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!

Thank you

29 Nov

We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who attended the CultureBaby seminar last Wednesday, and special thanks to our speakers and panel members.

We hope you had a great day and took away some useful ideas and information.

Check back here to see film footage from the day, which we’ll be uploading shortly, and feel free to comment on any of the posts.


Babes in the woods

22 Nov

A guest blog post from Wild Rumpus:

We are Rowan and Sarah, the directors of Wild Rumpus. We produce large scale outdoor arts events for families, including the award winning Just So Festival. We believe that when families engage together in the highest quality arts in a wild natural landscape, something quite amazing can happen.

Our work is built on the idea that taking the arts outdoors into wild, natural landscapes, and creating a magical and enchanting environment can create transformative moments for families with children from birth onwards. Whole family engagement in the arts, from the very earliest months and years can create memories and experiences that are reinforced and become part of a family’s vocabulary, and the stories that they share.

In moving things outdoors  we break down some of the barriers to families participating and go some way to creating the environment for families to have creative adventures on their own terms. Children run, they shout, they play and they explore. The younger ones may simply coo. That’s good enough for us.  Instead of trying to squash all that energy into a pre-existing and often intimidating cultural structure, we are letting the cultural forms out, to run and shout, to explore and play too.

We started the festival, a weekend camping event, in no small part because of the way our children interact with the arts. Although we have children of similar ages we soon noticed that we also have different boundaries, different rules and different agendas, so the ways in which we engage in the arts are subtly different. Looking around at our friends we realised that all families go about enjoying the arts in their own way. Some are happy for a no-holds-barred, touch-everything-you can approach, others take a more restrained tack.  We keep this in mind with everything we programme at the festival – we want families to move out of their comfort zones and to be open to new experiences  but we don’t want to dictate to them how to participate and engage, they must do that in a way that they feel comfortable with, what we can do is provide an environment that’s inspiring and the opportunity to go about things within a fully supportive and positive framework. Families are relaxed and open to new experiences at an festival in a natural landscape, and due in part to this temporary mental landscape, approach the arts in a different way

The 0-2 age group is not one you naturally think of in conjunction with festivals but we think it’s a great playground for them to enjoy and start to be inspired by art and culture. Babies and toddlers are endlessly curious and love to explore, what better environment to do this in than outdoors, where senses are heightened by the notion that anything is possible. The festival aims to not just tick the boxes in terms of facilities with a comfy breastfeeding tent, a changing tent with free biodegradable nappies and wipes and baby bath time but also with programming of paper play activities, choral lullabies, baby yoga, playing with food, music and movement and storytelling.

The immersive nature of a festival environment means that you can be surrounded by art all the time, there can be opportunities to join in, to listen, to watch whilst eating dinner, whilst playing, whilst brushing teeth, whilst in your pyjamas. We know because we’ve already made it happen and heard the wonderful feedback so many families have given us as a result – you’re never too young to festival.


1 day to go!

22 Nov


With only one day to go until the CultureBaby seminar, we’re getting very excited here and are really looking forward to meeting you and listening to some lively discussions.

If you are a tweeter, our hashtag is #culturebaby, and you can follow comments on the day using our Twitterfall.

Remember, registration will be between 10-11am, so there is plenty of time for you to have a cuppa and visit the Dark Matters exhibition before the seminar kicks off.

If you need help with public transport, the TFGM website is full of information and advice, and also has a very handy journey planner. Parking is limited near the Whitworth Art Gallery so we do advise you use public transport. The nearest rail station is Oxford Road, which you can connect to from Manchester Piccadilly. If you are taking the bus (which there are hundreds of), the bus stop nearest to the gallery is Whitworth Park.

If you have any other transport queries please contact the Whitworth Art Gallery on 0161 275 7450.

Address: Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6ER

Have a safe journey to Manchester and see you tomorrow!

Evaluating activities for under 2s and parents and carers

21 Nov

An image taken from a Mair Education project

Hello from the Mair Sisters!

We’re Liz and Sara and we’re very excited to be working with The Manchester Museum and The Whitworth Art Gallery to evaluate activities for under 2s.

Over the next four months we’re going to be observing the pilot activities across both sites for under two year olds. We’ll also be speaking to a range of people including parents and carers, museum and gallery staff, health visitors and children centre staff to ask their opinion about what’s on offer. This will help us understand how culture can contribute to early intervention and development, to make lasting improvements to the lives of children.

Liz is from a health and very early years background and runs Mair Health and Sara runs Mair Education, which specialises in helping museums develop provision for a wide range of audiences.

We’ll be posting more information about our work over the coming months but in the meantime feel free to contact us if you’d like to get involved and find out more about what we’re doing.

You can contact us by email on liz@mairhealth.com  or sara@maireducation.com 

 Or call us on 07815 095 305

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!