Associate Artist and theatermaker Kim Donohoe (recent work for Starcatchers includes Sprog Rock) recently returned from a residency visit to France as part of the Artists, Art and early childhood project. This is an artist development opportunity taking place over two years and supported by arts organisations including Starcatchers in Scotland, Compangie ACTA in France and Festival 2Turvenhoog in the Netherlands.
I love making work for early years because it feels open – there’s space for curiosity and creativity without relying on the traditional rules of theatre.
That’s why I feel so lucky to be part of a network of early years artists who are participating in the project Artists, art and early childhood [LINK TO PROJECT PAGE], funded by Erasmus Plus (2017-19).
Participants are from Scotland, Netherlands and France and we began the project in November 2017 with a trip to Paris to learn more about each other and visit early learning and childcare (ELC) settings that we returned to in March for a series of residency workshops.
The experience reminded me of how incredibly perceptive and responsive children are to body language, emotion and facial expression.
Working with the other artists and the children during the residency was a huge creative challenge.
As artists we all brought our own ideas and different backgrounds, and although we spoke in English, we found deeper ways to communicate by physically experimenting with ideas and materials together. Our shared understanding and love for creating art experiences for very young children unifies us. Specialising in early years also means that we are used to working without language.
As adults making work for the very young it’s so important to hand over control and be open to discovering possibilities you can’t even see.
It was particularly refreshing not having to rely on language when working with the children. The experience reminded me of how incredibly perceptive and responsive children are to body language, emotion and facial expression.
The connections we had in French nurseries used no words but we found deep connections with children and the other artists using dance, rocks, drawing, paper cones, water, music and touch. Each session moved between performing and playing, creating spaces where children could observe and where they could be immersed in discovering a new object, material or person.
Having time to think, play, explore and observe… is the foundation on which meaningful and exciting work happens, for grown ups and babies alike.
As adults making work for the very young it’s so important to hand over control and be open to discovering possibilities you can’t even see, but which are obvious to a three-year-old. It’s also incredibly fun, and means you can never rely on what you think might work – a toddler will probably have another (better!) idea.
It has been inspiring to work with international artists and to have their varied practices inform my own work. The importance of play can’t be underestimated – for both children and artists – but so often we are focussed on getting things done. The pressure to meet a goal, make a new show or deliver a structured workshop, so often goes against the natural instincts of both children and artists.
Having time to think, play, explore and observe feels like a luxury but is the foundation on which meaningful and exciting work happens, for grown ups and babies alike.