A reflection on the Erasmus+ project visit to France

29 April 2022

Digital media assistant, Suzanne Oliphant, reflects on her time in France as part of Starcatchers international project, funded by Erasmus +,  Art and Early Childhood. The project is in partnership with a European network of early years arts and creative organisations from France, The Netherlands and Catalonia.

In March, I went on Starcatchers Erasmus+ project to France to attend Compagnie ACTA’s Premières Rencontres Festival in Villiers-le-bel. I was excited to share different ideas of arts and early years practice amongst our Erasmus+ partners from France, The Netherlands and Catalonia. After a quick jaunt up the Eiffel Tower on our first day, the rest of the week was packed with conferences, shows and workshops.

Once we arrived in Villiers-le-bel and split up into groups, I attended the morning performance of Roy s’endort a winter’s tale by Thomas Casey. Performed in French and English to an intimate crowd of wee ones from the local nursery; it was a great treat to start my day! With the wee ones engrossed in the performance and following the performer with their eyes everywhere he went, us delegates were merely part of the furniture. The attention stayed with the performer throughout apart from when some wee ones wanted to play with the snow swirling in the air, but who can blame them? The afternoon performance of Früh Stück on day two was a different experience. In the morning, children from the local nursery enjoyed the performance but the afternoon was very different, the room was filled with delegates instead and for the duration of the performance, we were the children. In the centre of the room was a train track surrounded by drinking glasses. The glasses were filled at different levels and as the train came by with a stick tapping the glasses, music was made. We drank the water and ate some apples and biscuits brought along by the train. We tapped our empty glasses and played along to the rhythm that was set. The room and our stomachs were soon full with music and food. One participant with me said made them rethink snack time in early years settings. Who knew that snack time can be so enjoyable?

The main body of the visit was attending conferences and debates which was the perfect time to test out my understanding of French. I’d like to give a shout out to the translators who made everything much easier for us. Different topics surrounding arts and early years were discussed. Speakers explored French legislation, research into children’s engagement, health and music and presenting projects including toys made by children in the Ivory Coast and the Erasmus+ project.

Our final day in France consisted of workshops with our Erasmus+ partners where we exchanged our thoughts on what was discussed at the conference and shared the positives and negatives of arts and early years in our respective countries. Before heading to the airport, we were taken on a tour of the local library and crèche. The library was packed with books and other media suitable for all ages and covering a load of topics. The toy library was a particular stand-out feature of the facility, a group of people were already enjoying some time playing a board game and a young boy was enjoying the toys on offer the library also has close links with local artist and early years organisations who then organise projects delivered in the building. It was clear that this was a hub in the community for people to come together no matter what age they are and enjoy play, connecting with books and having fun.  It was great to have the opportunity to see how early years settings work abroad and be able to draw comparisons and reflect on the differences to there and Scotland.

Reflecting on the tour of the creche, Heather Armstrong said: “The creche was a great opportunity for ELC practitioners from Scotland to reflect on the similarities and differences in the setup of the spaces – a few noted that there were fewer resources set up and more space to move around, yet the children still seemed happy and engaged, which started an interesting discussion about whether Scottish ELC settings might be over-stimulating.”

In May, Starcatchers will be hosting Erasmus+ participants in Edinburgh as delegates for the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival, during the visit we will be bringing participants to shows in the festival, hosting workshops and sharing our practice as well as visiting settings. I look forward to welcoming our Erasmus+ partners in May and sharing more ideas on arts and practice.