Puppet show has pester power


North East children will soon be encouraging their parents to pull the plug on bad habits as an educational puppet show tours the region’s primary schools.

MEDIA INVITE: Reporters and photographers are invited to the Dwaine Pipe puppet show launch on Thursday March 21 2013 at Cockfield Primary School, Front Street, Cockfield, Bishop Auckland, DL13 5EN. The 45-minute show, to more than 100 children, will start at 10.30am, with interviews and photography afterwards at 11.15am. Parking is available on site.

Interviews are available on the day with Northumbrian Water representatives, characters ‘Stinkpot’ (Scott Clarkson) and ‘Pete the Plumber’ (Dean Keating) from Fame Factory Spotlight, and teachers and pupils of Cockfield Primary School.

This week (March 21) sees the official launch of Northumbrian Water’s ‘Love your drain’ theatre production, using a puppet of loveable mascot, Dwaine Pipe, to teach youngsters what should and should not be put down toilets and sinks to keep drains clear.

The water company has teamed up with Fame Factory Spotlight, a production company from Bishop Auckland in County Durham, to deliver the free, 45-minute show to more than 17,000 children aged four to 11, throughout the region, by May 2013.

Northumbrian Water is hoping ‘pester power’ will persuade adults to change their behaviour after spending £1.2 million last year clearing 17,500 drains and sewers across the North East, half of which were blocked by disposable items. Although these items are often marketed as “flushable” they do not break down like toilet paper and can clog up pipes.

The launch takes place in County Durham, one of the worst areas of the region for being in a rush to flush. A staggering 37% of County Durham adults admitted in a recent water company survey to regularly throwing ‘disposable’ items such as wipes, cotton buds and nappies down the toilet and pouring cooking oil down the sink instead of using a bin.

Leanne Clough of Northumbrian Water said: “Children are really focussed on protecting the environment, so we developed the puppet show as an engaging way to educate children about blockages and the damage they can cause, such as sewer flooding and pollution.

“By educating kids from an early age about these issues, they will take on good habits right through to their adult life. But adults will also learn a thing or two, as children will pass on their knowledge at home after seeing the show.”

Scott Clarkson, managing director of Fame Factory Spotlight, plays the role of Dwaine Pipe’s enemy, Stinkpot, in the show. He said: “We’ve spent the last few months developing the puppet show and feedback from the schools in Durham, Darlington and Teesside who piloted it for us have ensured the show’s message has maximum impact.

“The Dwaine Pipe puppet was an instant hit with both students and teachers, and some schools have already thanked us for helping to prevent blockages from paper towels in the school toilets!”

Two Dwaine Pipe books, written by Northumbrian Water Information Services employee and part-time author Simon Tuck, and stickers are given to each school as a reminder of the visit.

The Love your drain puppet show is free to all schools in the Northumbrian Water supply area and dates are still available for April and May. Bookings will be accepted on a first come, first served basis by calling Fame Factory Spotlight on 01388 835 206.

Customers can follow Dwaine Pipe’s adventures on Twitter @loveyourdrain or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/loveyourdwaine.

For further information please contact Leanne Clough on 0191 301 6733.

• Northumbrian Water treats more than 77,000 tonnes of sludge (the solid material left behind after wastewater has been treated) every year at its 414 North East treatment works.

• Other items that arrive at the works on a daily basis after being put down toilets, sinks and drains include children’s toys, false teeth, goldfish and jewellery.

• Operators at Northumbrian Water’s treatment works send 8,000 tonnes of ‘disposable’ items, including wipes, nappies, sanitary items and cotton buds, to landfill every year - enough to fill 2,000 skips.

• Sending disposable items to landfill cost Northumbrian Water £470,000 last year; a cost that is ultimately passed on to the customer when they receive their yearly water services bill.

• More unusual items found by the water company include a python and piranha native to South America.

• In 2007, a giant bra that was flushed down a toilet caused £15,000 of damage to a Darlington road after it caused a sewer pipe to burst and the road above it collapsed.

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