Crankies are a traditional method of creating a moving image using everyday materials. They are rising in popularity, particularly in Canada and America where they are most often to be found in the rural folk communities and their stories are generally told in song. They take the form of a long illustrated piece of paper, illuminated from behind and 'reeled' or cranked by hand, while a narrator or musicians tell the story.

Still from the cranky The Marriage of Robin Redbreast and the Wren
Still from the cranky The Marriage of Robin Redbreast and the Wren

When Robert Burns was alive, one of his 'party pieces' was the telling of his tale of the Marriage of Robin Redbreast and the Wren. After his death in 1796 it was passed on by his sister, Mrs Isabella Begg, and subsequently published by Robert Chambers in Popular Rhymes of Scotland. Here the story is read in its original colloquial form by Tom Pow.

I made this cranky for the final Feral Choir Midwinter Turning concert in December 2020. It was made on paper using cut out images, drawing and tissue paper and the final length of the reel was 12 metres long! You can watch it by clicking here here. Length 00:04:33

For more information about crankies, you can visit the website The Cranky Factory where there are lots of beautiful examples, an interesting history and instructions on how to make your own cranky. I really recommend it.