Norfolk & Norwich Festival – What to Expect from Mo & The Red Ribbon

23 April 2024

Norfolk & Norwich Festival – What to Expect from Mo & The Red Ribbon 

It’s not long now until the Norfolk & Norwich Festival makes it’s return for 2024! For 17 days each May (this year it’s being held from Friday, May 10 – Sunday, May 26), the Norfolk & Norwich Festival transforms public spaces, city streets, performance venues, parks, forests, beaches, and more to bring people together to experience a wide-range of inspirational events. It’s one of the country’s longest-running arts festivals, and a real calendar highlight here in the East of England!  

This year, there’s over 100 events across both city and county with a great mix of free and paid for activities and performances, and each of them are uniquely brilliant from one another. From music and theatre to art projects, film, literature, and even circus, there’s truly something for every interest. You can find their full programme and all the details of each on the Norfolk & Norwich Festival website 

One of the most exciting parts of each year’s Festival is the Welcome Weekend – where pop-ups of free performances take place across Norwich to kick everything off in style. The first of these performances, and one of the most spectacular across the entire calendar, is ‘Mo & The Red Ribbon’ (Friday, May 10, 9pm, free), a hugely significant and moving performance following a giant puppet across the City of Stories. 

Read on as the Norfolk & Norwich Festival and L’Homme Debout, who created ‘Mo & The Red Ribbon’, take us through this piece and what you can expect.

This year’s Norfolk & Norwich Festival will be welcomed in by ‘Mo & The Red Ribbon’, a spectacular 8.5-metre puppet who will wind through the city streets from Westlegate to The Forum. Combining giant puppetry and emotional storytelling, ‘Mo & The Red Ribbon’ explores the experience of migration from a child’s perspective, offering an ultimately optimistic look at the world we inhabit and those we share it with. 

We had a chat with Benoît Mousserion, Artistic Director of L’Homme Debout, creators of the show. 

Q: What is the inspiration behind ‘Mo & The Red Ribbon’?  

“Mo is a young child who was separated from his family during the war in his country. He managed to travel to a safe country. But now he is alone. The show speaks about resilience, and how to access new development after experiencing trauma.” 

Q: As a giant puppet, what is Mo made from? 

“Mo is made with wicker. It’s a variety of willow, a very light and flexible wood which you can also make baskets. But don’t ask us to make baskets, we only build puppets!” 

Q: How many people will it take to walk Mo through the city? 

“Seven people animate the puppet.
“Two for the arms.
“Two for the legs.
“One for the head.
“One to move the body up and down, the shoulders and the pelvis.
“And the last one to drive the crane which carries Mo.” 

A giant puppet walks through a city with a crowd of people surrounding.

Mo is 8.5 metres tall, you have to see him with your own eyes to believe it!

Q: Where else have you performed ‘Mo & the Red Ribbon’? 

“We’ve played Mo in lots of cities in France, mainly in street art festivals like in Aurillac for example, which is one of the most important street art events in France.  

“But we have also played it in Spain, in Belgium, in Romania and in England at Hull for the Freedom Festival. This year we continue our tour in Europe.” 

Q: Are there any special moments in the show audience should look out for? 

“[Yes], especially at the beginning, also in the middle, and above all at the end! This show is not just a pretty picture in the streets, it tells a sensitive story. The best part of the show is the whole show!” 

Q: Can you tell us more about the soundtrack for the show? 

“All the music is original, composed by Patrick Ingueneau especially for this show. ‘Mo & The Red Ribbon’ is a show without any words, so the music is very important to accompany the audience in the emotions we want to share.” 

Q: What makes a giant puppet the best way to tell this story? 

“We don’t tell stories about giants. We zoom in on characters from our world. It is the focusing so closely on these individuals that makes our puppets so big.  

“Migrant people live outside of our societies, in camps, in tents. Maybe invisible people need to be represented by giants.” 

A giant puppet walking through a city with candle-like lanterns at its sides.

Starting at Westlegate and making its way to The Forum, Mo & The Red Ribbon is a must-see this year.

We also spoke to Lily Monsey, Communications and Development Officer at Norfolk & Norwich Festival, on her experience of seeing the show. 

“It was so special to see the ordinary roads and streets become a stage and the community unite over a shared experience. 

“The sheer size of Mo makes the event one to remember but then, as the walk went on and the story unraveled through playful, color-filled, larger than life scenes, I began to see beyond the size of the puppet and was instead met by the emotion of the journey. 

“It is a bright, unique, and electrifying show and is a great opportunity for reflection and to see the city a little differently.” 

Catch Mo & The Red Ribbon on Friday, May 10 at 9pm and don’t miss the rest of the free family-friendly outdoor performances during the Welcome Weekend (Saturday, May 11 and Sunday, May 12) or the wonderful performances across the entirety of this year’s Norfolk & Norwich Festival.