The Starcatchers story starts in 2006 with the pilot project, which had the aims of exploring theatre for very young children in Scotland and also acted as a creative intervention between North Edinburgh Arts Centre and childcare settings in the community. The project centred around two artist residencies which produced a number of different creative, sensory and theatrical experiences for young children in Scotland, led by artists Andy Manley, Vanessa Rigg and Heather Fulton.

The project was funded by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), the City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Arts Council and delivered 2 phases of artist residency.

The first phase was delivered by Andy Manley and Vanessa Rigg who together made Little Light, a production which captured the imaginations of hundreds of babies in the area and also toured to theatres across Scotland in a subsequent tour. During his residency, Andy Manley also created My House, another production which showed audiences in Scotland that it was possible to create innovative theatre experiences for very young children. My House went on to tour to festivals and theatres across the UK, to Europe and also to the New Victory Theatre in New York.

The second residency phase was led by artist Heather Fulton who had previously created a production for 2-5 year olds called Moussa’s Castle. Together with a creative which included Katy Wilson, Greg Sinclair, Ros Sydney and Ximena Vengoechea, Heather created a performance installation called Peep which explored the boundaries between play and performance.

In addition to the residencies, the pilot project also presented the first Starcatchers International Symposium in February 2007 which explored questions around Why and How you create performances for the very young. With performances from Starcatchers’ Artists and Oily Cart and presentations from Colwyn Trevarthen and Wolfgang Schneider, this event was instrumental in the development of this art-form in Scotland.

Supporting all of this work, was an action research study delivered by Dr Susan Young from the University of Exeter and Dr Niki Powers from the University of Edinburgh. This report explored how the young children who came to performances or workshops engaged with the experiences they were having and this laid the foundation for greater understanding of how very young children engage with creative activity in Scotland.