With the arrival of February also came the arrival of a major European arts event for babies and children called Wide Eyes, the culmination of the four-year Small size, Performing Arts for Early Years project. The project has been created and developed by a group of members of the Small size Network, and – among its many objectives and activities – has been supporting the Network and its Secretary for the last three and a half year.
Over 200 artists and delegates, from over 30 countries, descended on the beautiful city of Galway, a thriving cultural city on the western coast of Ireland, for the final event of Small size, Performing Arts for Early Years. Hosted by Baboró International Arts Festival for Children, an organisation dedicated exclusively to providing children with quality cultural and creative arts experiences, the 4-day event ran from 1 – 4 February in seven venues throughout Galway city.
Photo: Anita Murphy
The concept for Wide Eyes, developed by Project Leader, Roberto Frabetti of La Baracca – Testoni Ragazzi in Italy, is rooted in the belief that children are never too young to quite literally have their eyes opened wide in amazement while they experience the performing arts. The programme featured work produced by some of Europe’s finest creators of Early Years work. 140 arts professionals from 17 organisations and 15 countries shared an extravaganza of new dance and theatre shows for 0‑6 year olds with over 2,000 children and families as well as with 700 pupils from schools and crèches. The shows were developed specifically under the project’s overarching theme of ‘Wide Eyes’ and the participating countries were Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the UK and Ireland. The event also saw artists and delegates travel from as far away as Egypt, Singapore and Australia.
Besides the Wide Eyes shows, the event hosted several workshops for children and their families as well as for teachers and artists, and several talks and presentations – one of which by Small size Network – that allowed for stimulating discussions about arts and early years.
Aislinn ÓhEocha, Baboró’s Executive Artistic Director commenting on Wide Eyes said: “At Baboró we believe you’re never too young to be an audience member so we were very proud to host this major one-off event dedicated exclusively to children aged 0 – 6 years. It’s been a privilege to be part of an international network like Small size, and to work with organisations who are equally passionate about developing work for younger audiences. For Baboró to host Wide Eyes in Galway was a real honour. It was wonderful to welcome our European counterparts to Galway, and to share their work with babies, children and families over four jam-packed days. It was also a welcome platform for much-needed conversations and reflections on the sector.”
Wide Eyes was the culmination of a four-year ‘Small size, Performing Arts for Early Years’ project with European partners from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK and Ireland.
‘Small size, Performing Arts for Early Years’ is a large-scale co-operation project financed from 2014-2018 by Creative Europe, the European Commission framework programme that supports culture. The project is aimed at bringing more and more children aged 0 to 6 years old into direct contact with the performing arts both in Europe and worldwide. The partners strongly believe that children – even the youngest ones – have the right to be viewed as spectators of today and not only of tomorrow, as they are human beings, and not just human becomings.
‘Small size, Performing Arts for Early Years’ involves 17 partners from 15 different European countries, theatres and cultural centres that have developed a real, specific professional competence in the field of performing arts for Early Years. During these four years, alongside the Wide Eyes co-production project which culminated in the final event held in Galway in February 2018, the project presented 56 festivals and showcases, 66 productions, 4 editions of ‘Small size Days’, 13 mentoring projects with European and outer-European theatres and companies, 4 Artistic Director Meetings and the support to Small size Network.
Through its activities, the project promotes the mobility of ideas and people, raising awareness on the right of children to cultural citizenship, and the lifelong learning of those adults who interact with them at a professional level.
‘Small size, Performing Arts for Early Years’ is the fourth ‘Small size’ project acknowledged by the European Union through its various Culture programmes. Since the first project, ‘Small Size’ (2005-2006), the partnership involved in creating and then expanding the network for European professionals active in this area, grew from four to the current 17 partners.