Little Big Bang
2009 - 2011
Little Big Bang believes that children and families need, and have a right to, creative and cultural activities The two and a half year Little Big Bang project was set up by Take Art to increase creative opportunities for children and families, by placing creative practitioners into key Somerset Children’s Centres to work holistically as part of their professional teams. Four artists have been working with Children’s Centres and arts organisations across Somerset; a digital and visual artist, a dance and movement practitioner, a theatre and movement artist and more recently, a clay and mark-making artist. Three of the artists are currently working as part of the Children’s Centre teams, exploring and defining the role of the Lead Creative Practitioner (LCP) within this environment. A central part of their role is to develop links between Children’s Centres (including their children, families and staff) and the arts community (artists, local venues and arts organisations), in order to raise the quality and quantity of creative arts and cultural engagement. Their experiences and findings will not only inform the future development of the role of the LCP in Children’s Centres across Somerset but also in the wider UK. The project has been funded jointly by Somerset County Council, The Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Arts Council England as part of the Somerset RFO Thrive project with Somerset Arts Promoters.
Four LCPs have engaged long term with nine Somerset Childrenâ€™s Centres and 12 Somerset arts organisations
They have been working in 32 early years settings and Arts venues across Somerset
32 Offering over 745 workshops and over 12,500 attendances
yr 50 -6 4
yr s 9 20 -4
yr s 9 41
attendances by age
In addition, Little Big Bang has offered 250 training sessions to 879 participants (272 artists, 118 early years teachers and 616 other early years practitioners)
The Three Constellations
Southern Constellation Hannah Lefeuvre
The Lead Creative Practitioners (LCP) have been working with three ‘constellations’ across Somerset, loosely centered around Somerset’s main market towns of Bridgwater/Shepton Mallet (Northern), Yeovil/Crewkerne (Southern) and Taunton/ Langport (Central). Each LCP works in a different art form, including dance and movement (Southern Constellation) and digital and visual (Central Constellation). The theatre practitioner working in the Northern Constellation left during the project
“My explorations with children, staff and families are about moving through play, using the imagination and sensory work. This requires a clear space, bare feet and an open mind. As we explore, we use basic actions such as travelling, crawling, shuffling, rolling, running, skipping and jumping, hiding and revealing. “The practice promotes physical health, balance, mobility, strength and co-ordination, as well as social, emotional and mental
to be replaced by a clay and mark maker.
health and wellbeing.
All the practitioners have been working
“At the Octagon Theatre and the David Hall
as a team, reflecting on their practice and collaborating with arts and early years contacts across the county to make the best opportunities and events happen. They have each formed relationships with the arts venues and agencies in their area (see back page), taking a flexible and proactive approach, determined by their own art form, the needs of the children and the interests of these partners.
Arts Centre I have introduced weekly dance and movement sessions for families. I have also delivered training programmes and taster sessions for practitioners and children in over 25 settings, exploring the rationale behind the work and its links to the Early Years Foundation Stage.”
“Small children are naturally inquisitive,
“My role is to support the creative enquiry
spontaneous and creative and are usually not burdened with particular expectations. Some of the most creative sessions I’ve been involved in have required the least amount of preparation. “I’ve involved Children’s Centre communities in a range of visual arts activities including: creating dynamic spinning paintings, making photo stories, investigating light and shadow, using light boxes and projectors; exploring the creative potential of natural resources and using photography and film. “I’m also focusing on bringing the Children’s Centre communities into contact with professional artists through a ‘Creative Exchange’ programme, offering Creative Professional Development opportunities for Children’s Centre practitioners and artists and working with the Brewhouse Theatre on making the space attractive to small children.”
and play of the children, parents and staff. Working both indoors and outside, I use natural materials which allow open ended play - clay, water, sand, collected sticks for example. We may work on a collective aim like a puppet show, or it may be individual enquiry within a wider context of a made clay landscape, this changes and evolves as time passes. I aim to let participants lead although I will intervene and provide direction and inspiration if necessary. “I am developing links with the wider cultural community through a partnership between the ‘Somerset Brick and Tile Museum’ and the Children’s Centre. We used roof tiles and bricks made at the museum to create a clay oven and then installed it at Victoria Park Children’s Centre. This was a great way to engage families in the process.” Additional LCPs have included Richard Tomlinson and Francesca Dunford.
Creativity The Little Big Bang project was set up to help encourage and develop a childâ€™s ability to think and live creatively. A creative thinking person sees possibilities - secret paths through the jungle, rainbows in puddles and purses in pigâ€™s ears. They see cities and vast savannas, where other people see rubbish tips and sand pits. They see opportunities and potential, instead of brick walls and limitations. Creativity itself can be found in simple everyday scenarios; a child playing inside an empty box, splashing in a puddle, the tangles in a piece of string and the stories they tell us at the end of the day. Creativity is the intention and inspiration behind the marks in clay, the paint strokes, the finished photograph. Little Big Bang aims to present an environment in which children can explore their full creative potential through play and encouragement; so that creative thinking becomes an intrinsic part of their everyday lives.
Action Research Programme Research conducted by Dr Susan Young of the University of Exeter explored the role of the creative practitioner as part of a multi agency team in the Children’s Centre. Action research, with its emphasis on discussion and sharing ‘narratives of practice’ allows for meaning-sharing and the evolution of new ways of seeing. This contributes to the process of arriving at themes. These emerging themes include the recognition that every Children’s Centre is different, that being part of the furniture is critical for the Lead Creative Practitioner (LCP), that they need to set boundaries, have common creative goals and once confidence is secured, ‘distributed creative activity’ is all the more possible. This table provides a simple comparison between a typical visiting artist working within a Children’s Centre on a project-to-project basis and a LCP working in a Children’s Centre as part of Little Big Bang. Visiting Artist Work on a temporary basis
Lead Creative Practitioner (LCP) Work on a permanent basis
Set up by outside arts agency and self-selecting Children’s Centre with initial commitment to creative work.
Initiated by arts agency with LEA – Children’s Centres selected and do not necessarily have initial commitment
Approach, aims and objectives decided in advance and ‘owned’ by the project.
Approaches not decided in advance, evolve in response to individual Children’s Centre culture, range of activity and needs. Practice adapts to local resources and opportunities.
Child focused education practice.
Wide repertoire of models – education, community arts, therapeutic, adult/parenting education – to serve Children’s Centres’ expanded responsibilities. Child focused becomes family focused.
Role usually excludes any peripheral activity.
Role includes peripheral activity that increases its integration in the Children’s Centre.
Usually framed by one role and relationship – partnership between artists and EY practitioner.
Cultivation of multi-layered ‘sub-roles’ and relationships.
Training EY centre staff is built into the project design and focused on education- orientated approaches.
Collaboration focused on Children’s Centre needs: learning as an organisation. This may include structured training if the centre requests it.
Ensuring legacy and sustainability beyond end of project can be a priority. Artists’ work therefore may emphasise non-specialist and accessible approaches.
Work is permanent – so sustainability not an issue. Artist can offer specialised work, that is most appropriate and enriching, as well as non-specialist and accessible approaches if appropriate.
Does not usually attend major staff meetings or important events.
LCP attends major staff meetings and important events (e.g. OfSTED, annual conversation).
Work is located within the Children’s Centre.
Work is located within the community, connects Children’s Centre with arts and cultural venues – ‘distributed’ model.
Uses arts and creativity talk – mainly education derived.
Uses many different forms of talk for different purposes.
Policy The Early Years sector is currently experiencing a period of upheaval caused by economic cuts, policy revisions and a review of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum. The Tickell Review endorses Children’s Centres both in practice and policy and the principle of local, integrated services for families is strongly supported. Little Big Bang’s aim to connect artists and arts venues with Children’s Centre service networks fits well. The review of the EYFS continues to call for a more highly qualified workforce in the Early Years sector and for raised standards of supervision. All the LCPs are graduates and the model includes regular professional seminars. The Tickell Review proposes certain changes to the curriculum for creativity and arts. The LCP are now very experienced and able to interpret these changes in practice.
Examples of Little Big Bang’s partnership working include: • • • • • • •
LCP and The Brewhouse Theatre create child-size exhibition LCP and ‘Somerset Brick and Tile Museum’ collaborate on brick oven project LCP facilitates artist studio workshops as part of Somerset Arts Week Kindling/Take Art CPD training on making and presenting Early Years theatre at Bridgwater Arts Centre Early Years workshop opens the Shepton Digital Arts Festival KinderGardens Ealry Years International Festival hosted by venues and Children’s Centres LCP working with The Octagon Theatre in Yeovil to provide intimate and Ealry Years friendly preshow experiences
Little Big Bang and Somerset Arts Organisations 1.Somerset Brick and Tile Museum 2.Somerset Film 3.SPAEDA 4.Tacchi-Morris Art Centre 5.The Brewhouse Theatre & Arts Centre 6.Regal Theatre 7.The David Hall 8.Take Art 9.Merlin Theatre 10. Octagon Theatre 11. Folk South West 12. Shepton Digital Arts Festival 13. Somerset Art Works
9 Frome 12 Shepton Mallet
6 Minehead 1 2 Bridgwater
4 5 Taunton
3 13 Langport
7 8 South Petherton
The Future Little Big Bang runs on through 2011 and the work will be extended through further projects. Take Art sees this kind of participatory work as a great vehicle to ensure equality of access and genuine engagement with partners to improve the quality of life for small children, their families and communities. Start is one of Take Art’s core services, dedicated to Early Years creativity. Its priorities for 2011-15 are to: •
raise awareness of quality: we aim to shift the perception of what’s possible in Early Years
encourage excellence: we aim to work collaboratively to deliver high quality work
learn: we place a real value on the enquiring mind and academic research into the sector
For more information about Take Art and the Little Big Bang project see www.takeart.org T. 01460 249450 E. firstname.lastname@example.org Take Art Ltd, The Mill, Flaxdrayton Farm, South Petherton, Somerset, TA13 5LR
Little Big Bang is led and managed by Take Art, supported by Somerset Arts Promoters. Funded by Arts Council England, Somerset County Council and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. All photos credit to Richard Tomlinson and Rod Harris
Published on Jul 27, 2011