Cutting its strings to tackle issues like child pornography

Going it alone without the funding of the City Council will enable the Copenhagen Puppet Festival to exercise greater artistic freedom

February 28th, 2013 12:00 pm| by admin

Copenhagen Puppet Festival starts today (February 28) and runs until Sunday (March 3)

The city’s puppets are no longer under the control of the City Council.

After nearly ten years under its supervision, the Copenhagen Puppet Festival has cut its strings and taken on a life of its own to become a self-governing, privately-funded institution.


There were multiple reasons behind the split, explained Øystein Leonardsen, a member of the festival’s board of directors. 


“Now that we are a self-governing organisation, we have a greater opportunity for artistic freedoms,” explained Leonardsen. “You can tell the stories that you really want to tell. There is also a greater freedom for sponsorships and collaborations with private companies.”


Working as a separate organisation, he said, would allow the festival to focus more on complex themes and fully embrace its own identity.


“A lot of people misunderstand the meaning of puppetry and assume that it’s all for children, that it isn’t grown up,” Leonardsen told The Copenhagen Post. “We want to show that adult puppetry can in fact be quite serious.”


Founded in 2004 as a one-off event, the festival has long been a creature of two parts, split into Puppet Junior for children and families, and the Copenhagen Puppet Festival for adults. But while the junior version will continue to receive public finding, the adult festival won’t, starting with this year’s festival, which begins at selected venues in Copenhagen on Thursday and lasts until Sunday (see G8 in InOut for more details).


Adult puppet theatre can often tell stories that other mediums cannot adequately cover, Leonardsen explained. He pointed to one of this year’s productions as an example: a piece entitled ‘Hooray for Hollywood’ set within the child pornography industry. 


The main puppeteer, Raven Kaliana, was forced into pornography herself as a child and uses puppetry to communicate her own story in ‘Hooray for Hollywood’. The issues tackled in the production, Leonardsen reasoned, would have been difficult to portray in another medium.


“If we were to illustrate this issue on stage with real people, it would be uncomfortable and difficult to portray,” he explained. “Puppetry can go places that other art forms can’t and take on themes that are difficult for other art forms.” 


“When you read a book, you generate specific images in your mind – but it’s not the same as seeing real people,” Leonardsen went on. “Yet when you view a film onscreen, it lacks the sense of vitality you achieve onstage. So puppetry kind of bridges the gap.”  


Although topics like those in ‘Hooray for Hollywood’ might have been approved by the City Council, Leonardsen maintained that the split would add to the artistic authenticity of the festival’s productions without the concern of the public agenda. 


“As a part of the council, I always had in the back of my mind whether something we covered would be politically approved,” Leonardsen went on. “I’d ask myself: ‘How will this look in the newspaper?’” 


But the City Council did come with a sense of security, he admitted. While the puppet festival failed to secure sufficient funds for 2013, they ultimately managed to get by due to a surplus from the last festival and donations from enthusiastic supporters.


“If we don’t find better funding in the next six months, there’s a possibility that we’ll have to shut down,” he said. “But if that does happen, we’ll know that Denmark wasn’t ready. This in itself is an experiment and quite a leap into the unknown.”


CPH Puppet Festival

Enghavevej 4, Cph V & Lyrskovgade 4, Cph V; starts Fri, ends Sun, performance times vary; tickets: 70-100kr per show; 


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