Over the past 18 months Action for Children’s Arts (ACA) has been holding round table meetings with representatives from organisations across the UK who listen to children and allow their ideas to inform their practice. From these discussions the idea of a UK-wide initiative to promote, enhance and curate arts engagement that appeals to children, parents, carers and teachers emerged as a gap in current UK wide provision.
Looking at other Cultural Offers covering a similar scope, ACA found interesting examples of good practice across the world and from these models identified a format that may work for Primary Schools across the UK – an Arts Backpack.
In autumn 2018 ACA – with support from Arts Council Northern Ireland, ASSITEJ UK, Belfast City Council, Cambridgeshire Music, Fife Council, and two individuals – commissioned Michael Judge and Richard Freeman to explore the idea of an Arts Backpack that could be offered to every Primary School child in the UK. The Arts Backpack would serve as a digital collection and reflection point for all their Arts, Cultural, Heritage and Library engagement across the school year with an aim to ensure that each child has access to a minimum of 5 experiences each year.
ACA commissioned this study to examine the validity of the idea, to better understand if there was a case for it to develop further and if so, how that may be achieved. Part of the Conclusion of this report advises a series of Pilot Projects are undertaken to test the idea further and to better understand the concept within a variety of contexts throughout the UK. ACA is keen to work with strategic partners to develop and deliver these suggested Arts Backpack pilots.
To ensure children’s voices are co-creators in the Arts Backpack, and to create a model to support the development of all Pilots, ACA is launching a strategic partnership with Chickenshed, an Inclusive theatre company based in North London. A research group of 8 children from Chickenshed will explore a range of themes about the importance of performing arts to the 0-12 age range. Through this they will generate 5 questions for a questionnaire.
Through this scheme, a final questionnaire will be circulated by ACA to UK schools and arts organisations who may be part of local or regional pilot schemes. It will also be distributed by FIRST NEWS, The UK’s national newspaper for young people, resulting in a children’s voices adding directly into this debate.