A puppet group, which draws crowds at street festivals such as the Horley St George’s Day events is celebrating its 15th birthday this year.
Wherever they go the Puppetkru Horley team has children and adults transfixed with their musical puppet shows of pop songs with a Christian twist.
Characters starring in them include their very own Elvis, rock guitarists and backing singers putting new words to well known tunes.
Co-founder Stuart Thorpe explained: “I believe it’s a fun, unthreatening way of spreading the word of God to people and it appeals to all ages. My vision was just to go out on the streets and to other churches and just give out the word of God. It helps people who might be shy, because you are hidden and behind a curtain.”
They are renowned in the area and their appeal goes beyond the church community. Their ‘gigs’ have included wedding receptions and town festivals, as well as baptisms and family church services across the denominations.
And it all started with a chance meeting Stuart and co-founder Carol Black, who was worshipping at Horley St Bartholomew’s Church. She said: “We didn’t know each other as we were at different churches. I had seen our (past) vicar’s wife, Fe, use a puppet in a Christmas Day morning service and seeing everyone was transfixed on this puppet. It engaged everyone. My thought was ‘wow wouldn’t it be great if we could use that in church’.”
Meanwhile Stuart, who was at St Wilfrid’s Church, had similar thoughts. He said: “Fe seemed to know I was interested in puppets and she told me about a training session. I went and wanted to start doing it here and put a notice in parish news.”
Carol saw his appeal and the pair have since helped scores of children grow in confidence and in their Christian faith while having fun. Fifteen years on, they have big plans for the ministry.
Carol said: “At the moment the age group we start from is Year 5. What I would like to see is a junior section because you can build them up to the senior section and you can operate two or three teams subject to having enough adult helpers.”
The team rehearses at St Bart’s Church on most term-time Tuesday evenings. Anyone wanting to find out more can contact Carol or Stuart via the parish office on 01293 782218 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.