Archive by Author

Early Years Work Shortlisted for the Clore Award for Museum Learning

15 May

The work of the Manchester Early Years Partnership has made the shortlist for the Clore Learning Award 2012.

Five projects have been shortlisted and these can all be seen on the Art Fund website by clicking here

The award of £10,000 will not be announced until June 2012.

Good luck to everyone on the shortlist.


The Next Steps

21 Dec

Thank you

The CultureBaby team would like to say a big Thank you for attending, or expressing an interest in, the seminar at  Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester on 23 November. We have had very positive feedback and we want to let you know how we are planning to take the work forward and share it with you we will update this blog until the new one is launched, so keep checking back

Our plans for 2012…..

Countdown to the new early year’s blog
We will be launching a new blog in early 2012, with a new name and branding for all the early years programmes (including 0-2 practice) that  we run  across Whitworth Art Gallery , Manchester Museum and Manchester Art Gallery.

Sharing our evaluation from 0-2 pilot activities
Liz and Sara Mair from Mair Health and Mair Education are currently evaluating the drop in and targeted activity sessions we are running at  Whitworth Art Gallery and Manchester Museum. We will share their findings with you on the new blog.

Follow up event summer 2012; 0-2 best practice sharing workshops
In your feedback, many of you have asked for a follow up event which facilitates the sharing of best practice with very young children and parents. We are also aware that many of you very kindly offered to speak at our event in November but we could not accommodate you, therefore we are planning to host a follow up event in summer 2012 which will focus on examples of good practice across arts and cultural organisations. We will contact you via email and on our blog when we have a date and venue, but in the meantime please feel free to contact us if you are interested in sharing your practice or leave us a message below.

Images from CultureBaby

13 Dec

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5 Dec

CultureBaby Vox Pops

1 Dec

For those of you who attended the seminar last week, you may have found yourself being filmed as part of the day.  This film was shown at the end of the seminar and is shown below.  Enjoy!

Guest Post from Carla Henry, Drama Practitioner and Actress

21 Nov

I remember my very first experience of theatre as a very young child at primary school.

Going on a school trip to a very big space. I was going to listen to a special story, to be taken on a journey. As I walked into this giant space, I was given a small sweet by a lady dressed in a costume, she could have been from another world!  She asked me; would I like to go inside the belly of a whale?  I ate the sweet quickly, just in case she changed her mind! Then I walked through the door, and I was there, in a magical world!  Although, the sweet may have had lots to do with it, I remember the sensory experience of believing in this magical world, this space that could have been anything or anywhere, a space where I could be anyone, a magical space, a space for me, to imagine, play and explore.

My name is Carla Henry. It is an absolute privilege and pure joy to have the opportunity to devise, create and facilitate imaginative play through the world of Drama and Theatre and all it has to offer. To take an object, painting or sound and devise a story based session as an interactive experience for our young friends.

Within a session a child is allowed to improvise and explore. I see myself as facilitator, making several offerings of story telling using verbal and non verbal communication. Storytelling is steeped within my culture, a story was always told in my home, words that empowered, excited and encouraged me. Story for me is life!. Bringing stories to life for 0-2 yrs has been such an exciting journey. It is a magical and encouraging experience when I catch a glimpse of a parent/carer smiling as they watch their precious baby smile, babble and interact.

I strongly believe that story, drama and theatre had such an impact on my life. Then the birth of my son brought with it the beginnings of my practice with babies and young children. I started attending sessions with my baby son, he never asked to go anywhere, but he let me know where he didn’t want to be. I watched him, responded to him and knew that I wanted to create something which would inspire him. Drama 4 Tots was born. I have been devising and running sessions for the past two years, my practice is always growing and exploring new ways to facilitate, fun, creative and inspiring play. I am very fortunate to have the support and input of inspirational Primary school teacher Laura Miley.

My son Semi Ray was not interested in sitting still and listening to a story, so I brought the story alive, out of a box (literally) gave him and others an interactive story experience and then told them that stories also live in books! Now he can’t put books down, acting out the characters and creating his own world, it’s magical.

Using my experience as an actress and my degree in Devised Theatre I created Drama 4 Tots.  Each story within the session is original.  I use sound, movement, live instruments, props and lots of sensory materials to create a space for exploration with the emphasis on FUN! I have been greatly inspired by the works of Pie Corbett and Oliy Cart.

Most recently I was invited to collaborate with Sam Hull (a wonderful visual artist) on a project:  Story Spaces (Not a box).  This was a partnership between Manchester Art Gallery, the Royal Exchange and Action For Children Foundations Project.  Funded by Manchester City Council’s Cultural Strategy for developing cultural opportunities for North Manchester residents.  I was then commissioned by Manchester Art Gallery to work as the Drama Practitioner on their Far Far Away project.  I devised a piece of work called The Sad Stem using the Pre-Raphaelites painting Ophella (1852 Arthur Hughes) as my inspiration to develop a interactive session for 0-5’s. At the beginning of this year myself and Heather Varley created Little Jammers, bringing the magic of singing and musical fun with live guitar and flute to babies and young children.

All children should have the opportunity to be exposed to and access cultural institutions in a truly inclusive way.

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Nelson Mandela

I feel CultureBaby is a fantastic opportunity to share practise, ideas and thoughts. This is such an exciting time to be working with 0-2’s and I am really looking forward to Wednesday.

See you there!


Items in the news

18 Nov

There has been a lot of press recently about Early Years, Sure Start Centres, Reading, Families and Arts Education, I thought it might be worth pulling the links together below.  What other items have you seen in the press recently?  Please feel free to share your thoughts or links in the comments below.

Big Names Call for Arts Education to Preserved

A string of big names from the arts world are urging the government to ensure cultural learning is not stripped from schools in England.

Former film-maker Lord Puttnam, Old Vic director Kevin Spacey and Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota have signed a report showcasing the value of arts education. They fear changes to the curriculum could see arts subjects sidelined.

The government said its reforms would not stop schools teaching the arts.

Reading to Children has Long Impact, says OECD Study

Children whose parents frequently read with them in their first year of school are still showing the benefit when they are 15, says an international study.

An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development analysis examined the long-term impact of parental support on literacy.

Reading with Child ‘Highlight of the day for parents’

Parents in England and Northern Ireland are spending more time reading to their children for pleasure, a survey for the reading scheme Booktime suggests.

The poll found parents spent an average of one hour and 26 minutes a week reading with their children in 2011, up from one hour 18 minutes in 2009. For the majority (71%) reading with their child is one of the highlights of their day.

Free nursery places for 140,000 disadvantaged toddlers

As many as 140,000 disadvantaged two-year-olds could have free nursery or childcare places under a scheme planned to be rolled out in England.

Plans to give 15 hours of free “early education” a week to all two-year-olds from poor homes were announced last year but details have now been set out. A pilot scheme, first started under Labour, is due to be extended nationwide from September 2013.

Further to this, see the News Release from the Department of Eduction

124 Sure Start centres have closed since the coalition took power

The government has confirmed that there are now 124 fewer Sure Start centres for children than there were when the coalition formed last year.

Lord Hill of Oareford, the education minister, released figures that showed there were 3,631 Sure Start centres in April last year, but by 8 September this year there were only 3,507.

Further to this, see the News Release from the Department for Education

Child Poverty warning as cuts threaten to close 3,500 Sure Start Centres

Pressure is growing on the government to step in to protect the country’s Sure Start children’s centres amid confusion over the true scale of cuts being proposed around the country.

Former government adviser Naomi Eisenstadt, Sure Start’s first director at its launch in 1998, said it had become obvious that ministers “couldn’t guarantee anything” for 3,500 centres, credited with reducing child poverty levels and creating community cohesion.

Launch of the Nutbrown Review

On Friday 28 October the Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, announced the launch of an independent review of early education and childcare qualifications, to be carried out by Professor Cathy Nutbrown.

The review will look in particular at five themes: content of qualifications and training courses, coherence and inclusivity, creating clear career pathways, standards, and the status of the workforce.  Prof Nutbrown will be making a wide ranging assessment of the current qualifications landscape and opportunities for strengthening the system with a view to putting proposals before the Secretary of State for Education and the Minister of State for Children and Families, Sarah Teather MP, in summer 2012.



Guest post from Lea Johnson, Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI); ‘ The Place of What is Possible’

17 Nov

The request to write this Guest blog has allowed me to reflect on the 2 year journey that has lead to the creation of our atelier for young children here at The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI).

Those of you who draw inspiration from the Reggio Emilia approach will be familiar with the term ‘atelier’ in the context of the famous Italian preschools.  The atelier is a ‘studio’ or ‘workshop’ where young children can explore, interact and think creatively. Significant features of all Reggio preschools in Italy are a main atelier and mini- atelier attached to each classroom.

We decided to develop our very own atelier at MOSI following outputs a Renaissance North West funded Textiles project for early years.  The latter had involved the MOSI Learning Team, artists from Creative Collaborators, and North Gorton Children’s Centre.  During the evaluation there was a request by a Children’s Centre practitioner for an atelier in our Textiles Gallery.

Myself (a Museum Education Officer), and a group of enthusiastic early years practitioners from across the city, set about researching the possibilities of creating such a space within a museum.  This initially involved visits to Children’s Centres across Manchester, Early Excellence in Huddersfield and the Acorn Centre in Chorley. We were fortunate in that members of the group had been on study tours to Reggio to see the preschools at first hand and were able to steer us in the right direction!

Our research helped us to consider the aims of the space, the philosophy, the design and the resources required.  The space had to be designed specifically for babies, toddlers, young children and those with special rights.  The materials and technical equipment should be mostly recycled or low tech in order to encourage easy replication of the learning environment at home or in school.  The space and the resources also had to show a direct link to the theme of textiles to ensure that the space was an integral part of the much bigger Textiles Gallery.

As part of our research into resources suitable for 0-2 year olds, we decided that Treasure Baskets and Heuristic Play materials would offer lots of opportunities for open- ended exploration in our atelier.  A partnership project with parents and staff from Whalley Range Children’s Centre resulted in a collection of thought provoking materials and themed treasure baskets that would be used in the atelier.  Many of the resources were obtained from GRUMPY Play Resource Centre in Manchester.  Through the project, parents and children were given opportunities to engage in sensory play and to explore and discover both in the Children’s Centre and in the Museum galleries.

Funding from Manchester City Council (through the Aiming High for Disabled Children project), and from Renaissance North West has resulted in the creation of a calm, comfortable and creative atelier in our Textiles Gallery.  When not in use, it is filled with gently undulating shadows created by a suspended giant dandelion clock that has parallels in a piece of artwork in the gallery.  When busy, there is the quiet hush of concentrated engagement with fabrics, bobbins, ribbons, pipe cleaners,light and shadows. Babies gaze into mirrors whilst experiencing the sensations of lying on various soft fabrics  and toddlers explore coloured buttons, sand, glitter, cellophane, lace and gauze on the light box and the overhead projector.   These sorts of ‘intelligent materials’, not normally associated with young children, offer tremendous creative possibilities. They grab children’s attention and prompt further exploration and investigation.

In creating our atelier we have relied heavily on the experience and expertise of PLACES.  This is a small Community Interest Company that promotes creative learning in young children in the context of the city. PLACES has helped us to develop CPD training sessions for practitioners on how to use the atelier with young children.

We have 2 more FREE sessions available to find out about the atelier, to engage with the resources and to explore ways in which the space can be used. Attendance at a CPD allows the atelier to be booked for FREE use with small groups of accompanied children.

Tuesday 17th January 2012: Textures and Surfaces                       Tuesday 24th April 2012: Inside and Outside

Both sessions commence at 4.15pm.  Please contact the Learning Centre on 0161 833 0027 to check availability and to book.

Guest post from Baby Moves

15 Nov

We at Baby Moves are delighted to write the guest blog for the Culture Baby conference. It’s interesting to think about culture in relation to babies, do they know what culture is? Do they recognise something as high culture and sophisticated? Probably not, but they do know what they like, ask any parent!

Even the smallest of newborn babies can make choices, they can distinguish between sounds, sights, smells, textures and tastes from birth. They are naturally curious and inquisitive and want to find out about things, to discover its properties. Give any baby a choice of objects, such as a feather or pine cone, or even a washing up brush, and watch them. They will choose to pick something up, look at it from different angles, pass it from hand to hand, put it in their mouth to feel and taste, before dropping it and picking up something new. This is high end critical thinking, and we do not give babies enough credit for these thinking skills. This is the beginning of creativity and creative thinking, to play imaginatively, to explore and discover how objects feel, look, sound, taste, smell and move.

Time needs to be given to them to develop these deep skills, rather than shallow thinking, which results from a quick succession of activities. We have observed a small baby lying on his back, passing a large blue feather from hand to hand, watching it intently from all angles. Don’t be too quick to move on with activities, let them dictate the pace. This he did for 20 minutes! This is the beginning of aesthetic awareness, they are finding out about similarities and differences and discovering what they like and dislike.

This does not develop in isolation, babies love being with familiar adults and other babies, they will watch intently what other babies do and copy them, copying sounds, babbling, actions and movements. The very first thing that newborn babies find attractive is faces, research with newborn babies have shown them imitating a parent sticking out their tongue. They will watch what adults and other children do and copy their sounds, actions and movements.

There is a joy in movement for its own sake, with no other objective but that it feels good, just watch any child in a playground. However as we know, all children do benefit from movement, and it helps with their whole round holistic development and growth.

This is all culture, not something which is imposed upon them by well meaning adults, but something which they discover for themselves. Babies are always surprising us, no matter how many we work with, they are always discovering something new. There will always be new babies and they will always be doing something new. We at Baby Moves celebrate each baby’s uniqueness and individuality, and provide space and opportunity for their creativity to be expressed.

Sue Sutherland and Olwyn Maurer, directors Baby Moves



Guest Post from Lucie Charkin, Founder of CultureBaby, London

14 Nov

CultureBaby was borne out of a desire to offer parents of under two’s engaging cultural activities.

I established the events based network CultureBaby a year ago because I wanted to do something positive for mothers/fathers with little babies and toddlers who want to remain engaged with London’s cultural offer. Having experienced good and bad visits to the museums with my children I realised there is much to be done to make them more accessible to parents of under twos.

From my own research and feedback from parents who attend my events it seems that, despite great public programming, the parents of very young children have felt a little excluded from cultural activities. We are often prevented by un-baby-friendly venues, prohibitive start times or the ever constant threat of a screaming fit during a talk, reading or recital. Yet, many of us still have a desire to keep our minds alert and stimulated during the haze of our baby’s early years ….

If we go to an event or Museum we want to know that we can get there with a pram or sling and that when we get there we will have somewhere to change and feed our baby.

Also, as our children grow alongside us their desire to engage and learn accelerates and a Museum again becomes a potential ‘ playground’  for you both to learn in tandem with your own specific needs as a parent of an inquisitive toddler…..

CultureBaby is determined to put mums and dads at the heart of London’s cultural life. Through a series of baby-friendly events and courses that will stimulate our imaginations and engage our cultural sides. We organize artists, writers, musicians and scientists to give illuminating talks in safe environments in which parent and child can relax. We arrange private visits to museums and galleries that are pram and baby friendly so parents of new babies can enjoy a moment of me time with likeminded parents. We go on pram walks ‘prambles’ with our babies and toddlers and learn about the natural and urban landscape that surrounds us. We also offer you courses that both you and your toddler will find engaging and intellectually stretching.

Our charter:

We believe we should enjoy access to culture with a baby in a pram or a sling

We believe we can support cultural institutions by visiting them and expressing our collective needs in a positive way

We want to share a love of learning with our children from the day they are born

About me

Lucie Charkin established CultureBaby in 2010. She is a freelance writer and arts consultant whose work includes producing and commissioning artworks and international festivals. She also provides strategic advice to public and private arts organisations.

Before having a family Lucie was Head of Development at the commissioning agency Artangel and Head of the Individual Giving team that delivered the Darwin Centre Campaign at The Natural History Museum. Lucie spent five years in China and Hong Kong, where she worked for a leading contemporary art gallery before establishing a new gallery of Contemporary Art inside the forbidden city, Beijing. She completed a Bachelor’s degree in Cultural History and a Master’s degree in Art Criticism, both in London.

Lucie is a mother of three, and lives with her husband Mark in West London.  She can be reached on


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