“During the five-day laboratory, I’ll be pushing the artists to take nothing for granted and really reflect on their view of the child. In the creation and delivery of artistic experiences for children the approach must always be the child’s needs first, and then ‘how do my artistic ideas fit with that?’” [Dalija Acin Thelander]

 

One of the world’s leading experts in theatre for babies will spend five days with early years artists in Scotland, working with them to challenge conventional models of theatre and help ensure artistic work with this age group remains at the forefront of innovation. 

 

Dalija Acin Thelander’s five-day lab begins in Edinburgh today (Monday 11th March) with 12 artists from across disciplines who successfully applied to take part through Starcatchers’ artist development programme Playspace.

 

Dalija has been a pioneer of installation-based performances for babies since premiering The Book of Wandering in Belgrade in 2008. Her most recent work The Garden of Spirited Minds for 0-12 months and their adults invites participants into a multi-sensory space where they can move around freely and explore for as long as suits them within its six-hour running time.

 

Thelander said: “There are talented artists dedicated to creating incredible work for babies and young children but, overall, this age group remains overlooked and often excluded because there is still far too much reliance on conventional models of theatre and lack of knowledge about the needs of this audience.

 

“Too often children’s responses to artistic experiences continue to be muted or controlled in some way – for example an expectation that they need to sit still. It’s hierarchical; it’s artist-centred rather than child-centred. Striving to break away from this is important not only for young children but for those children who are neuro-diverse and have additional support needs.

 

“During the five-day laboratory, I’ll be pushing the artists to take nothing for granted and really reflect on their view of the child. In the creation and delivery of artistic experiences for children the approach must always be the child’s needs first, and then ‘how do my artistic ideas fit with that?’

 

“In my work I endeavor to give both child and adult agency using their energy, curiosity and creativity to create a shared experience.”

 

Playspace is Starcatchers’ artist development programme for artists committed to working with or developing work with and for babies and young children.

 

The programme supports artists across all artforms at different stages of their careers – from those interested in learning more about working with this age group to those who are experienced and want to develop their practice.

 

Rhona Matheson, Chief Executive of Starcatchers, said: “We have come a long way over the past 10 years in our understanding about the importance of a child’s earliest years and of babies’ and young children’s capacity to engage with artistic experiences.

 

“But the impact these experiences can have is still underestimated and that’s why we continue to support artists through training and mentorship, and by providing opportunities to push the boundaries of their artistic practice.”