Steve’s puppets shine a light on Easdale

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Youngsters and their families headed over to Easdale on Good Friday to make new mini-mates at a puppet show.

Puppeteer Steve Smart, who grew up in Taynuilt, was on the island to present The Lighthouse Keeper’s Tale made from objects found on a beach.

The enchanting show was part of this year’s Puppet Animation Festival taking more than 150 performances to 80 venues across Scotland and the north of England.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Tale tells the story of Tom who fishes by the jaggedy rocks and watches out for ships. In the one and only café in the quaint little village where he lives, his friend Belle makes delicious ice cream for her happy customers. Everything is fine and dandy until one day a wild storm brews up and forces Belle, who has been keeping a secret, to reveal a ‘tail’ of her own to help save Tom.

Keeping it in the family, Mr Smart’s parents Don and Ivy Smart ran their own Black Box marionette theatre company from Taynuilt at one time and used to have the village post office.

Steve went to Taynuilt Primary School and Oban High School before training at Norwich Puppet Theatre and joining his parents’ company in 1982 touring the Highlands and islands from Gigha to Shetland.

In 1985, Steve went his own way to start up his Clyde Built Puppet Theatre, taking the name from the famous Clyde built ships whose motto was ‘solid, reliable and never let you down’.

‘I thought that was a pretty good reason to come up with our name. We’ve stuck by it, only ever letting a venue down once and that was when a pheasant ran out in front of the van and took out the power steering,’ said Steve who is now based in Fife and working with puppeteer Leigh McCalister.

The pair take their shows throughout Scotland and ‘down into the depths of England’ effectively covering Land’s End to John O’Groats. They have also been out to China three times.

‘You will always know where I’ve been because under the lights I always put a bit of black tape so the hall keepers know which ones I need switching off,’ said Steve who was visiting Easdale for the third time with his rod puppets.