Creating New Work for the Outdoors
Small Wonders was a commissioning initiative to create new outdoor arts for the under 5s that, as director of The 3foot People Festival, I helped to shape.
High quality visual and performing arts projects for the under 5s had been blossoming and developing for many years in theatres, galleries, museums and other indoor spaces across the UK. The work had been engaging very young children in unique and innovative ways that not only succeeded in introducing the next generation to the arts but also provided distinctive educational and learning experiences.
Similarly, through investment and support, the Outdoor Arts sector has produced some of the most memorable and talked about festivals, spectacles and community celebrations prior to the pandemic.
With local authorities, producers and funders recognising the considerable impact that Outdoor Arts has on communities, new festivals and events had been emerging at an impressive rate.
However, there were very few companies who were creating exceptional work for early years indoors that have made the transition to the outdoors and work that is created for young people outside is often targeted towards those aged 5+ or of varying quality. With such large platforms to engage the community at large, it was (and still is) important that the under 5s were catered for.
The Small Wonders consortium aimed to support artists in the creation of fantastic, challenging and exceptional work for the outdoors.
Commissioning partners played an active role in the development of the piece of work each year. As a consortium, partners nominated companies for consideration, who were then invited to apply. Short listed applicants presented their ideas to the commissioning partners and the partners made a final decision at the end of a presentation day.
To ensure high quality, the commission was a collaboration. We nominated companies with a history of delivering exceptional work indoors for the under 5s and/or innovative outdoor companies who would likely embrace the opportunity.
All companies invited to apply had access to the nomination list and were asked to form collaborations before presenting their ideas to the commissioning partners.
The process was managed by Kate Hazel of Alchemy Productions.
There were also a number of other conditions of the commission:
- Projects had to include an interactive element or workshop
- Projects had to be affordable, transportable, flexible and accessible
- The future cost of booking the piece couldn’t exceed £1200
The partners over the years included: FUSE Medway Festival, Kent – The Shimmy, London – Norfolk & Norwich Festival – The 3foot People Festival, Essex – Imagine Children’s Festival, Southbank – The Battersea Art Centre – Activate Performing Arts, Dorset
Artist Professional Development
One of the main objectives of this initiative was to build the skills and capacity of artists to deliver outdoor work for the under 5s. As a result, the initiative also included a professional development strand with two artist professional development days held each year. Commissioning partners invited artists / companies from their regions to attend these events.
The successful artists / companies that won the commission were…
The Tiny Travelling Tightwire Show
StopGAP Dance Company
Dante or Die / Peut-être Theatre