The World Festival of Puppet Theatres includes:
the world’s largest gathering of puppeteers every other year in Charleville-Mézières
the support of artistic creation through the co-production of shows, the hosting of artists in residence, as well as the promotion and distribution of shows
continuous work all year round in order to promote puppetry and develop audiences in schools, in organizations and within the general public
the organization of “Puppetry Weekend D-365” one year before the festival.
The World Festival of Puppet Theatres came into existence in 1961 by the troupe Les Petits Comédiens de Chiffons.
read more about the Festival
For 60 years Charleville-Mézières has been a privileged place pour the puppetry arts.
First of all, it is a friendship story between young people who met each other in Charleville in difficult moments of the last world war to build and animate together puppets in order to entertain children in the Ardennes.
Indeed, this team of young people had had the opportunity to meet in July 1941 a painter and puppeteer from Lorraine Géo Conde, who taught them how to build and animate some little wooden and rag characters.
In 1961, on the occasion of the Congress of the French Puppeteers, Les Petits Comédiens de Chiffons organized, with the help of the town of Charleville, the first international festival of the puppeteers which gathered theatres from Germany, England, Belgium, France and Luxembourg.
Since then, 12 world-wide festivals have taken place in Charleville-Mézières.
In 1981, an International Institute for Puppetry, permanent place for puppetry Arts, was also created.
In 1987, the National College of Puppetry Arts opened its doors.
In 1991, it was the unveiling of the “Big Puppeteer”, gigantic automaton created by Jacques MONESTIER.
With this all, the town of Arthur Rimbaud has become the crossroads of this Art alive and major.
Thus, puppeteers and puppetry friends like to meet during the festivals and in these places, what made the famous Brazilian puppeteer, Alvaro APOCALYPSE say :
“Charleville is a Mecca for us and it is a place of holy pilgrimage, and besides I think that each puppeteer should go to a festival in Charleville at least once in his life.”
Founded in 1941, the popular education organisation Les Petits Comédiens De Chiffons aims at promoting the art of puppetry to the widest possible audiences.
read more about the Petits Comédiens de Chiffons and the Festival
The creation of the association "Les Petits Comédiens de Chiffons" ("The Little Rag Actors") and of the World-Wide Festival of Puppet Theatres is above all a story of passion and friendship... It was during the difficult moments of the Second World War that some young people met an artist from the Lorraine, Géo CONDE and a Jesuit priest, father Pierre BRANDICOURT, an actor at heart and a puppet handler.
It is together that they learnt to make and to animate puppets with the aim of entertaining the Ardennes children.
A few years later, the meeting with Marcel TEMPORAL, Doctor of puppetry, and also with Mr. POINTUD, the Director of the Teacher Training College of Charleville-Mezieres, caused Jacques FELIX, the present President of the World-Wide Festival of Puppet Theatres, to initiate the teacher training students into the Art of Puppetry.
In 1941, the Company "Les Petits Comédiens de Chiffons" came into being and organized ten years later in 1951 in Charleville-Mezieres, a public event: "The Week of the Puppetry".
It was in 1961 that, following the proposal of Jacques FELIX, the National Congress of the French "Guignolistes" (puppeteers performing with a puppet called "Guignol") and Puppeteers Union, presided over by Yves JOLY came to Charleville.
With the help of the municipality of that time, the first International Puppets Festival uniting the German, English, Belgian, Luxembourg and French theatres was born…
1972: The first World-wide Festival of Puppet Theatres
Jacques FELIX invited some 50 troupes from 30 different countries and programmed some sixty shows.
This event welcomed Albrecht Roser, Philippe Genty, Spejbl and Hurvinek, the "Hitomi-Za" troupe with its practice of bunraku (puppets which are carried), and so many others which over the seven days charmed the town.
1976: It will be the emergence of the Festival OFF and with it the opportunity for young companies of puppeteers to make themselves known.
1979: The Triangel Festival
The performances were continuous in the streets, in the halls....
100 troupes presented approximately one hundred shows in the Festival IN and some 60 performances in the OFF.
The discovery of the Festival was indisputably the "Figurentheater Triangel" from Holland, which very rapidly created great excitement amongst the festival goers, even if it was unknown in France...
1982:Young Artist' Festival
It was the Festival of new talents with Eric Bass, Neville Tranter, ...
1985: The Festival of the Five Continents
The length of the Festival became ten days and for the first time troupes from the five continents were present.
1988 : The Festival welcomed 500 performances and attracted 90 000 visitors.
The Festival of 1991 was the one of anniversaries :
The "Petits Comédiens de Chiffons" were 50 years old, the festival was 30 years old and the " International Institute for Puppetry" was 10 years old.
The 10th festival of 1994 and the 11th one followed…
In 1997, once again approximately 250 companies, without taking into account about one hundred which were invited to the Festival OFF, came from all over the world to put on about 500 shows.
Among these companies, there were these prestigious troupes:
The Stuffed Puppet Theatre, from Amsterdam,
The SPEJBL & HURVINEK Theatre from Prague,
The National Theatre Marionette from Prague,
the Dondoro Theatre from Japan,
The Philippe Genty Company from Paris,
The Arc En Terre Theatre from Marseilles,
And there were creations, shadows shows and all sorts of puppets: object, paper and masked theatres.
Two of the highlights of this XIth Festival :
The International Institute for Puppetry presented :
The Puppetry Art in Japanese Territory, with an impressive exhibition and several events on the Puppetry Arts in this country.
A panorama on the Puppet in ISRAEL
Edition 2000 : The 12th Festival received the label for celebrations of the year 2000 from the Ministry for the Arts and Communication.
Under the title UNIVERSAL PUPPETS 2000, about 300 companies from all over the world met in the different “houses” to present the Puppetry Arts of each continent.
Our favourites among the troupes of this edition 2000:
- The National Theatre of Puppets on Water from Vietnam
- For the first time in Europe, the Mandalay Marionettes from Myanmar (ex-Burma) and its fabulous string puppets.
- The Don Quichotte of the troupe “The Flying visual artists” (France)
- The Teatro Dei Piedi from Roma well received by the Festival goers.
- Casse Noisette of the National Theatre from Budapest
- The Teatro Gioco Vita from Italy with Orphée and Euridyce
- The Theatre El Desnivel from Argentina
This festival has also been marked by the retrospective exhibition about the work of Franca RAME and Dario FO (Nobel prize of Literature 1997)
This 12th edition has presented in the Festivals IN and OFF, the street festival and the decentralisation "Grand 8 Puppet Tour" more than 1200 shows and attracted more than 130000 visitors.
In 2009, the Festival becomes a biennial event.
In 2011, we celebrate its 50th anniversary with more than 150 000 visitors.
The last festival took place in september 2015 and gathered 250 companies and 168 500 spectators from all over the world.
Today, Charleville-Mézières has become the obligatory crossing point for all the puppet lover.
Board of directors
Jean-Luc Félix (President)
Stéphane Collet (Treasurer)
Lothaire Claudel (Secretary)
Sylvie Collot (Secretary assistant)
Administrators: Jérôme Descamps, Claude Guillou, Sylvie Jupinet, Alain Lecucq, Jean-Pierre Lescot, Claire Pellerier, Philippe Vaillant, Francis Vexo