About Festival of Ideas

About Festival of Ideas

Martin Robinson Puppet Power
WP Puppet Power The Fearless Face of Puppetry 2013. Photo — Jenn Pirece/Sieppert

Our FESTIVAL OF IDEAS:PUPPET POWER, has been produced 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!)

WP Puppet Power The Fearless Face of Puppetry 2013. Photo  — Jenn Pierce/Sieppert

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

November 2023: Materials 

Festival of Ideas 2023Ideas 2023 asks, how can puppets, ‘metaphors of matter’, help us address our Material World?
Friday November 24 and Saturday November 25, 2023
In-person at C-Space, Calgary, AB
& Online//Live Streamed

The magic and wonder of live puppet theatre, like any theatre, is the ephemeral. The moment is there and then it is not. The ‘sparks of animation’ live on only in the memory of the performer and audience.
But at the same time there is a materiality in the puppet. It is a physical object. It’s very being is wrapped in a wood or fabric case. They can be ice puppets, brick puppets, plastic puppets or even puppets from adult diapers. It’s character dictates the materials and animation methods chosen by the maker. It’s appearance influences the audience’s perceptions of it’s nature. “It is the ultimate ‘mark maker’ – a statement that we are here and we exist”*.
Puppets quite literally are the stories of stuff.

Click here for the complete program of speakers and events.

November 2022:  Non-Human Perspectives:

This one day festival was presented in-person and live streamed from C-Space in Calgary. It was inspired Mind of a Snail who are a shadow puppetry duo currently based out of Vancouver, BC. Their large scale shadow puppetry is quirky, colourful and beautiful, like early animation performed live before your eyes.

Overhead Projector Shadow Puppetry WorkshopChloe and Jessica lead a wonderful Overhead Projector Shadow Puppetry Workshop



In the evening they performed Caws & Effect,  a modern fable is told using handmade layered projections, puppetry, masks, and an original musical score.



Puppet Perspectives PanelistsWe also hosted a fascinating online conversation with panelists Paulette Richards, Clem Martini, Larry Kaputska and Matt Smith hosted by Wendy Passmore-Godfrey, where we asked Is it time for the non-human voice to be heard?


Puppet Power - Festival of Ideas Speaker Collage V2May 2022: 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:

May 2020: Puppets Go Existential ** and ONLINE!

Puppet Power 2020 - Existential

** 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: 

Puppet Power 2018 Story Bighetty Brothers from Pukatawagin, MB
(Photo by Jenn Pierce/www.jenn-pierce.com)


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

Puppet Power 2016 - Connecting Generations

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.

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”.

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.

Puppet Power 2013 - Fearless Face of Puppets

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.