About Festival of Ideas

About Festival of Ideas

Festival of Ideas
Martin Robinson, Sesame International, says, “If you can make a difference in the world – how can you not do it?”The Fearless Face of Puppetry 2013

Our FESTIVAL OF IDEAS:PUPPET POWER, has been produced biennially since 1999. The event focuses on applied puppetry, i.e.: puppetry beyond performance, and explores the theory and practice of how puppetry arts promote positive social change. Previous themes have included existentialism, multiculturalism & diversity, literacy, therapy, social action, and intergenerational communities.

It features local, Canadian, and international master puppeteers presenting inspiring talks, practical how-to workshops, and/or puppetry-based performances over the weekend. Panelists discuss intriguing ideas, peers mentor peers, and a community is created that calls for action on a different social issue theme each year. Past international keynote speakers include Carrie Marshall (Scotland), Judith O’Hare (Boston), Gary Friedman (Australia), and Martin Robinson from Sesame International (New York).

Puppet Power historically, draws between 100 – 200 local, national, and international attendees from three demographics:

  • Helping Professionals i.e. teachers, social workers, therapists, health care workers who use or are interested in using puppetry in their practices.
  • Artists looking for professional development, ideas, to expand or deepen their practice as they network with general attendees and/or meet/share ideas with the master presenters.
  • Thought Leaders, Idea Generators, and Students who contribute to and are interested in current events and social issues of our time.

Putting the power of puppetry put in the hands of the people.
(Or the hands of the people put into puppets!)

Festival of Ideas
The Fearless Face of Puppetry 2013

Like Joseph.
Joseph is one of a busy family of six children. He made a wooden spoon puppet representing his mother. He wishes he could have more of his Mum’s attention.

Like Donna.
She stepped out of her fear to grow as an artist and as a person.

Like Barb.
Guided 60 grade 2 students to make over 100 puppets, all with their own individual personalities, and produce movies such as “Nicolas Makes Fun of John” and “No Standing on Chairs in the Lunchroom”.

FESTIVAL OF IDEAS: Highlights of past events:

Puppet Power - Festival of Ideas Speaker Collage V22022: Celebration

Puppet Power 2022 as both the online Festival of Ideas program and the in-person Family Festival Day had so many different aspects that resonated with so many people (as indicated in the surveys and the smiles on the faces) This is indeed a celebration that carries us into planning the next iterations!

As we have in past years, we engaged an ‘Animateur’ to ‘animate the ideas and inspiration’. Jeremiah Bartrum, Ottawa, rose to this unusual challenge with thoughtful insightful observations.

We celebrate in the face of the fears and dark forces of our time, knowing that we belong to a community of artists, of puppeteers, of seekers, of peace makers and we are confident that our work, however intimate or grand in scale, has the power to change the world.

Our 2022 Presenters

PP22 Report FINAL


Thank you to our supporters:


2020: Puppets Go Existential ** and ONLINE! Festival of Ideas

** Existentialism: A philosophical inquiry concerned with the experience of being a thinking, feeling, acting, living human. Examining existence. Questioning the meaning of life.

Puppet Power 2020: Puppets Go Existential conference theme was chosen against a backdrop of Fridays for Future, a rise of machine learning and algorithms, Mars exploration program, genetic engineering on mosquitos, Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, nanotechnology, burning Amazon jungles…

The year 2020, suggested a special time for clarity to examine some of the existential considerations of our time: Climate Action, Artificial Intelligence, Culture & Identity and Hope & Human Agency.

Then a new existential event brought even greater urgency to examine our vulnerabilities and spurred our decision to offer our biennial conference 100% online.

PP 20 Final Report: 

2018: STORY: The very successful weekend inspired, galvanized, encouraged, and mentored over 150 attendees to think deeply about ‘story’, and experience the transformative power of all things, living and non-living, to tell stories – including stories and songs that have been told on this land for thousands of years by our first peoples.


PP18 Final Report
PP18 Conference Presenters
PP18 Resources

Connecting Generations 2016

2016 : Connecting Generations: Two keynotes: Karrie Marshall of Creativity in Care (Scotland) and Eric Bass of Sandglass Theater (USA), move the audience to tears as they speak of their work with dementia and Alzheimer participants. Sharon Bayly (Vancouver), Marla Limousin (Courtney) and Mudfoot Theatre (Calgary) were also wonderful presenters.

Check out the Photo Gallery!

PROGRAM – Connecting Generations 2016 

2013: The Fearless Face of Puppetry – Festival of Ideas had Martin Robinson inspire us as our keynote and master class presenter, and Trish Leeper talked about the impactful “Tale of Teeka”.

Relive the weekend’s events in our Photo Gallery.

PROGRAM – The Fearless Face of Puppets 2013

Photo by Jenn Sieppert
The Fearless Face of Puppetry 2013

2007: Puppets as Agents of Social Change featured Gary Friedman speaking on Puppets in Apartheid and a giant puppet parade in which the puppets themselves presented a Manifesto based on the UN Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 2005: Puppets Promote Literacy had Judith O’Hare present The Literacy Connection as keynote.

 2003: Embracing Multiculturalism featured an exhibit of Kathy Foley’s puppets, a performance by Puppetmongers and a workshop by Chinese Theatre Works.

 2002: Puppets as a Therapeutic Medium saw Mickey Aronoff presents “A Soul in the Palm of your Hand” as the keynote.

2001: Puppet Power Inaugural: Matthew Bernier spoke and lead wonderful workshops on puppets used in therapeutic interventions.

Over the years PUPPET POWER:FESTIVAL OF IDEAS has galvanized our participants and they’ve said:

“It was great to get out of the box of regular items and use other items. Workshop was too short! I had so much fun.”

 “The motivation in this conference was great and gave me a green light to put in practice the dormant ideas in my head. “

 “I expected to get Ideas, Inspiration and networking and YES that’s what I got. Empowered is how I feel. “

“The convergence of ideas and unusual ‘puppet people’ sparked many creative, entrepreneurial ideas for me”

Using the power of puppetry to impact social change.