Creating the space to Empower

17 October 2017

Rosie Sunshine

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Rosie Sunshine worked with the Lochgelly group for five weeks as part of our Emerging Artist Bursary programme. In this blog she reflects on her experience of developing the idea of a circus theatre piece for babies and their adults with the group, and witnesses the real power of collaboration in creating new ideas. 

I was lucky enough to be invited as an Emerging Bursary Artist for five weeks with the Lochgelly group. I was hoping to explore ways of making circus-theatre for babies and carers. It was a fantastic experience.

In our first session we played with aerial silks on the floor, bouncing babies, and even a brave mum in the fabric. It was lovely to see grown-ups relaxing enough to join in with their babies’ uninhibited movement. As little Lily-Rose showed off her forward rolls, some of the mums joined in and demonstrated their rolls, cartwheels and handstand-forward rolls, bringing out long ago gymnastic skills. This feeling of an environment where mums and babies were encouraged to explore and show off movement was great to be part of.

In our second session, we unrolled a giant piece of paper and drew pictures, exploring what our ideal ‘baby circus’ might look like, from stripy tents to ‘cotton-candy clouds’. There were some interesting conversations about imagination, exploring whether it was possible to have no imagination – or if imagination could sometimes be a bad thing, conjuring up fears and worries.

In our third session, the ‘cotton-candy clouds’ materialised in the form of tie-dyed pink duvets – the result of a weekend spent immersed in buckets of pink dye! We made a ‘canyfloss playlist’ of gentle music and looked at sensory play, with light toys and percussion instruments. For me this was an inspiring session, as adults and babies alike were captivated by the magical combination of lights and rhythm, using the gathering drum to beat out rhythms and make shadow-puppets and light shows. This combination of light and rhythm is something I intend to explore further.

Our fourth session was with amazing poet Leyla Josephine. Using a ball pit with a word on every ball was a fantastic way to engage babies while facilitating mums to create rhymes, and it was a privilege to take part and share in the story the group created.

Our final session was making a music video, with the fantastic Geraldine Heaney. The cotton-candy duvets and aerial silks reappeared as props for our set, and the participants worked hard learning lyrics, singing, and passing their babies to and fro, to make choreography with a joyous sense of connection.

I remember putting my hand up during my MA and answering that facilitation was not just only about making art, but about creating a space where participants are empowered to make their own art. I don’t think I really understood those words until I watched a participant spontaneously deciding to make a giant heart on the ground using the aerial fabric and getting all the mums to lie down on it, creating a literal love-heart of human connection around their babies.

I have come out of the experience with a wealth of ideas for exploration and a better understanding of ways to meet the needs of both early years audiences and their carers, and look forward to developing these within my practice.

Expecting Something works with new, young and expectant parents under 25 and their babies in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh and Lochgelly, Fife, providing a weekly safe space to spend time with their babies and peers whilst engaging in artist-lead creative activities. 

You can find out more about Expecting Something on the project page