Dragon quest show at Kettering's Wicksteed Park boosts town's cultural programme

The performance at Wicksteed Park was part theatre - part quest by Picture the Difference
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Knights, ninjas, wizards, a jester and even talking dragons have been roaming Wicksteed Park as part of an interactive quest boosting Kettering's Cultural Programme.

Picture the Difference (PtD), a Kettering-based creative and performing arts project for young people and adults with additional needs, created A Dragon's Tale funded by Historic England.

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The inclusive family show - part theatre and part treasure hunt - included fun games and challenges for the audience to complete to release a 'clue' from the dragon to find the next location.

The cast and crew from Picture the Difference's A Dragon's TaleThe cast and crew from Picture the Difference's A Dragon's Tale
The cast and crew from Picture the Difference's A Dragon's Tale

The quest around Wicksteed Park at the end of July saw guests learn a 'sword' routine, spot the missing spell books, assemble a giant dragon puzzle, learn a simple dance routine and squirt water at naughty Lester the Jester.

Zoe Martin, founder and creative director of Picture the Difference, said: "This show worked really well at Wicksteed. Our actors were amazing with the public and I'm so proud of their communication skills and professionalism.

"Our whole cast of actors and puppeteers have some kind of additional need, such as autism or a learning difficulty. We embrace 'difference', and enjoy setting a creative challenge which encourages our participants to develop both personally and professionally."

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Everything in A Dragon's Tale was co-produced and created by PtD participants, with low-level staff support. The group wrote the script storyline and characters, creating the character design and development. They then turned their hands to prop-making crafting swords, artwork, a giant painted puzzle, spell books, gifts for the audience and a giant 'sword in the stone'.

Lady of the Lake AzuraLady of the Lake Azura
Lady of the Lake Azura

Puppets were created for the show with not one but five dragons - the fire dragon, earth dragon, shadow dragon, water dragon and galaxy dragon all making a magical appearance.

Super-talented designer Max Champion illustrated the event's programme creating a storybook feel for visitors.

Zoe said: "It was lovely to have all the children meeting the characters and dragons after the show; the children loved taking Excalibur from the stone! Some participants train to become PtD crew arts leaders with opportunities for future employment, as our project develops.

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"Huge thanks to Tracey Clarke, Wicksteed Park's community and heritage manager, who allowed us to perform in the beautiful park."

The Shadow Dragon meets visitorsThe Shadow Dragon meets visitors
The Shadow Dragon meets visitors

Both Wicksteed Park and Picture the Difference are part of the new Kettering Cultural Consortium, so it is hoped that there will be more collaboration and creative content in the pipeline.

Kettering's Cultural Programme's three-years of events has been funded by Historic England.

Picture the Difference has just granted another three years' funding from the National Lottery Community Fund.

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Zoe added: "This is a huge vote of confidence for us and means that we can open three days a week and also offer some paid job opportunities for our additional needs art leaders.

The illustrations of the characters by designer Max ChampionThe illustrations of the characters by designer Max Champion
The illustrations of the characters by designer Max Champion

"All our creative work is original and co-produced with our participants often in the lead, working to showcase their creative talents and interests.

"Performances are taken into community settings and schools, providing opportunities to challenge misconceptions about additional needs and create opportunities for social interaction, and to build confidence and employability skills of our participants. We are a National Lottery funded project, and are thankful for this and local grant support from Northamptonshire Community Foundation.

"The weather was a bit of a challenge at times but we soldiered on and the sun shone on the third and final performance day. Thank you to amazing photographer, Stephen Varty, gifting his time to capture the magic."