Puppet Friendly City
Tournai, City of Art and Culture, is one of Belgium’s oldest cities. Its rich architectural heritage reflects the influences that shaped it through the centuries.
The Notre-Dame Cathedral and the belfry, recognized as a world heritage site, are the symbols of a prestigious medieval past. Although travelling puppeteers certainly stopped on the Churches Squares in the Middle Ages, over a long period of time, puppeteers remained a rare sight in the city.
Around 1850, the Jorio family, an immigrant family from Savoie, settled in the city until 1893.
They performed with rod and string puppets, called Poriginelles from Tournai, whose traditional characters include the famous Jacques. Around 1949, Abbot Suys unsuccessfully attempted to resurrect the Poriginelles.
It was not until 1986 that puppets permanently settled in Tournai thanks to the Créa-Théâtre, a professional theatre company for young audiences that uses all types of puppetry techniques in its performances.
And at the city’s request, the Créa-Théâtre created the Centre for Puppetry Art, a permanent space for encounters and discovery, safeguarding the memory of the art of puppetry through its Museum of Puppetry, with its collection of 2,500 puppets from around the world and its exhibition entitled “Puppets of the World between Earth and Heaven.”
Over time, the Centre became a space for creation, where puppetry affirms its interdisciplinary nature with the other fields of artistic creation, making use of heritage, the plastic arts, and developing towards the digital arts.
With its residency programme, its international festival entitled “Discoveries Images and Puppets” and its many events, the Centre for Puppetry of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation continues to make the aesthetics and stage uses of yesterday’s and today’s puppets visible to new audiences.
With its transmission and training component, its documentation centre, its published works, the Centre promotes accessibility the sharing of knowledge, continues to raise awareness about and improve accessibility to the practice of the art of puppetry.
This living space, open to all audiences, which combines heritage and new forms, makes Tournai a city that supports the art of puppetry, which radiates beyond borders.