History: The Centre was founded in 1981 at The Garret, 39B Otago Street, Glasgow by professional puppeteer and mask-maker, Malcolm Yates Knight. Between 1981 and 1984, in collaboration with the Scottish Puppet Festival Association, the Centre played a coordinating role in organising festivals. In 1985 the Centre was incorporated as a Limited Liability Company with no share capital no. 94166 and then in 1985 was recognised as a Charity registered in Scotland no. SCO 14379 by the Inland Revenue. Our vision at that time included the longer term aim of establishing a 250 seat theatre, interactive museum, and alternative education institute. Funding during this period came from The Manpower Services Commission, Glasgow District Council, The Scottish Arts Council, and the Carnegie UK Trust.
In 1989 the Centre moved to its current site at Balcarres Avenue with the support of a 99-Year Lease from Glasgow City Council. The new base was converted into an 80-seat studio theatre, cafe, exhibition space, production & design workshops, stores and office complex with visitor accommodation. In November 1989 the new building hosted the Soviet-British UNIMA Conference funded by New Beginnings Ltd. During 1990 Glasgow was the European City of Culture, and the new Centre launched a year-round programme of events, exhibitions, training courses and workshops from England, Europe, Russia and India.
In December 1990 at a special symposium in Bilbao, the International Federation of Centres for Puppetry Arts was formed, and Malcolm Knight was elected as its first President (to network the 16 key centres from Venezuela to Moscow).
In 1991 the Centre became part of an official Twinning Exchange with the Rostov-on-Don State Puppet Theatre who performed ‘The Gingerbread Boy’ and ‘Teremok’ in Glasgow, while Malcolm Knight and Mike Gonzalez produced an adaptation of ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ with rod puppets in Rostov.
During the 1990’s the Centre continued to maintain a year-round programme of Saturday shows, international masterclasses, and workshops for schools and community organisations. Visiting companies have included Taccedin Diker (Turkey), The Krishnaleela Tour (India), Yiannis Dayakos (Greece), The Oregon Puppet Theatre (USA), Eugenios Spatharis (Greece), Baul Teatro (Mexico), Asep Sunandar Sunarya (Java). Mask workshops have included Adriano Iurissevitch (Italy); Ninian Kinnier-Wilson, Sally Brookes, Phil Clarke (England); and Nohzin Suzuki (Japan).
Between 1995 – 2004 Malcolm Knight forged a new educational partnership with Anniesland College in Glasgow. He wrote and implemented a two year Higher National Diploma foundation training programme in Puppet Theatre Arts. The Centre acted as a Field Centre for this teaching and seventy students graduated from the programme over the nine years that the course ran. The Course attracted students from Italy, Germany, Belgium, Denmark and Norway and the UK. The age range for the course extended from 17-80 years.
The Centre has also maintained close links with The University of Glasgow Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies and The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. The Centre is now widely recognised as a major U.K. research training and demonstration resource in the developing field of masks, puppets and performing objects.
The Centre has also acquired significant Documentation and Collection resources over the past twenty years including: The Miles Lee International Collection of Puppets and Marionettes (1986); the Magic of Masks and Puppets Collection Touring Exhibition, and The Caricature Theatre Collection from Wales donated by Jane Phillips (2001). The Reference Library and Audio-Visual Archive has been created by Malcolm Knight, and is fully equipped with a fast broadband system to facilitate research and links to parallel sites.
In 2005 we launched a new world-wide book service focussing on newly published works for puppeteers, puppet centres and puppet enthusiasts called Personae – Mask and Puppet Books. This service was previously available from Ray DaSilva who still deals with secondhand and antiquarian books.
The Centre is now moving forward with a Phase 2 development to establish a larger theatre of 120 seats in the converted store areas that will be suitable for medium-scale touring product – masks, puppets, mime, physical theatre, dance, film and television making – as well as available for rehearsals and hire.
Philosophy: Our philosophy is one of radical humanism. We think that the act of channelling life through the use of masks, puppets, magic and performing objects is a powerful antidote to the effects of globalisation that so often reduce people to objects and that this makes them ideal tools to use against dehumanisation.
Our aim has been establish a unique place as an international centre specialising in mask, mime, puppetry and physical theatre. The Centre will eventually house a larger theatre, interactive museum, and education institute Our policy is to create greater opportunities for children and families to become involved with one of the most ancient and popular art forms, and to encourage involvement in cultural animation projects, based on public participation and cultural democracy. The Centre has a strong commitment to social issues, access, outreach and education work.
The Centre continues to consolidate its base on a number of fronts both as a social enterprise and as a destination venue. The artistic remit is broad, but given the nature of the current audience, work centres on children, family and school groups. This is by no means to the exclusion of other areas, artistically, nationally or internationally. An essential part of the Centre’s remit is to broaden the knowledge, familiarity, understanding and enjoyment of puppetry for all.
We strive to unite theory and practice (Gk. praxis) in the interests of promoting skill sharing, active mutual collaboration and sound educational training. In the words of Plato “let your children’s education take the form of play” or to echo the sentiment of renowned Polish puppet theatre designer, Adam Kilian, “kindle the joy of life even in a stick”.