This afternoon, Morven and I went to an afternoon performance of Under Foot, an interactive dance and music performance for very young audiences presented by AboutNOWish at the brilliant Egg theatre in Bath. As we left, we were handed a sheet of paper and a pen and invited to offer feedback to let the show's funders know what we had made of it all. Mo immediately stole the pen, scribbled across the paper, all over both arms and down one leg. Worse than that, I had to race off to make it to a train on time. I really regret not having been able to contribute an opinion though. So, by way of apology – and in enormous appreciation – I thought I’d try and capture something of our experience here.
I am not exactly sure what would constitute a success, from an Arts Council Funding perspective, for this sort of performance for and with the under-fives. But as a starting point, it is probably important to explain that by twenty past twelve, just before we were met by two of the four performers and led to the performance space, I had a VERY grumpy and grudging two year old in tow. And yet, what followed was one of the most wonderful hours we have spent together. For Morven’s practiced glowers of resolute disapproval had met their match in the relaxed familiarity, exuberance and beauty of her surrounds. And while at points she still wanted to be held or to whimper or to scowl at one poor dancer in particular, her curiosity and excitement absolutely got the better of her and together we laughed and danced and explored.
Does that count as success? I hope so. We both very much enjoyed our hour. There is more than that though. I’m not sure how old they have to be before children start building the kind of memories that they can later recall as adults, but I’d so like to think that somewhere Mo will have stored away something of today: the feeling of her toes tentatively exploring synthetic turf, the curiousness of the shapes made by the strange grown-ups, rolling and spinning and bending and slowly enticing her to play, the singing sounds of the saxophone or just the exhilaration behind her animated – albeit somewhat forceful – invitation, ‘mummy, jump and dance and dance with me!’ And I'd hope that many, many more 1- 5 year olds might be given the opportunity to have such imaginative and inventive, participatory experiences in their formative years.
So yes, had I had more time to wrestle back that piece of paper, I would have filled it with thank yous and appreciative admiration and included a personal plea, to the Arts Council or to anyone else who might take note: please, please continue to fund the sort of playfully inspiring, accessible artistic encounter that Morven and I were lucky enough to share today.