The Year in Review: 2020

The Year in Review: 2020

The Year in Review

January 2020

The year got off to a wonderfully normal start with Members’ drinks at SAMA Bankside. We were delighted to be joined by ACA Patron Michael Foreman, who together with our President David Wood OBE gave a fitting tribute to our much-loved and much-missed Patron Terry Jones, who passed away on the 21st of January. We were also able to raise a glass to ACA Patron Baroness Floella Benjamin, made a Dame in the New Years’ Honours.

February 2020

We received the first instalment of Arts Backpack UK funding from Fife Council.

March 2020

The pandemic struck, and the world changed overnight. We started sharing a weekly round-up of creative activities for people who were home-schooling; as well as a list of emergency funding resources for our practitioner members.

April – May 2020

We started crowdfunding to support the children’s arts community. Thanks to the generosity of members, patrons and friends of ACA, we raised an amazing £4,000!

We distributed our crowdfunding efforts to twelve individuals and small organisations who were in desperate need of help. You can find out more about the Covid-19 fund recipients here: Children’s Arts Covid-19 fund: recipients

“The award has given us a lifeline. Thank you again to everyone at Action for Children’s Arts. We hope to see you again soon when we can all meet up and celebrate but, meanwhile, we will continue to push for children’s arts to be central to the recovery from this dreadful pandemic.” – Teach it through Drama

June 2020

We sponsored ACA Development Officer Mimi Doulton to join the Freelance TaskForce. Mimi worked closely with the Theatre for Young Audiences, Musicians in Theatre, and Early-Career Practitioners groups, trying to enact positive change in our industry.

We would like to say huge thank you to Peter McKintosh, Theatre Designer for his very generous donation to ACA, from the sale of his artwork during June and July. His wonderfully kind gesture will help to ensure the charity’s survival and underpin our current and future endeavours.

July 2020

ACA launched a bursary membership scheme, sponsored by kind individuals who had bought a birthday candle in our twentieth birthday year. You can meet our first five bursary members here: ACA welcomes five bursary members. If you know someone who would benefit from a year’s free membership of ACA, please get in touch!

August – September 2020

We held four Zooms with ACA Members, exploring the following topics.

  • The Future of Working in Schools
  • Embedding Diversity into your Working Practice
  • Developing your Online Outreach
  • Gender and sexuality issues in our work creating arts for and with children

Thank you to our wonderful speakers, and to the more than 70 members who took part in these sessions. You can read the notes and recommendations from these sessions on the ACA website. Click here to read the notes.

We also sadly bid farewell to another ACA patron, the inspirational Professor Sir Ken Robinson. He is deeply missed by us all.

October 2020

Our Trustee Susan Whiddington received a CBE for her work with children and families at Mousetrap Theatre Projects! Congratulations Susan.

We also shared the launch of the ASSITEJ International Manifesto, based on ACA’s Children’s Arts Manifesto. This manifesto will raise awareness of children’s needs and rights to their own arts and culture, as is set out in UN Article 31. It is part of a global initiative to raise awareness of the importance of the arts in the lives of children and to draw attention to the fact that in so many countries, arts for children are not on any political agenda.

November 2020

November was a pretty big month! We were so excited to award the 2020 JM Barrie Award to ACA Patron Anna Home OBE, and incredibly grateful to everyone at the BBC and Dock10 for their help in producing our first online awards. You can still watch the ceremony on YouTube, just click play on the video:

November also saw the long-awaited launch of our first Arts Backpack UK pilot in Fife, Scotland! We are looking forward to working with six primary school classes for the next four months, introducing them to a range of quality cultural experiences online. You can find a full history of the Arts Backpack, along with monthly updates here: The Arts Backpack UK

Our thanks to Fife Council and the Haberdashers’ Company for funding this pilot.

December 2020

In December, we were so honoured to announce Kate Robinson as a new patron of ACA. “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.”

Last but not least, we had a wonderful festive celebration with some of you on Zoom! Thank you to everyone who took the time to pop in and say hello.

Until next year…

PS! We couldn’t have done any of this without the support of our wonderful members. If you are in a position to do so, please click here and join today.

Anna Home OBE wins the 2020 JM Barrie Lifetime Achievement Award

Anna Home OBE wins the 2020 JM Barrie Lifetime Achievement Award

Anna Home OBE wins the 2020 JM Barrie Lifetime Achievement Award

Action for Children’s Arts is delighted to announce that Anna Home OBE has been named as the recipient of the 2020 JM Barrie Lifetime Achievement Award.

Anna Home looking out of a window, wearing a yellow sweater and orange silk scarf

This is in recognition of her outstanding contribution to children’s television. In a distinguished career spanning over 30 years at the BBC and ITV, Anna developed and commissioned programmes including Jackanory, Grange Hill, and Teletubbies. Anna is now the Chair of the Children’s Media Foundation, and a Patron of Action for Children’s Arts.

‘Thank you to ACA for this award. I am honoured to join the distinguished list of previous winners. The work ACA does is crucial, particularly now, in ensuring that children have access to, and participation in the arts – both inside and out of school.’

Anna will be presented with the award at a special online ceremony on 19 November 2020. She will be joining a roster of previous winners that includes Baroness Floella Benjamin DBE, Sir Philip Pullman CBE, and Stuart and Kadie Kanneh-Mason. The Award is given annually to a children’s arts practitioner or organisation in recognition of a lifetime’s achievement in delighting children.

For press enquiries, please contact mimi.doulton@childrensarts.org.uk

Signed Philip Pullman book giveaway

Signed Philip Pullman book giveaway

Signed Philip Pullman book giveaway

We have one signed paperback of Philip Pullman's 'The Secret Commonwealth' to give away! 

Last week saw the publication of Philip Pullman's 'The Secret Commonwealth' in paperback. This book is the much awaited second instalment of the second His Dark Materials Trilogy. To celebrate 25 years since the first His Dark Materials book was published in 1995, we have a free signed copy of The Secret Commonwealth to give away to one person who joins ACA between 18 September and 31 October. The prize-winner will be selected at random.

To be in with a chance of winning, click here to join today! Membership starts at £18/year.

JM Barrie Awards: in photos

JM Barrie Awards: in photos

JM Barrie Awards: in photos

Congratulations to the winners of the 2019 JM Barrie Awards! Pictured above from Left to Right: Sir Philip Pullman CBE (winner of the JM Barrie Lifetime Achievement Award); Joseph Middleton, Kathleen Evans and Ewan Gilford (from Leeds Lieder, Members' Award winner); Amanda Craig (Members' Award winner); Josh Parsons and Yvonne Farquharson (from Breathe Magic, JM Barrie Outstanding Contribution Award winner); Matthew Sanders and Diana Schomberg (from Magic Lantern, Members' Award winner).

Thank you to the fantastic team of young people who helped make the awards happen. From Left to Right: Emmerson Sutton, our young presenter; Lilly Kurata (top right), our young pianist; and Albee and Noah Superville, our award presenters.

Members' Award Winners

Left top: Joseph Middleton, Kathleen Evans and Ewan Gilford (Leeds Lieder);

Left bottom: Diana Schomberg, James Mayhew and Matthew Sanders (Magic Lantern);

Right: Amanda Glover

Outstanding Contribution Award - Breathe Magic

Left: Breathe Arts Health Research Founder Yvonne Farquharson with ACA President David Wood OBE

Right top: Breathe Magic patron Jim Carter chats to Sir Philip Pullman

Right bottom: the full Breathe Magic Team

Introducing: Breathe Magic

Introducing: Breathe Magic

Introducing: Breathe Magic

The Breathe Magic Intensive Therapy Foundation programme is a clinically effective, fun and engaging approach to therapy. It’s designed to help young people with hemiplegia, a weakness or paralysis affecting one side of the body caused by an injury to the brain.

Grounded in world-class medical research, this award-winning approach gives young people access to 78 hours of intensive therapy AND transforms them into young magicians! Specialist occupational therapists work alongside Magic Circle magicians to teach magic tricks designed to develop hand and arm function, cognitive abilities, self-confidence and independence.

Breathe Magic will be awarded with the Action for Children's Arts Outstanding Contribution Award on 7 November. They were selected for this award by ACA Trustees, in recognition of their contribution to children's arts and well-being.

At the awards, a citation will be given by Magic Circle Centre Director Darren Martin.

Working at The Magic Circle headquarters, you would expect to see miracles and wonder on a daily basis helping you believe in magic. However, it was when hosting a ‘Breathe Arts Health Research’ event some years ago that we realised what real magic can be.

Breathe Magic is part of Breathe Arts Health Research - one of the first arts-in-health companies to be recognised by organisations such as NHS England. Breathe Arts Health Research began as part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, before becoming a separate social enterprise in 2012. Since then they’ve been designing and delivering arts-in-healthcare programmes that:

  • Improve clinical outcomes for patients
  • Enrich healthcare environments for staff, patients and visitors
  • Offer unique training opportunities

The organisation represents a ground-breaking collaboration between Arts, Health and Science. As the new National Academy for Social Prescribing is launched, ACA is delighted to be honouring an organisation at the forefront of this research.

Click here to visit the Breathe Arts Health Research website and find out more about Breathe Magic.

Sir Philip Pullman wins 2019 JM Barrie Award

Sir Philip Pullman wins 2019 JM Barrie Award

Action for Children’s Arts (ACA) has chosen Sir Philip Pullman CBE as the recipient of their 2019 JM Barrie Award. The Award is given annually to a children’s arts practitioner or organisation in recognition of a lifetime’s achievement in delighting children.

Sir Philip Pullman is a patron and long-time supporter of ACA’s campaigning work. Last year the charity celebrated its twentieth anniversary and was sent the following message by Sir Philip:

Children deserve the best of everything; the best opportunities, the best education, the best food, the best stories and poems, the best music, the best theatre. In fact, they’d need the best even if they didn’t deserve it. Action for Children’s Arts is a very good way indeed of seeing that they get it, and I’m very glad to support its work”.

ACA Trustees have also chosen to honour Breathe Arts Health Research with an Outstanding Contribution Award – recognising their ground-breaking Magic Programme for young people with hemiplegia. Uniting arts, health and science, this is an award-winning approach to occupational therapy, using magic skills to improve hand function and independence.

Previous JM Barrie Award winners have included Sir Michael Morpurgo OBE, Bernard Cribbins OBE and Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE.

Action for Children’s Arts is a national membership organisation campaigning for arts education for 0-12 year olds. For only £2.50/month you can support their campaigning activities: www.childrensarts.org.uk/join/individual/

For more information about the 2019 awards, please contact mimi.doulton@childrensarts.org.uk

The World Day of Theatre for young audiences 2019

The World Day of Theatre for young audiences 2019

20 March 2019: ASSITEJ World Day of Theatre for children is a campaign promoted and celebrated through the message: "Take a child to the theatre, today."


This year’s messages have been written by Yvette Hardie, President of ASSITEJ; Joyee, 8; and Jojo, 11.

ASSITEJ president Yvette Hardie says : “Children need to be offered to enjoy moments in community where they are reminded of what we share, and where they are able to appreciate the multiple realities of what it means to be human.”

Joyee says : “Without theatre, there would be no imagination. Everyone wouldn’t be able to be themselves. Without stories, everyone would be bored all the time. A bit gloomy – they wouldn’t really feel very nice.”

Jojo says : “I love theatre where you have to use your imagination, your own imagination which is different from everyone else’s. Because the things in the show are hard to see or aren’t there, you have to imagine them. You make them up. And then you can see them really well.”

Find out more about ASSITEJ and World Day of Theatre for Young Audiences at this link.

JM Barrie Awards 2018 – photos

JM Barrie Awards 2018 – photos

Photos of award-winners at the 2018 JM Barrie Awards, taken by Katie MacKinnon. The ceremony was hosted by the Prince of Wales Theatre on 11 October 2018.

2018 winners Stuart and Kadie Kanneh-Mason

Stuart and Kadie with ACA Patron Julian Lloyd-Webber

Outstanding Contribution Award winner Sticky Fingers Arts, with ACA chair

The Kanneh-Mason Family

JM Barrie Award winners 2018, Stuart and Kadie with ACA Chair Vicky Ireland

Caroline Moore and Susie Hall, Members’ Award winners from GOSH Arts

Helen Smee, Members’ Award Winner

JM Barrie Awards 2018

JM Barrie Awards 2018

On 11 October 2018, we presented Stuart and Kadie Kanneh-Mason with the 2018 JM Barrie Award, recognising a lifetime’s achievement in children’s arts. The award was presented in recognition of all parents who selflessly dedicate themselves to their children’s artistic education.


It is ACA’s immense delight to honour Kadie and Stuart with our JM Barrie Lifetime Achievement Award. They are great ambassadors for the inspirational role music education can play in nurturing childhood.


The 2018 Outstanding Contribution Award was presented to Sticky Fingers Arts, who have provided twenty years of ground-breaking early-years arts provision in Northern Ireland. The organisation provides a powerful voice for the rights of children to engage in the arts. They are committed to increasing opportunities for as many children as possible to access and participate in the highest-quality, professionally-run, age-appropriate, arts programmes.


The Member’s Awards were presented to GOSH Arts and children’s choral conductor and workshop leader Helen Smee. The GOSH Arts programme is run by Caroline Moore and Susie Hall. They work to bring the arts into Great Ormond Street hospital; ranging from work that thrills and lifts spirits, to participatory programmes that entertain and inspire the young patients.


Helen Smee is the founder of Voices of London Festival, and is also extremely active in maintaining opportunities and enthusiasm for music in state primary schools. She is currently working with schools in three parts of London, bringing children together to sing an original choral piece in a series of concerts.


BAFTA Young Presenter Tianna Moore skilfully presented the awards ceremony, and the JM Barrie Award was handed to Stuart and Kadie by 7 year-old Angelina Sinclair, after Julian Lloyd-Webber had read his citation.