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  • ursulaburns2

The Gypsy Wagon Road

In 1992, I was offered a placement by UUC to go to England for two weeks to make tea and mind children, for UK's last-ever horse-drawn theatre company.


The company Horse and Bamboo created beautiful folk art shows told with music and movement. The Director Bob Frith made stunning masks and puppets and founded the company and a vision for a beautiful folk art theatre.



Firstly they ate hommus and drank real coffee.

When on the road we called it cowboy coffee

you could spit the grinds at the bottom of the cup.

Tough stuff!

Bob Frith, listened to classical music when making the masks in his workshop.

Everything was an education for me.


It didn't take long for me to fall in love with the people and the life. Bob was a true artist and to this day his work impacts my life. Try as I might I can't find anything quite like it........


On the first day of rehearsals the script said "The white horse grows wings and flys into the sky"

By the afternoon - it did.

They had me by tea break on the first day.

I was in awe.



First rehearsals in a warehouse full of masks and puppets, in Rottenstall.

I was sleeping in a large doll house, in the attic.

Then we hit the road for a 3-month tour of the UK

We walked alongside horses, a Gypsy wagon to advertise the shows and 2 drays.

One had personal chests and camping gear and the other was our kitchen camping equipment.




It was a 2-day rhythm

Tne first day we walk anything from 5 to 20 miles

I was nicked named Ursula Burger for whipping up veggie burgers at the side of the road on our famous lunch stops.




Also Flowers and herbs in food. That was a thing. A big pot of honey from Bobs Dad.

Food always tasted so good when you were walking and living outside.



Then we would arrive at the village much to the excitement of the town and set up camp

feed and water the horses set up our tents, cook dinner on the open fire and play music, under many moons, around the fire.



Showday started with a street band...

Thats me with the shaker - Before harp -the egg shaker was kind of my thing!


The atmosphere in the village hall would be electric as the audience filled with generations of families and neighbours, community coming to enjoy the strange and unexpected event.

Then,

the lights dim

the hush

the anticipation ......

the first note started.


The audience brought on the most magical journey.

Fantastic characters and sureal stories unfolded with magical puppets.

Unearthly protagonists with large heads and beautiful long-lost rich souls.

Full of heart and mystery the whoops and gasps of the rural people brought into the mystical world of horse and banboo.

The next day children would skip about us and run to the edge of town. Mums bring down pots of jam and gifts of food and wave to people as we pack up camp and set off for our next travel day.... My self and Jill Penny, were a team with Clinton the horse. We laughed loudly and played fiddles very very badly whenever we got the chance.......


The first time I saw a horse poo, I boked in the hedge. They laughed saying "It is just processed grass"


When one of the performers hurt her knee, I ended up on the stage. I stayed for 3 years. playing many characters, Exploring Uk, Holland, parts of Europe.

We walked the great planes of Hungry with its armies of wilting sunflowers in the soft golden sun.


We walked from Aberdeen to Brighton with our horses and gipsy wagon.

We visited the travelling folk and crossed paths with "Walk the Plank" Theatre as we meandered. They were doing the same thing - on boats!

In the winter I had a caravan up at Alden Farm.

The Song Edith was written for the little girl who lived next door.


My time at Horse and Bamboo feels like reaching back through the mists of time and living a pre-tech life, close to nature and music, touring on the road, Walking at a pace and rhythm.




A freedom that is now a distant memory. A

connection to Earth. The fitness and stamina required. The laugher and madness of battling the elements and catching all the rays of beauty the sky had to offer.

The pace of an innocent life, that is now overridden by fast life, too much information, instant messages and less connection.

Nature and beauty were in abundance and a flow of wild abandon.

The road, the river, the stage and the stars,

One day a man called Keith arrived from London.

He had a tiny harp

I put my hands on it

I could just play - it was easy.

and that's when I knew it was time to go home..........







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