Caretaker of Places



Gnomus is the giant caretaker of our planet who can unearth unknown facts about wherever he finds himself, engaging family audiences through devised site responsive shows.

After a successful 52 day run at Kew Gardens in 2018, bunraku puppet Gnomus is available for touringWe are seeking conversations with programmers about Gnomus and how he might engage with a local landmarks, historic buildings, heritage sites, botanic gardens, and similar locations as a site responsive work with a focus on the environment.

Before performances, we consult with local experts about the chosen site and devise a responsive script. The performance outcome can be up to 6 x 15min walking tours of a site during a festival or event. This can engage up to 150 audience members per performance and many more indirectly. We seek to find interesting and unknown ideas about the site’s past and present – how and why it was built, interweaving stories of how the site has been used, and finding a contemporary context for the work.

Each site-responsive commission requires preparation time – consulting, devising & writing, and a few days of rehearsal with puppeteers and the creative team. Ideally we are seeking longer presentation residencies at historic or conservation sites.

Previously Gnomus was presented at Kew Gardens as part of a Temperate House commission and completed 52 days (7 days per week) of shows, engaging over 35K family audiences with themes of extinction, the challenges that face the plants of the Temperate House collection and compelling a new generation of environmentalists.

National Park City Festival was organised by the Mayor of London to celebrate London becoming a National Park City. Despite changeable weather, over 300 events went ahead, encouraging everyone to discover London’s amazing outdoors. There were an estimated 95,000 people attending in total across the week.


Gnomus was first commissioned for the BBC Ten Pieces Prom at the Royal Albert Hall in 2017. This is a classical, contemporary and new music initiative that has musically, theatrically and interactively engaged four million young people around the UK over four years. Nick Barnes Puppets asked Puppets with Guts to collaborate on developing Gnomus, which was a response to a Mussorgsky piece of the same name.

During this initial commission process, an educational and engagement project was delivered to young people at Fox Primary School – located a short walk from the Royal Albert Hall. The pupils contributed to initial designs and performance ideas, helping to bring Gnomus to life.

Following on from the BBC commission, in 2018 Gnomus was further developed from a two to four-person puppet for a summer commission at Kew Gardens, delivering 52 continuous days of intensive performance. Gnomus led a characterful and dynamic big puppetry performance to a diverse family audience, exploring the Temperate House collection and highlighting the issues facing plants and fungi. The result was a fun and informative puppet spectacle, through which different narratives were told.

Gnomus has since performed at a variety of events and festivals including Enchanted Horsham and Imagine Watford festival.

Looking ahead, Gnomus can be commissioned to respond to different outdoor sites and engaged as an eccentric storyteller for daytime or night-time performances.


“Very interesting and thought-provoking”

“Great! Amazing and simple way for kids to learn about the environment and how important it is to us”

“Brilliant, really great for the kids and a good message. Also fantastic for adults, fantastic for everyone”

“A really good show, educationally for the kids teaching them all about the nature that’s around them, even in an urban environment”

Cast & Creative

Creative Team:

Artistic Director / Creative Producer – Ivan Thorley

Designer – Nick Barnes Puppets

Director – Andrew Dawson / Finn Caldwell

Writer – Andrew McCaldon

Costume Designer – Alison Alexander

Cast – Sam Clark, Iskandar Sharazuddin, Katrina Wesseling, Richard Booth, Bertie Harris and Ethan Catchpole

Puppet Makers – Charlie Tymms, Maia Kirkman-Richards, Oli Simonon, Seb Mayer, Jo May and Caroline Bowman

Consultant Producer – Robin Morley

Consultant Director – Claire Rafferty

Supported By

Originally commission for the BBC Learning Department for the BBC Proms Ten Pieces 2017 and is a collaboration between Nick Barnes Puppets and Puppets with GUTS, and then recommissioned for Kew Gardens in 2018.