Pullen’s Party

An ambitious new project in collaboration with Liberty Festival and Access All Areas aims to revitalize an extraordinary puppet known as Pullen’s giant.

James Henry Pullen is one of the most inspiring artists unearthed during the museum research undertaken as part of the RCMG commission for Hold the Hearse!

James Henry Pullen was a long term resident of Earlswood Asylum and a truly gifted, self taught carpenter and model maker.

During his lifetime of incarceration, it is said that he became the star attraction to the asylum, particularly on Summer fete days, when the locals and hospital benefactors would visit to watch the inmates in lively displays in the beautifully manicured grounds. Pullen developed a strong affection for a local barmaid who he imagined he might marry, but under legislation of the time, residents of asylums were not allowed to marry.

The hospital management persuaded Pullen that Queen Victoria had requested him as an Admiral of her fleet and her Admirals were not allowed to marry. An Admiral’s uniform had been procured to add weight to the story. Faced with the prospect of a shiny new uniform or a nice new wife, Pullen abandoned his barmaid and took to wearing the Admiral’s uniform, which he wore on most days for the rest of his life.

Having abandoned the idea of marriage, Pullen created a giant Admiral puppet to act as his guardian. He spent his summers frightening visitors to the asylum who flocked to see this ‘Monstrous abomination’ which our Artistic Director fell in love with on first meeting.

Vital Xposure is on a mission to liberate James Henry Pullen. In February we embarked on a three-day creative laboratory with a cast of three actors including performers from Access All Areas, the award-winning theatre company for adults with learning disabilities. Eden West with Adam Smith and Emma Selwin created a spectacular first stage R and D with Director: Ciara Brennan, Movement Director Charlene Low and Writer Julie McNamara.

We are hoping that the next stage development will culminate in a promenade performance piece. Our aim is to build a replica of Pullen’s giant puppet in collaboration with puppet-maker Tony Mason, maker of the Iron Man, Imagination Puppets and other mind-blowing large scale puppets. The giant puppet would lead a cavalcade of the Oppressed through the Olympic Park for Liberty Festival on 15 July. Save the date! In spring 2018 we are hoping that the giant puppet will also feature in the full touring production of Hold the Hearse!

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