By Lisa Finch

With museums closed, Cabaret Mechanical Theatre has been reaching out to its audiences online, running automata-making workshops with people from across the world. But closer to home, they have been collaborating with A Town Explores A Book Festival and their creative team.

This year’s book, Edward Lear’s Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets fits perfectly with Cabaret’s quirky and humorous automata, or moving kinetic sculptures, to combine creative fun with cams, cranks using cardboard, and recycled junk to create Nonsense Automata.

In advance of the online workshops, Cabaret have been putting inspiring materials and automata kits (including a copy of the Edward Lear book) in the post to 86 Year 9 students at St Richards Secondary School Bexhill and also to a group of engineering students at Bexhill College. The participants are sometimes working from home and sometimes in the classroom.

In partnership with Culture Shift, a local community organisation, 20 people from the creative group BOBS (Being Our Best Selves), have been making online every Monday for five weeks and a new six-week group for 12-20 year-olds is launching with the Discovery College.

Director and co-founder of Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, Sarah Alexander, says, This work has been possible thanks to the support of Arts Council England and the Culture Recovery Fund – we couldn’t have done these workshops without it. It’s been wonderful to work with the A Town Explores a Book Festival team and to be part of the festival – we’re delighted to be working with people locally. We’re relocating to Bexhill later this year to set up our first permanent home since leaving Covent Garden in 2000, so we hope this is just the beginning.’’

Artistic director of A Town Explores A Book, Gail Borrow, adds, “The automata created in the exuberant CMT workshops with Hastings and St Leonards community makers will comprise an exciting new online festival exhibition, opening on Tuesday 6th April. It’s been curated by artist Esme Fisher working with composer Frank Moon and artist Cliff Crawford, and is a vivid and exciting new way to explore Edward Lear’s nonsense short story, The Story of the Four Little Children Who Went Round The World.

“My favourite character is the automata made by young St Leonards resident Samuel Bradnum, with his mum Ann Bloomfield, of perhaps the most eccentric character, the co-operative cauliflower. Who couldn’t love a co-operative cauliflower?”

You will have a chance to see Cabaret’s exhibition Ingenious Contraptions at Hastings Museum & Art Gallery from 22nd May until 29th August 2021. For more information, find the link in the What’s On section of the Festival website:

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