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The Early Years has embraced the Adelaide Festival season. We enjoyed two theatre experiences this last fortnight. The Boy and the Ball is a work devised by Stephen Noonan and Seven Little Wonders is a performance by The PaperBoats. Both of these works have won a Ruby Award for Outstanding Work for Young People.

In The Boy and the Ball, a simple tennis ball turns one friendship into many. In the Seven Little Wonders, Isaac Newton’s theory of light is synthesised to music. These performances embraced a rich and poetic language that sparks the children’s sense of curiosity and creativity, the two driving dispositions for learning.

Children’s art is often reduced to primary colours and sparkly costumes. Not these companies, each of these works underwent an 18-month development that uses a process of elegant simplicity to distil big concepts into beautifully rendered metaphors. It is art that makes children sit on the edge of their seat, call out in wonder, and look around beyond themselves as they suspend all disbelief.

The arts, especially performance art, is often undervalued in our education system. You can not draw a straight line between seeing a theatre performance and learning a specific skill set, like reading, writing or arithmetic. Dave Brown, former Artistic Director of Patch Theatre and founder of the PaperBoats, an international partnership platform for theatre-makers invested in co-creating meticulously crafted performance events for children, describes a child’s understanding of art as a felt meaning. How do you measure awe, excitement, or joy? Alan Brown researches the intrinsic value of the arts. In his paper ‘An architecture of Value’ he asks that we ‘begin to talk differently about the value and benefits of arts experiences’. We need more than figures and statistics to describe the benefit of arts, as Brown articulates, we need to be able to: ‘explain, in simple terms, how you or someone you know is changed by listening to music, watching a dance performance, looking at an artwork, or writing in a journal’.

In the Early Years we will continue to look for opportunities to engage with the arts sector because everyone, whether they are 3, 33, or 93 benefits from the inspirational power that comes from moments of ‘wow’!

Holly Baulderstone
Head of Early Years

Brown, Alan, An Architecture of Value,