able to adapt in this ever changing cultural landscape. These experiences working with professionals also help to develop their understanding of the sector and develop their soft skills as well as puppetry skills.”
All of the films created are available to view at: https://www.wintertidefestival.co.uk/elementor-91/hartlepool-monkey-homecoming/
For further information about the School’s Acting, Production Design, Visual Effects and Model Making and Film and TV degree courses visit: https://northernart.ac.uk/study-with-us/hartlepool-campus/ba-degree-courses/