Welcome to Horse + Bamboo – and The Boo!
Horse + Bamboo was founded by Bob Frith in 1978; the first project involved erecting a carved stone high on the moors of Rossendale to commemorate a local legend – the story of Ellen Strange. The project also involved a street show, large fire sculptures, a specially devised midnight performance, and traditional ballads set to music. The Ellen Strange stone is still there, and is a popular landmark for walkers.
Many of the early company members came from students who were taught by Bob at Manchester College of Art (later part of MMU), and by other friends from Matrogoth Theatre in Leiden, Netherlands. The combination of putting together exciting community events with original touring theatre shows became a hallmark for Horse + Bamboo over the next 20 years, with the additional twist that part of the touring programme was horse-drawn. Every summer the cast walked over 400 miles alongside the company’s three horse-drawn wagons, travelling throughout the UK and Europe taking its uniquely visual shows to rural audiences. In the first decade the company undertook 10 or so different projects each year – ranging from theatre tours to raku kiln firings; community parades to fire theatre.
After 2000 the theatre became entirely motorised, with the company continuing to tour throughout the UK and Europe, even spending a couple of seasons in the USA. Horse + Bamboo never forgot its roots, and continued to develop a range of community-based programmes of work. After a few upgrades to its base, the company eventually moved into the Old Liberal Club in Waterfoot, in the heart of Rossendale, which significantly increased its capacity to house a community programme. By 2006 regular public events were taking place at the new venue, which became known as The Boo.
The Boo hosts a rich and varied programme of work, increasingly so after a major investment programme in 2015. It brings national and international shows to East Lancashire, and runs music nights, films, workshops and training courses in addition to its family orientated programme and an annual Puppet Festival. The work retains the same emphasis on visual storytelling, including puppetry, mask work, and animation, that it did when it was formed almost 40 years ago.