Made by leading artists from the original Muppet Show, our films provide on-the-ground organisations with a much needed awareness tool to engage both children and families in a wide range of contexts and drawing people into a world where risks can be seen from a new perspective; a place they can safely allow themselves to explore and where there is no judgement.
Remember Fozzie Bear and Animal? Michael Frith, their creator and for 21 years Jim Henson’s Artistic Director, designs all No Strings film puppets while his wife, puppeteer and writer Kathy Mullen, puts concepts together for scripts and shoots and attracting some of the best in the industry to work alongside.
No Strings films might talk about what families can do to prevent malaria infection in sub-Saharan Africa, or influence hand-washing with soap take-up, something No Strings has recently adapted for the coronavirus pandemic and are disseminating in countries with urgent need and relatively few healthcare resources. Others focus on people’s core wellbeing following conflict and displacement in the Middle East or in the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh, or in various parts of the world on being prepared for natural disasters, on sustainable land use and environmental protection, nutrition, gender equality, trafficking, HIV prevention, landmine awareness and more.
Over the years, the No Strings field team has developed a curriculum for each programme that allows affected children or communities to explore and interpret messages so that they make sense. They do this by partnering with leading international organisations such as Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Save the Children and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), training local staff in techniques that allow affected people to interact through imaginary beings.
Now that might sound a little crazy, but puppetry – the simple art of picking something up and making it talk, or emote – can take play to a whole other magical place where we can step back and consider what we do on an emotional as well as an intellectual level, which experts believe is key for lasting behaviour change. It is also fun when children, and adults, need a dignified outlet for laughter and creativity. And because it’s different, people tend to want to have a go at some level or another so it’s naturally collaborative, be it as part of a group telling a story through shadow puppetry, or making puppets from junk or natural materials to explore specific issues, or bringing a model of a village, street or camp area to life so that the impact of behaviours is magnified.
No Strings is thus both a film-making and a training organisation, working to help children and families improve their own health and wellbeing through the use of the imagination and puppets.