This was the first children’s theatre festival I’ve been to and I soon felt the incredibly warm and friendly vibe I was surrounded by – a festival all about the children and their caregivers, and not about the artists.
There were so many brilliant shows, and a really valuable experience to see a mixture of work being made in the UK and Europe, that it seems unfair (and difficult) to single any one of them out. However there were a few ‘highlight’ moments throughout the festival, both during the performances and in discussions I was having with other makers that really stick in my mind and gave me food for thought for the kind of work I want to be making for children and early years.
First up, how passionate children get when engaging with live theatre was in full flow everywhere I turned and reinforced how important these live experiences are. From the child roaring back at the performers and being inspired to become different animals herself during the performance of Théâtre de la Guimbarde’s Cache Cache, to the immersive and reflexive shout outs of “No!” “Just open it” and “What’s inside?” during Andy Manley and Red Bridge Arts’ Stick By Me, to the quietly audible awesome “Wooow!” moments that were peppered throughout many of the shows I saw. Actively seeing the imagination and curiosity of children being evoked every day was a true inspiration.
Second on my food for thought list is how we adapt the work we make to engage with even younger and also neuro–diverse audiences. Theatre is for everyone and we have a responsibility as makers to consider this. Barrowland Ballet’s Tiger Tale is a stunning show with a captivating story that playfully and physically engages with their 7+ audience as a tiger stalks around within their space. Alongside this show there is Playful Tiger, an interactive version carefully adapted specifically for profoundly autistic and mostly non-verbal children. I was lucky enough to sit in on one of the performances of Playful Tiger and was moved by how the audience were engaging and responding.
Lastly (and I’m cheekily bunching up multiple take-aways in my final reflection) meeting like-minded artists, sharing ideas and approaches and having them challenged in a supportive, informal way was a rich and ongoing experience throughout the week. Responding to the work we were seeing together and discussing what it is to make work for children and young people personally sparked a few key questions that I’ll be taking into my own artistic practice –
- How can we, as theatre makers, make inspiring work with great stories that encourage a tangible connection and a shared experience between performance, child and caregiver?
- Does feeling we have to justify and qualify the work we’re making for children hinder our artistic output?
- In the UK, as makers working with children and young people to create work, how do we navigate the self-imposed barriers we put up so that we can still see the children as artists?
A week ram jammed full of so much exciting Baboró activity to see and do, and zipping around the beautiful Galway doing it, meant I was surrounded by creative fuel. So, after some valuable shut eye on the journey home and time to let the fun and buzz of such a joyful week settle, it’s safe to say I’m feeling deeply inspired and excited about the next steps on my journey to make work for children and early years.
Thank you Starcatchers for getting me there!