Author: Matthew Crowfoot



This year’s J M Barrie Award has been presented to the much-loved children’s author, Dame Jacqueline Wilson for a lifetime of unforgettable writing for children.

Jacqueline Wilson is one of the UK’s favourite children’s authors whose work is loved by her legion of loyal fans.   Best known for characters such as Tracy Beaker and the Victorian foundling child, Hetty Feather, over 38 million copies of her books have been sold in the UK and they have been translated into 34 different languages.   Jacqueline Wilson was Children’s Laureate from 2005-2007 when she spearheaded a campaign to encourage parents and carers to read aloud to children.   She was awarded an OBE in 2002 for services to literacy in schools and then was awarded a DBE in 2008.   She is currently Chancellor of Roehampton University where she is also visiting professor of Children’s Literature.

Nick Sharratt, Jacqueline Wilson’s long-standing illustrator gave a tribute to Jacqueline as part of the ceremony accompanied by the present and previous Children’s Laureates.   Malorie Blackman OBE, Laureate from 2013-15 read the citation for the award and Hebe Russell, aged nine, along with Chris Riddell the current Children’s Laureate, presented Jacqueline with her award.   Other icons of children’s literature present in the audience included Michelle Magorian, Lynne Reid Banks, Jamila Gavin and Jan Pienkowski.

The Outstanding Contribution Award went to Sir Ken Robinson, inspirational advocate of creativity in education.   His talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” is the most viewed in the history of TED and has been seen by millions all over the world.  Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, Chief Executive of The Place, delivered a tribute to Sir Ken, who, although unable to be present, sent an inspiring video. His award was collected by his daughter, Kate Robinson.

ACA Member’s Awards went to Carolyn Mairi L. Forsyth, Producer at the Unicorn Theatre, Sahana Gero, creator of Heart Beat Music Academy and Daniel Jamieson, playwright for Theatre Alibi.

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of TIE, Trustees Awards to internationally acclaimed playwrights Mike Kenny and Charles Way.

David Wood OBE, chair of ACA said “Children are the future.  The arts practitioners who specialise in entertaining and inspiring them and triggering their imaginations deserve, Action for Children’s Arts believes, public recognition.  This is the 11th year of the J M Barrie Awards.  We are proud to honour Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Sir Ken Robinson and our Members’ Award winners, Carolyn Mairi L.Forsyth, Sahana Gero, Daniel Jamieson, Trustees’ Award winners Mike Kenny and Charles Way.  They are all brightly-shining beacons in the vibrant world of children’s arts.”

ACA Inspiration Event The Snowman and Peter and the Wolf

ACA Inspiration Event The Snowman and Peter and the Wolf

Milton Court Concert Hall, The Barbican pre-concert talk presented by Neil Brand for Action for Children’s Arts.

How does music fly?

1pm, Saturday 19th December
Free to ticket-holders for the 1.30pm performance.

A fascinating introduction for children and adults about how music helps to tell a story. Writer, composer and silent film accompanist Neil Brand will explore flying music in films such as How to Train Your Dragon, Superman and Star Wars. The audience will be invited to contribute ideas for a flying theme, improvised by Neil at the piano.

Click here for more details.

ACA Roundtable

ACA Roundtable

Earlier this year, ACA sent a survey to members asking them to suggest potential causes for a decline in professionally produced arts for children. The survey identified some key areas that need to be addressed, regarding restrictions in funding and limitations in the National Curriculum itself.

Survey respondents have been invited to attend a round table hosted by ACA at The Young Vic on Tuesday 22 September. In this session, we will discuss the issues presented, aim to find a sustainable course of positive action, and examine how ACA can help further raise the profile of children’s arts.

If you are interested in following the conversation, or contributing your own thoughts, follow us on Twitter @ChildrensArts and tweet us on the day using #….. You can also keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for updates after the event about findings, and future related action.

ACA Round Table Report

Children’s TV/media rights?

Children’s TV/media rights?

Some thoughts for ACA by Oli Hyatt Animation U.K.

“UK originated content is quickly disappearing from our screen despite an ever increasing dearth of platforms pushing it out.
Public Service Broadcasting commercial channels are reversing out of children original content, with their investment falling 96% in a little over ten years. The BBC has produced over 60% less original hours over the same period.

Children’s content is in crisis and Ofcom seemingly powerless to reverse the decline despite consistently airing their concern. I do wonder where the next incentive or intervention can come from.
The BBC is an easier fix. Whatever the outcome of the BBC settlement it will give Children’s parity in funding to Adults. Sounds fair doesn’t it, I’m happy to argue over what “parity” means, but as a concept it just feels like a good place to start.
What we need is a bold ambitious plan for our children’s content. One thing’s for sure, the next couple of years will be crucial in defining what the long term outcome for children’s content is”.

ACA is supporting Bacc for the Future campaign and we urge all our members to sign the petition:

ACA is supporting Bacc for the Future campaign and we urge all our members to sign the petition:

The Department for Education is planning to make the five English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subject areas compulsory for all secondary school pupils. The EBacc list of subjects contains no creative arts subjects.

It will make a narrow list of five subject areas compulsory – maths, English, sciences, languages (ancient and modern) and history or geography. If the proposals go ahead, creativity in schools would be damaged and there would be little room in the school day for the arts, music and drama.

Numerous studies have demonstrated both the lack of evidence for the choice of subjects in the EBacc and the harmful impact it has had on cultural and creative subjects in schools.

We know that creativity is educationally and economically valuable and it is valued by the British public so we are working together to urge the Government to reconsider their proposals.

Exclusion of music, art or culture from state secondary school core subject English Baccalaureate requirements – Lord Aberdare 22 July 2015, Lord  Aberdare asked a question in the House of Lords about the ommision of creative subjects from the English Baccalaureate

ACA Petitions Society Of London Theatres

ACA Petitions Society Of London Theatres

ACA has written to the Society of London Theatres asking for a change in the Olivier Awards to create a much needed new award, Best Production for Young Audiences.

Read the full letter here

If you feel strongly that the Best Entertainment and Family category would be best split into two awards, one for Best Entertainment, the other for Best Production for Young Audiences, ACA suggests that you should send a letter to

Society of London Theatre (Olivier Awards),
32 Rose Street,
London, WC2E 9ET




Magic dust that lasts : Writers in schools – Arts Council England

Writers working with children and young people in schools offer them experiences that can inspire and unlock their creative expression, regardless of age, gender, home background or attitudes. These experiences can be very varied and involve many different writers such as poets, novelists, journalists, non-fiction writers, playwrights, storytellers, digital authors and many others. The focus of projects may be equally varied, from writing based on personal experience to reporting an event in the community.
Many schools agree there are benefits that make a significant contribution to how children learn about the excitement and power of language and the imagination, and working with writers is part of children’s entitlement in the national curriculum.
Sue Horner

King’s College Cultural Enquiry into access to the arts for young people – speech by Vicky Ireland

The below linked file is a recent article by Sir Ken Robinson and below is a verbatim speech which was Vicky Ireland’s contribution to the King’s College Cultural Enquiry into access to the arts for young people.


My name is Vicky Ireland.  I am part of the living archive of this conversation having been born in 1945 and started work in 1966 as a member of the newly established TIE (Theatre-in-Education) team at the Belgrade Theatre Coventry. You are talking about my life.

Having to justify the goodness and the right of arts in our lives makes me so angry. Since cavemen painted on walls we have known the benefit of the arts; why do we have to keep proving it when we have masses of documentation and evidence? It is a Sisyphean task, with results to be forever ignored by politicians because the importance of arts and culture in our lives, is not a vote-catcher.

Why not? Because we are a philistine community in England, puritanical since Oliver Cromwell, ‘the arts are degenerate; they are a luxury; they are an add-on’, they are not recognised as something that enhances the quality of everyday life. 

Until the person in the street is re-educated to understand that the arts are integral, and this becomes a voting issue, nothing will change and change becomes more difficult.

When I started at the Belgrade I was interviewed by the city council, local philosophers.  They employed me; they had vision; they had passion; ordinary people who put the money together to make that TIE team happen and employ seven people.  A brilliant, brave, grass-roots initiative that shared the big questions of life with children, and which has since spread all around the world. But Theatre-in-Education has largely disappeared in England because Arts Council policy decided it would be better to have a sole Education Officer, rather than an autonomous  team and this has morphed into, “the Education Department”.

Organisations should be inclusive, with work for young people and children firmly rooted within their portfolio but if this view is not held and initiated by the person at the top, it becomes ghettoised; the main body does not do the work because the Education Department does it.  It has taken the National Theatre fifty years for its Artistic Director to allow work for little children to be commissioned and staged within one of its main theatres, rather than hived out to the Education Department.  Until arts organisations recognise that they have to serve all of the community, arts for young people will continue to be, in many cases, an add-on. 

We hoped the big questions TIE asked of children would continue to be asked, but having watched arts for children all my life, the difference now is that material is anodyne. Safe titles, safe content  no risk factor.  We have lost the passion to discuss the difficult. I talk to students in drama schools; they do not vote, they are not interested in politics; they have not been introduced to the great “whys”,  of life at an early enough age to form their own perceptions and voice.

We need to wake up and speak up for the  arts; for the importance of their place in our  live, for grass roots initiatives; for  passionate and talented artists to create challenging  work for, and with children,  -in order to develop a more caring, courageous and creative society.

We ignore doing this at our peril.


Ken Robinson article PDF

An Open Letter

Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England

Action for Children’s Arts
Theatre for Young Audiences UK

Dear Alan Davey,

We are writing on behalf of the membership organisations, Theatre for Young Audiences UK (TYA UK) a member of Global Association ASSITEJ and Action for Children’s Arts (ACA), who between them represent more than 400 independent artists and organisations committed to the arts for children and young people.

We are writing to raise our collective concerns about the positioning of the arts for young people in the recent This England report.

As an artistic community dedicated to developing the arts for, by and with children and young people, we welcome the centrality of Goal 5 in the Arts Council’s 10 year Strategic Framework. We share your belief that every child and young person should have the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts. We also share your concerns about the provision of non-core arts subjects in the curriculum, as drama and theatre particularly, become increasingly marginalised within schools.

In Great Art and Culture for Everyone, Goal 5 is defined in terms of actions and outcomes focused on the ambition that children and young people have the best current and future artistic lives they can have and that ‘they are able to develop their artistic capabilities and engage with, and shape, the arts’.

We support the view that the arts should be a holistic and enriching part of childhood, not just skewed to educational and participatory activities. There is no doubt that the centrality of children and young people’s entitlement to culture within the strategy is a significant move forwards.

However, the opening statement under Goal 5 of the This England report reads as follows:

“Children and young people represent both the creative talent of tomorrow, and our future audiences” (pg 29)

Whilst this statement is true, the fact that no other entitlement of children is outlined, which recognises children as creative beings; as participants, as artists, as decision makers as well as audiences, now, is hugely problematic.

Fundamentally, as you know, arts experiences at their best are a way of investigating and understanding our world and our feelings and children and young people’s engagement is no less important, we would argue more so, than that of those older than them.

For those of us who are fortunate enough to work in this field, there is little doubt that quality early arts experiences inspire hearts, challenge minds and awaken imaginations in a profound way. The role of young people as ‘future audiences and future talent’ is disappointingly regressive and significantly out of kilter with ACE’S own Great Art for Everyone and with the artistic community who know and understand the value of work for, by and with children and young people.

Documents such as This England are important statements about the role of culture in our national life and influence the policies that will shape our cultural diet in the future. We therefore ask you to review this articulation of policy and recognise that our shared primary objective should be to provide children and young people with art of the highest quality because it should be a crucial and enriching part of everyone’s childhood.

We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

David Wood OBE, Chair, ACA
Steve Ball, Chair, TYA England
Nina Hajiyianni, Chair, TYA UK

On behalf of the membership of TYA UK and ACA.

Serious Music

I have been wondering, ever since I heard last year’s Family Prom, why the choice of orchestral music for children is so limited. I think I found the answer when I read a few days ago that Saint-Saens would not allow Carnival of the Animals to be published in his lifetime because he thought it would detract from his image as a serious composer. His publishers persuaded him to make an exception for The Swan because it was so popular, but none of the other fourteen movements was published until after his death.

Perhaps he was right.  A.A.Milne famously regretted that, after Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh, he was never taken seriously again as a writer, only as a children’s writer. The lack-of-seriousness-by-association is less of a problem for children’s authors now, but it seems that it still is for composers.

The repertoire is very small.  The top three are Carnival of the Animals, Peter and the Wolf and The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Then there’s Fauré’s Dolly Suite (the Berceuse known better to some of us as the signature tune to Listen With Mother) and Elgar’s Nursery Suite.  The latter was written for the young princesses Margaret and Elizabeth, the former for the daughter of the composer’s mistress (he was French, after all). The pieces by Britten and Prokoviev were both commissions, Britten’s as the soundtrack to an educational documentary, Prokoviev’s for the Central Children’s Theatre in Moscow. That was in 1936. How many such commissions have there been since?

In last year’s Family Prom we heard Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine, Debussy’s Clair de Lune, an extract from Shostakovich’s Symphony No.4 and a new piece called My Concerto in Ee Lad, supposedly composed by Grommet. The concert ended with a screening of the latest Wallace and Grommet film, the soundtrack for which was played live by the orchestra. The programme was typical of most family concerts in that it consisted, to quote from the BBC Proms website, of ‘classical favourites for all the family’.

It’s not so long since books for children were similarly limited to classical favourites – nineteenth century classics ‘re-told for children’, abbreviated versions of Oliver Twist and Gulliver’s Travels, Pilgrim’s Progress and Robinson Crusoe. It was only when writers like A.A.Milne, J.M.Barrie, Richmal Crompton and the like, all of whom wrote books for grown-ups, made the fatal mistake of writing something for children too, that children began to reap the benefits, publishers to discover the market and authors to suffer the consequences.

Nothing like the riches of contemporary children’s literature is to be found in the concert hall, only the three staples of family concerts (Prokoviev, Saint-Saens, Britten), popular classics and excerpts from longer works.

Is it that concert halls are not suitable places for children? I once attended a concert given by a chamber orchestra on a tour of secondary schools which began, not with music, but with the conductor explaining to the parents and children in the audience when they should applaud and when not. That was twenty years ago, but just the other day orchestras were accused by the head of one of the major record labels of putting off young audiences by their stuffy adherence to old-fashioned conventions, such as not applauding between movements.

Is it that music for children is seen as essentially different from music for grown-ups in a way that literature for children is not? There is a continuum of reading experience from childhood to old age in which what you read and how old you are matters less than the act of reading itself. But this does not seem to be true of music.

Is it a class thing?

Or is it just that composers are afraid of not being taken seriously?

Neil Rathmell