By Caf Fean

Local arts company, Dens & Signals, recently collaborated with RSPCA Mallydams to run a summer performance project for 10-11 year-olds from Hastings. Supported by professional makers, the young people had five days to explore the woods, come up with a story, make music and costumes – before performing in front of friends and family.

I arrive to find the group donning cardboard masks and rehearsing songs and cues. “Be a badger!” (sniffing and grunting). “Now a hedgehog!” (everyone starts clicking). I’m introduced to Daisy and Bel, who came up with the narrative: in a world poisoned by plastic, a group of hungry animals set out to change things, eventually succeeding in relighting the fire at the earth’s core, with the help of a repentant Mr Plastic.

We follow the cast through the woods as the story unfolds. A fox and a squirrel, played by Dex and Harry, do an excellent job on didgeridoo and drum as we walk between scenes. Alfie chimes in with the ukulele. Keira narrates in a clear, confident voice. Angel and Brooke do a wonderful dance and Bel entertains as Mr Plastic, posing riddles to the crowd: “You buy me to eat, but you never eat me … what am I?”

The show finishes around a campfire with hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows. Ella, the Bird Conductor, has gone “way outside of her comfort zone” as well as making new friends. Brooke is really happy about doing something so different. Kiera is a bit sad it’s over: “Being in the woods was like going on a quest for five days.”

Friends and family are delighted: “I feel emotional – it was really well executed and it has a good message!” said one parent. “Harry has been having a go at me about plastic bottles at home!” said another.

Jane Packman of Dens & Signals sums it up: “If only adults could be as creative and energetic as ten-year-olds, we’d all be much further along in this world than we are!” I couldn’t agree more.

To find out more about Dens & Signals, visit

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