ACA people

ACA welcomes new patron

ACA welcomes new patron

ACA welcomes new patron

Head and shoulders shot of young, smiling woman with brown hair in a bun, red lipstick and a black cowl neck top.Action for Children’s Arts is thrilled to announce that Kate Robinson has become a patron of the charity. She is stepping into the shoes of her late father: Professor Sir Ken Robinson, who sadly passed away in August.

“I am absolutely delighted to be a patron of Action for Children’s Arts. The work of ACA was so dear to my Dad’s heart, it is a privilege to be able to continue it.”

Kate is an international consultant in creativity and innovation in education and the Director of Nevergrey. Her expertise lies in raising the profile of inspiring initiatives, with a particular focus on start-ups and building strong partnerships with a social purpose. Her passion lies in engaging youth voice, and through this work she has been awarded for Outstanding Contribution to Education Empowerment. Kate and Nevergrey are committed to continuing and magnifying Sir Ken’s legacy.

Speaking about Kate’s new role with ACA, Chair Vicky Ireland MBE said:

 “ACA is so lucky. We go forward with Kate at our side, a wonderful new, young Champion.”

Why I support ACA: Sarah Argent

Why I support ACA: Sarah Argent

Why I support ACA: Sarah Argent

Last month, in the middle of this strange time with the global pandemic having a profound impact on the arts, I had the pleasure and privilege of being invited by Theatr Iolo (a company specialising in work for young audiences) to create - along with Kevin Lewis - a new piece of socially-distanced, Covid-safe outdoor theatre for babies and their carers. In a window of opportunity where the sun shone brightly and Cardiff had not yet gone into local lockdown, we performed to 18 audiences against the backdrop of the beautiful garden of Chapter Arts Centre. 
Those who experienced the performance told us: “It felt like everything in the world is back in line and feels good again.” “Realising that many families haven’t had this kind of communal experience with their babies in the last 6 months made it extra-special.”
These moving comments demonstrate what all ACA Members know so well - the absolute joy that communal and individual artistic experiences can bring to children - even babies as young as 3 months. 
Membership of ACA has brought me together with a group of people from different art-forms, who have different approaches to the creation of our art, who engage with communities in different ways in different parts of the UK, but who all share an unswerving and passionate belief that the arts can enrich the lives of our youngest citizens; people who are committed to creating and delivering cultural experiences that place children’s needs and desires at the core.  Discussions with and presentations by other ACA members keep me steadfast and true to these beliefs while also inspiring me and introducing me to exciting new ways of thinking about and making art for children. Thank you to all existing members and I look forward to new members joining us.

ACA welcomes five bursary members

ACA welcomes five bursary members

ACA welcomes five bursary members

Following an initial round of applications, we are delighted to welcome five new bursary members into the Action for Children's Arts community.

Elgan Rhys, writer-director-performer

Elgan Rhys is a fluent Welsh speaker, writer-director-performer living in Cardiff. In 2015, he co-founded Cwmni Pluen Company, and was Associate Artist at Frân Wen from 2017-19. He was raised in Pwllheli and studied Theatre and Drama at the University of South Wales, where he has since returned to lecture.

Elgan directed Frân Wen’s acclaimed adaptation of the multiple-prize-winning Llyfr Glas Nebo, which toured main stages at eleven Welsh venues. His debut play Woof, staged to sell-out audiences in January-February 2019 as part of Rachel O’Riordan’s final season at the Sherman Theatre, was described by The Guardian as “a triumph”. Pluen’s most recent production, Mags, which Elgan wrote, toured Wales and London in Autumn 2019 following an initial 2018 run that was described by Wales Arts Review as “a fearless play by an innovative company, using language in a way not seen anywhere else in Wales.” Recurring elements in his work are community co-creation, an interest in multilingualism, the amplification of young people’s voices and telling stories of contemporary queer life. Elgan has also been BAFTA Cymru-nominated for his TV work, and is one of Stonewall Cymru’s Role Models. He is currently developing several plays with major companies, as well as TV and book projects.

Nominated by Theatr Iolo.

Stephan Boyce, actor

Stephan is an actor and long-term employee of Bigfoot Arts Education.

"By the end [of a workshop] the ‘naughty’ child is confidently performing Shakespearean soliloquies. The shy child is a doing solo dance in an assembly. The quiet child is directing a group activity. Often the children labelled with terms like shy, naughty, unresponsive, not a team player and other harmful terms are transformed by creativity. I believe that this is due to everyone’s innate need to create and imagine. An important skill that is undervalued and suppressed as we get older."


Jaydean Dawkins, theatre practitioner

Jaydean is a theatre practitioner, mother, and the Founder and Director of Confessions of the Youth Theatre Company (now renamed JD Theatrical Creative), a company devoted to creating new devised work with BAME and underprivileged young people in the Twerton and Radstock, some of the most deprived areas of the Southwest. She specialises in making work that confronts and challenges current issues surrounding the lack of diversity in theatre through the empowerment of underrepresented people and groups.

Nominated by the egg, Theatre Royal Bath

Kyle Lima, performer

Kyle Lima is an actor, writer, singer and director, and in his own words “a frustrated yet proud dyslexic” born and raised in the Splott area of Cardiff, South Wales. He is Theatr Iolo's Platfform Artist for 2020. In 2018, he was appointed as a BBC Writersroom Welsh Voices member and has collaborated with the BBC in developing scripts for radio and TV. He has also written and performed for Sky Arts as part of the Sky arts ART50 program, filmed at the Barbican Centre, dealing with the issues of Brexit and Article 50. He has worked with the Omidaze Theatre Company in collaboration with National Theatre Wales, The Fio Theatre Company, and the Sherman Theatre.

Nominated by Theatr Iolo.

Ben Knight, baritone

Ben Knight is a singer who has worked with Bach to Baby.

"I am passionate about children’s arts for a multitude of reasons. Making music should be inclusive to all children from different walks of life. I have personally benefited by projects when I was younger that lead me to my musical success today. My family is not musical and I was the only male singer at my school. Music education and outreach projects gave me vital skills including; confidence, creative thinking, collaboration and communication. All skills I feel that making music can bring. Most importantly, children have the right to create, imagine and play and I am passionate about music being fun and exciting for all children."

Applications for bursary memberships will be accepted on a rolling basis. Click here to find out more.

Why I support ACA: Miranda Thain, Theatre Hullabaloo

Why I support ACA: Miranda Thain, Theatre Hullabaloo

Why I support ACA: Miranda Thain, Theatre Hullabaloo

In a confusing world that often seems to share few of the things that you deeply value, it is important to find your tribe. This is why I joined Action for Children’s Arts, an organisation filled with passionate people who believe deeply in the value of the arts and creativity in the lives of children. Collectively, we engage with all stakeholders in childhood to advocate for that which we know to be true; that children need the arts, as we all do, to bring us together to entertain, provoke, challenge, delight and inspire. Education is narrowing just at the time when we need breadth and space for ideas. If we don’t allow young people that space to dream of a better world then how can they possibly make it real?

I’ve had the pleasure of working in children’s arts for my whole career, including for the last 12 years as Artistic Producer at Theatre Hullabaloo. I can’t imagine wanting to do anything else. Theatre Hullabaloo believes that creativity should be part of everyone’s childhood. I’d go even further and say that the magic that we all know from being part of the audience in a spine-tingling performance, or the way your mind is blown when an artist encourages you to turn your world view upside down, should be an entitlement of all children, whatever their background.

In 2011, when the first round of austerity hit children’s arts particularly savagely, I wrote in The Stage ‘Perhaps we can no longer afford that precious place in childhood where we have room to imagine?”

The Hullabaloo, our new venue for children and families which opened in December 2017, stands as a beacon for that place of the imagination. It is a building which is proud to recognise how important children are and to offer them spaces and art that is made specifically for them. These spaces are filled with the best of children’s theatre from around the world, attracting specialist artists, most of whom have given their lives to developing work and a relationship to their young audience which is as sophisticated as we know children to be. Fundamental to our vision is that The Hullabaloo is the meeting point for artists, children and academics so that we are not just making great art in creative collaboration, but also developing research which will impact on national policy around the place of creativity in childhood.

The Hullabaloo stands in one of the 1% most deprived wards in the UK, many worlds away from the corridors of Whitehall and yet, through being part of an organisation like Action for Children’s Arts, we feel that we have a voice in influencing the future cultural opportunities of our children nationwide. It may just be a small corner of this confusing world, but together we can make it better.

Theatre Hullabaloo presents TakeOff Festival, England’s leading festival of theatre for children and young people, 21-26 October (Delegate Festival 23-25 Oct, Durham City).

For more information about Theatre Hullabaloo visit

Miranda Thain, Artistic Producer, Theatre Hullabaloo

Why I joined ACA – Walia Kani

Why I joined ACA – Walia Kani

Why I joined ACA - Walia Kani

I was lucky enough to be a child in the 50s and 60s when arts were a full part of state primary education. I had Ivor Cutler as a drama teacher at junior school. And, without knowing it, learned songs from the opera Hansel and Gretel in infant school, where we also had a pottery wheel and kiln, despite being in the heart of London's deprived East End.

At secondary school there were free piano lessons, and group violin lessons, even for someone like me with minimal aptitude. Our school days were punctuated with orchestra, choir, school play rehearsals, painting sets, dying costumes. We were taken to see Maggie Smith play Beatrice while we rehearsed our all girls Much Ado.
As the decades have gone by I have seen these opportunities disappear from the school curriculum as it becomes more structured and controlled. So, when I  became aware of ACA through my niece I knew this was a good chance to give today's children the experiences I was lucky enough to have.
Walia Kani is a retired optician, based in Durham. She became a member of ACA in July 2019.
It only costs £2.50/month to support our cause. Click here to become a member and join our community.

Chris Jarvis article in Arts Professional

Chris Jarvis article in Arts Professional

Chris Jarvis article in Arts Professional

ACA Trustee and BBC presenter Chris Jarvis has written a fantastic article about the Arts Backpack UK for Arts Professional.

What is profoundly clear from the report is that access to culture is extremely unequal across UK schools. As an organisation we are passionate about targeting those children who do not currently access arts and culture, and hope that the Arts Backpack will be a means of levelling an unequal cultural playing field.

Read the full article here:

Treasurer/Company Secretary job description

ACA is looking for a new Treasurer and Company Secretary! This role has previously been performed by one person, however please do get in touch even if you are only interested in undertaking one half of the responsibilities – we would be delighted to hear from you. Please note this is a voluntary position.

If you have any questions, email

Click here to download the full description of the role.

JM Barrie Awards 2018

ACA is delighted to announce that the 2018 JM Barrie Award will be presented to Stuart and Kadie Kanneh-Mason, in recognition of all parents who selflessly dedicate themselves to their children’s artistic education.

Stuart and Kadie are parents to chart-topping ‘cellist Sheku (2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year), as well as six more exciting young musicians: Mariatu, Jeneba, Konya, Isata, Braimah and Aminata.

This year’s Outstanding Contribution Award will be presented to Sticky Fingers Arts, in recognition of twenty years’ ground-breaking early-years arts provision in Northern Ireland.

The awards will be held in October at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Limited spaces are always available to members – if you would like to attend, click here to join for only £30/year.

David Wood OBE receives 2017 JM Barrie Award

On 9th November 2017, much-loved children’s playwright David Wood OBE received the 2017 Action for Children’s Arts J.M. Barrie Award, in honour of his lifetime of unforgettable writing for children. The award was presented by six-year-old Sacha Lee-Khan in a ceremony hosted by Delfont Mackintosh Theatres.


Sir Cameron Mackintosh personally welcomed assembled guests, before a ceremony that included speeches from Maureen Lipman CBE and ACA patrons Philip Pullman CBE and Judith Kerr OBE.

The J.M. Barrie Award is awarded annually by Action for Children’s Arts to a children’s arts practitioner whose work, in the view of ACA trustees, will stand the test of time. Previous recipients have included: Sir Quentin Blake CBE (2008) Roger McGough CBE (2009) Shirley Hughes CBE (2010) Lyndie Wright (2011) Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE (2012) Lynne Reid Banks (2013) Bernard Cribbins OBE (2014) Dame Jacqueline Wilson (2015) and Michael Morpurgo OBE (2016).

2017 is a marvellous year to celebrate David Wood’s life and achievements, as it is his 50th year of writing plays for children. He is an actor, playwright, composer, author, writer, director, producer and magician, who directs most of his own plays and writes the music for his songs. We think J.M. Barrie would be delighted to know that David has received an honour in his name; an honour that celebrates a lifetime of work dedicated to children, which will stand the test of time. He is indeed, a true and worthy recipient.

Action for Children’s Arts also presented a range of awards for excellence in Children’s Arts including an Outstanding Contribution Award to TV composer Liz Kitchen and five Members’ Awards to Daphna Attias of Peut-Être Theatre; Hollie Coxon and Anthony Hope – The Sunderland Empire Theatre Creative Learning Team; Jude Merrill – outgoing artistic director of Travelling Light Theatre; Kate Prince from ZooNation and Gillian Rennie from Seven Stories.

Vicky Ireland MBE Acting 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 13th year of the J M Barrie Awards. We are proud to honour David Wood OBE, Liz Kitchen and our Members’ Award winners. They are all brightly-shining beacons in the vibrant world of children’s arts.”