From pavement to puppetry: no strings attached

WHEN Andreas Anguita moved to east London from his native Spain seven years ago the already well-established artist had dreams of making it big as a puppeteer.

But with limited English and few contacts in the puppetry industry the 44-year-old soon found himself out of pocket and on the streets.

Andreas would spend the next months living in a squat in Bow, his collection of carefully designed puppets, some as tall as 5ft, thrown by the wayside.

But his luck was about to change. It was on a whim that desperate Andreas one day attended an art workshop run by Whitechapel-based homeless charity Crisis Skylight.

Fast forward to today and Andreas now boasts his own successful puppetry company, working for such prestigious events as the Mayor’s Thames Festival and the Notting Hill Carnival.

This month Andreas was one of 12 finalists nominated for the national Changing Lives Champions Awards, sponsored by Crisis Skylight, for his inspiring leap from homelessness to commercial success.

“The worst thing about homelessness is you feel useful, but no one knows that you’re useful,” Andreas said, adding: “It’s really frustrating because you feel like a complete outsider but it’s not your choice.”

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After a few workshops at Crisis Skylight, Andreas was soon offered a teaching position. It was here that the puppeteer was discovered by the Cardboard Citizens theatre company who offered him work at the Mayors Thames Festival; something he describes as “a turning point.”

Andreas now runs classes for Complete Works, a company which assists youth offenders and children with behavioural problems.

He also plans to expand his business into a portable theatre, taking his shows to schools across London.

Andreas said: “The important thing is when you motivate someone to make another mask and he makes it and you look at it and think, ‘wow I’ve improved.’ If you can improve making masks then why can you not improve in other things also?

“I’m quite confident about the future. It feels like we are an establishment in puppetry.

“We have a workshop just for thinking about stories, to move the puppets and another workshop just to build the puppets.

“I feel secure now, I feel normal. Now I feel ‘in’ the system.”