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TOPIC press dossier

A singular centre, the only one in Europe

dossier de prensa consejo asesor The future Tolosa International Puppetry Centre, TOPIC, scheduled to open in Autumn 2009, is a singular, attractive, interesting project with an emphasis on imagination, innovation and originality, since it will be the only comprehensive centre for the art of puppetry in Europe. There is a small data centre in Vizcaya and a small museum in Valencia, but to find a comprehensive centre with the same characteristics as the TOPIC project it is necessary to travel to Atlanta, Georgia in the U.S. or to Tapei in Taiwan.

TOPIC starts with a broad International vision. TOPIC presents itself as a space open to the world, which is how it envisions its agreements, actions and exchanges with the entire world.

Tolosa will become the one of the world’s epicentre of puppet theatre, an artistic expression that receives increasing recognition and support. And TOPIC sets out to maintain and boost this tendency.

This initiative, which targets children and families especially, has been projected by CIT (the Tolosa Centre of Initiatives) to promote all kinds of puppet theatre.


The TOPIC Project starts in 1985, when the International Puppetry Festival TITIRIJAI had only taken place three or four times. The traditional “txoxongillo” slowly began to emerge in national cultural spheres, but in such a strong way that twenty years later it constitutes an international referent in the world of puppet theatre.

So, as we can see, TOPIC doesn’t come out of nowhere. It is a logical consequence of TITIRIJAI (the Tolosa International Puppetry Festival) which celebrates its 26th birthday this year. It is a festival that counts on important audience participation and large numbers of performances and companies. Over the years, the festival has welcomed 421 companies from 40 countries, 487 shows which offered 2,015 performances for 386,000 spectators.

Therefore, the culture, knowledge and interest that surround the art of puppetry promises to be of great help in launching and consolidating TOPIC.

Main stages of the project

. The initial project is presented and several possible locations are considered. Among these were the Aranburu Palace, the Arkaute chalet--the former headquarters of the Ertzaintza--and the Tolosa Casino.

The Tolosa City Council asks for architectural proposals on the site of the former Courthouse located at Euskal Herria Square.

The project is granted to the architect, Anton Pagola by public tender.

2007-2009. Building construction is executed.

Areas of activities

TOPIC is based on four main activities:
  • Heritage conservation.
  • Promotion and outreach.
  • Data and research.
  • Training and continued formation.

Heritage conservation
The museum will place emphasis on national and local puppet heritage restoration and conservation. There is a nagging worry regarding the importance of protecting great artists’ plays. It is the duty of everyone to prevent plays from being lost or plundered, as has happened in the past.

TOPIC will contribute to puppet heritage conservation by purchasing, donating or through bailment contracts of active or deceased authors’ plays, which are at risk of being lost. Since 2001, when UNESCO called for nominations to the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, many puppetry disciplines were given this award, and TOPIC committed itself to supporting such protection.

The TOPIC museum will be divided into two main areas:

A permanent exhibition, of an educational and didactic nature. The puppet will be introduced through its history, its location, its cultural stamp, and its different techniques and conceptions. An exhibition which is presented as an interactive puppet interpretation centre. Architect Dani Freixas is the person in charge of the museography and design.

Specialized temporary monographic exhibitions, either from our own collections or from loans or rentals, will occupy this space. Today, TOPIC either owns or has acquired on loan more than a thousand puppets from five continents belonging to different techniques.

Promotion and outreachn
TOPIC won’t have a permanent company. TOPIC constantly seeks new programs to be home to works and companies from different countries, different techniques and artistic conceptions. This way, TOPIC aims at increasing the variety of performances and giving opportunities to more artists.
Logically, preference will be given to Basque companies, because of their cultural and geographical proximity. In addition, this possibility will be made available to Basque companies who thus, will have access to highly-equipped facilities to create, stage and rehearse their new productions.

As part of the outreach process, this project envisages the possibility of coproduction agreements that boost creation, mise en scène and the spreading of contemporary drama, particularly from young authors, in order to make up for the lack of good texts which forces puppeteers to resort to classic fairy tales and do cover versions of them again and again. Sometimes, this is not fair to the spectator or the original text.

Likewise, TOPIC expects to take maximum advantage of Internet resources in order to spread, via video conference, the centre’s news and programs among the general public, teacher groups, leisure activities specialists and artists.

Data and research
This new centre will have consultation rooms to access the media, video and the image collections as well as the library. This data centre will be available not only to researchers, but to anyone interested in the world of puppetry.

The TOPIC data collection contains 1,500 videos and DVDs of puppet shows from all over the world; 1,800 posters, 75,000 photographs, printed data about more than 2,500 companies and a 1,300 volume library specializing in this art form. All this data, except for materials not available to the public due to copyright legislation, is being digitalized and will be available through this website thanks to the collaboration and support of the local government, the Diputación Foral de Gipuzkoa.
Training and continued formation
This section is not intended to be officially didactic, but it will provide artists, who are mainly self-taught, with tools to help them improve the quality of their productions or to boost the use of puppetry in areas such as education, health and leisure.

Puppeteer refresher courses, master classes or workshops will contemplate the relationship between puppet theatre and the plastic arts, music, voice, media, theatre technology, etc., taking into account the main aspects of theatre: drama, stage direction or interpretation. In this aspect, as in many others related to puppetry, TOPIC is open to proposals and to collaboration with UNIMA (the International Puppetry Organization).

Another training level will attempt to provide teachers, leisure specialists, socio-cultural instructors, etc. with the necessary knowledge and tools to learn to use the art of puppetry in their respective activities. There will also be another training level addressed to children over eight, in order to teach them how to play in groups, how to create their own plays, make their own puppets and learn to enjoy theatre.

A centre suitable for all audiences

Children are TOPIC’s main focus. This new centre aims to investigate all the aspects that relate theatre to children. The objective is to bring young people into contact with the theatre of puppetry in a natural, albeit supervised way.

As a comprehensive centre, however, TOPIC also aims to become a meeting point for puppeteers from all over the world. A place to learn, perform, do research, produce, and share experiences, information, reflections and to work in a, comfortable, functional, well-equipped, avant- garde environment.

Therefore,TOPIC will be a space open to everyone: experts and amateurs, children, young people and adults. All in all, a place for all puppet lovers.

On Euskal Herria Square

TOPIC is located in the building that formerly housed the old Law Courts and Prison on Tolosa’s Euskal Herria Square. The restoration of this cultural heritage building is being carried out thanks to the combined support of the Basque Government, the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa, the Tolosa City Council, the Ministries of Culture, of Public Works, and of Industry and the Kutxa Savings Bank. The City Council has agreed that CIT will manage the new Centre for the next twenty years.

In its 3600 m2, TOPIC will integrate:
  • A museum for its permanent collection and temporary expositions.
  • A data centre, an archive and a media centre, entirely digitalized.
  • A modern and well-equipped 250 seat theatre.
  • A production/ staging / rehearsal room.
  • Spaces for similar stage activities.
  • Rooms for workshops, in-class courses and video conference courses.
  • A small residence for artists and researchers.

A building with a history

After the establishment of the Judicial Courts of Law and the declaration of Tolosa as the capital of the province in 1844, a new building was necessary to meet the new requirements. The final project, carried out by the architects Vicente de Unanue and José Eleuterio de Escoriaza, was presented in 1851. Construction lasted two years and was funded by the City Council and local donations. The building was situated in a very striking location on Campos de la Rondilla, because none of the neighbouring plots had yet been constructed when the building was finished.

In addition to serving as the court building, it was also used as a prison. One of its most famous inmates was José María Iparragirre, imprisoned in 1855 for trying to recover the Fueros. The time he spent in Tolosa is mentioned in this song:

        Zibillak esan naute
        biziro egoki
        Tolosan bear dala
        gauza erabaki.
        Giltzapian sartu naute
        poliki poliki
        negar egingo luke
        nere amak baleki.

During the Civil War (1936-1939), 938 men and women are recorded as having been imprisoned here, although countless others who suffered imprisonment go unrecorded since they did not commit any offense or crime. Generally, they were people from the region, but there were also volunteers from Poland, Belgium and the Soviet Union who formed part of the International Brigades.

The court and the prison occupied this building simultaneously until they were transferred to the Navarra venue. In the 1970’s, this building was used as a studio by the sculptor, Juan Lope. From 1982 to 1997, part of the premises became a Basque school.

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