Sit Down Sunday With Joanne Blackwell

For this week's Sit Down Sunday we are joined by the lovely Joanne Blackwell,

Joanne recently delivered a Make Your Own Puppet and D.I.Y Puppet show workshop during the Wigan Arts Festival at The Old Courts, we got the opportunity to sit down and talk to Joanne about her life and work.

Hi Joanne, thanks for joining us, why don’t we start off with you introducing yourself to our readers?

I'm from St. Helens originally, but live in the Wigan area now. I've done and been many different things over the years, everything from gardening support worker to circus silks instructor. I've always been a creative type, and decided to pursue that by going to university as a mature student to study animation and illustration. It took me many years to complete the part time course, but I enjoyed it and it was worth it in the end. I love any kind of creative story telling, but my main passion is stop motion animation. It's a hands on, physical craft, that can deliver a great charm and poignancy that resonates with people.

Tell us a little bit about your animation work?

Most of my previous animations were done during my degree course. I'm a little on the dark side when it comes to my themes and stories. I like to explore disappointment, loneliness, sadness and the struggles of life that everyday people are confronted with. Or sometimes, the great hope and happiness that can be found in the small things that matter to people.

What influences or who influences your work?

I'm a huge fan of Eastern European stop motion, particularly Czech. Animators such as Jiri Barta, Jan Svankmajer and my all time hero Jiri Trnka. There is a strong puppet tradition in the Czech Republic which gave rise to the popularity of stop motion animation there. These art forms have been important in maintaining Czech culture and language, and in conveying a political message under censorious, totalitarian regimes. The ability of something so small and humble to have to such a strong political message that it ends up being banned by the state is very interesting to me. Have a look at 'The Hand' (Ruka) by Jiri Trnka to see what I'm talking about.

Do you have any upcoming projects or things you would like to do?

My next project is going to be the completion of a short animation film called 'The Timekeepers' . I made a trailer for it as my graduation project and now I want to make the full film. I want to get some other people involved: to make a storyboard, help with tiny costumes, music etc. I'm hoping to do some crowd funding, so that I can pay people, pay for a studio space etc. The story is set in 19th century Prescot and tells the tale of Arthur, a watchmaker, who is struggling to come to terms with the decline of the watch making industry in the town due to modernisation and globalisation. He takes on a young apprentice who soon discovers that Arthur is making more than just watch parts in his workshop; and there the story, founded in historical fact, takes on a steampunk/sci-fi twist.

That seems incredibly exciting and I hope people who are interested reach out to you, sounds like a really exciting project. To see more of Joanne's work and to contact her please visit:

What does a usual Sunday for you look like?

I'm often at work on a Sunday. If not, I relish the chance of a lie in; drink several cups of coffee; try to get some jobs done around the house or in the garden; and later watch a film or read a book and finish off last night's bottle of wine.

What are your views on art culture in Wigan?

There seems to be a growing local arts scene in Wigan; facilitated by places like The Old Courts and Wigan Steam. I think art culture in Wigan has an honesty and authenticity about it, and it's a very supportive scene too. Lots of creative activities for families and children, which is so important in this screen obsessed age we're living in.

What is your fondest memory of The Old Courts?

So many! I really enjoyed the workshops I went to as part of last years animation festival. One was about building a story and the other about improvisation and collaborative performance. I learned a great deal and was pushed out of my comfort zone.

Huge thank you to Joanne for taking part and we're excited to see more from you and best of luck with your short film.

Would you like to be a featured artist for Sit Down Sundays With...?

Contact Zak at to find out more.

#animation #puppets #theoldcourts #wigan #wiganarts #joanneblackwell #SitDownSundays


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The Old Courts is a trading name of Arts at the Mill CIC a registered Community Interest Company registered in England under Number 07411657 at Gerrard Winstanley House, Crawford Street, Wigan, WN1 1NA