Oh how time flies when you’re filling out applications for funding – it’s the 20th March again, which means it is The World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People! Many happy returns!
It’s a day that many grown-ups working outside of theatre and education don’t know about, but one that is incredibly important to the artists, makers and dreamers who make work for, and about the lives of, the smaller world citizens of amongst us.
What we do as children’s theatre makers is as much about advocacy and access as it is about art. My job is not only to tell stories to children and play Zip-Zap-Boing with teenagers. It is my job to ensure that we – the adult over-lords and potential tyrants of a creative childhood – forever keep in mind that young people have a human right to play, art, theatre and civic involvement, as enshrined by their United Nations Convention. And because very few young people have independent incomes, drivers licenses or influence over government funding and artistic infrastructure, it means it us up to us adults to make these creative experiences for them, and make these creative experiences accessible to them. Once again – as with food, clothing, schooling, and affection – children and young people are left at the mercy of their (sometimes hopeless) adults to provide what it is they are owed. Creativity, hope, empathy and conversation are their birthrights. We would all do well to remember that, and artists must also do our part in facilitating happy, healthy and hopeful childhoods around us.
Yvette Hardie, the President of ASSITEJ (a very French acronym, basically meaning ‘The UN for Children’s Theatre’) wrote some very lovely words on the matter, which I can link you to in full here. But to quote her…
Recently The New Victory Theater in New York released the results of a five year study into the benefits of theatre for children and young people. One of the key unexpected findings was that exposure to the theatre gave these children greater hope for the future. These results were contrasted with a control group, where those who were not exposed to theatre performances and workshops over the same period, experienced a diminishing sense of their future possibilities in terms of study and work opportunities.
Why is hope so important? Hope creates positive energy which translates into self-assurance, willpower, resilience and finally into concrete actions to make a difference in one’s own life and in the lives of others. Every child needs to have hope.
I’ll raise a sippy cup of orange squash to that!