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Multi-sensory theatre for 0-7s
In every classroom in the UK, 5 children or young people with have a diagnosable mental health condition and, on average, it can take up to ten years for those kids to receive professional help with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc. We feel that's far too long, so we want to tackle this alongside our colleagues by providing 'gateway' experiences for our youngest children to help equip them with vital information about how their brains work, what feelings are, and a range of healthy coping skills. A 'gateway' experience is a moment in time that provides inspiration, excitement, and that opens the way for further exploration, work, support, and sometimes difficult conversations about mental health, behaviour, and relationships. We are often children's first experience of theatre, and there is no better gateway. In 2016, on just £450 of funding from MK SOUP, we successfully created a multi-sensory adaptation of Jane Evans' 'Little Meerkat's Big Panic'. This little not-for-profit theatre show about the neuroscience of anxiety has gone on to win an award (Best Community Project 2016), and to be booked into a range of theatre festivals, as well as visiting a range of early years settings and professional conferences in under a year; this production is still ongoing, and we have reached in excess of 700 so far. While out on the road with Little Meerkat, we heard from parents/carers, early years professionals, teachers and many other concerned adults that they would like a similar show to help very young children better understand anger. From rage to tantrums, to frustration to grief, anger is a complex spectrum of feelings that can result in some really difficult behaviours. We're in the process of developing an original production called Crabby to meet these needs. Crabby is a little hermit crab in search of a new home. As she searches for just the right shell, she encounters a range of relational situations and accidental circumstances that trigger all sorts of grumpy, cross, sad and frustrated feelings, and through which Crabby learns a range of strategies for coping from self-regulation to assertiveness, to negotiation and compromise. The production is set in a rock pool at the Edwardian seaside and features traditional musical hall songs from the era, as well as actors in period swimwear! Multi-sensory experiences include water marbles, gross motor activities including rope mazes, giant therapy ball bubbles, seaside smells and objects. The show will also be narrated by a real mermaid! As with 'Little Meerkat's Big Panic', performances will last around 20 minutes and are then followed by up to 30 minutes of sensory play. This production is different in that it will be immersive: audiences will be 'in' the action, rather than just observers. Work of this kind is important because it brings rich and special experiences directly to where children and their families are. Our productions are designed to be self-contained and to be performed in any space, whether in a classroom, outdoors, in refuges or hostels, etc. Helping children and grown ups to become skilful and confident in managing difficult feelings contributes to efforts to improve everyone's mental health and wellbeing. We want to support parents/carers and other adults who look after children, and create accessible and inclusive experiences that are memorable, beautiful, and inspiring. Our aim is to make the production available for early years settings, primary and special schools, community events, children's hospices, festivals and conferences. It will also be not-for-profit with a fixed fee per day to cover a basic freelance wage for performers, and expenses such as petrol and insurance; surpluses are reinvested in the project to cover marketing, renewal of equipment, festival fees, etc.
Our idea is new in that there are very few theatre companies producing not-for-profit work specifically around emotional and mental health, and work that is designed to be accessible for babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers and children with complex needs. All our productions are signed in Makaton, and we try wherever we can to build our props and sets from recycled materials so we can model to families and settings how low cost/no cost toys and resources can be used to help manage big feelings.
We would appreciate help in spreading word about our crowd funding campaign, and if you are able to pledge then that would be amazing too! The minimum pledge level is set at just £2, and every little really does help us get a step closer to bringing Crabby to life.