The Playground team, which includes students and graduates from our Theatre for Young Audiences and Actor Musicianship MA courses, are working in libraries and children’s centres to develop their creative practice for babies and their families. The sessions are led by national and international artists and give staff and families the confidence and enthusiasm to engage in creativity with their babies.

Jeremy Harrison plays guitar to a baby

It is widely recognised that the first three years of life are the most critical in having a lasting impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school and life. However, the period from birth to two years old is largely undervalued and most resources are aimed at children three and up. This project seeks to redress that balance.

Two is too late! The building blocks for lifelong emotional and physical health are laid down in the period from conception to the age of two and we don’t give this critical period the focus it deserves.

The Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP in forward to ‘The Best start for life – a vision for the first 1001 days’ government report

The Playground project grew following the delivery of a successful Arts Council England (ACE) funded pilot in 2019. It was an introduction to the arts for many local families taking place in four areas of higher deprivation where communities may not have perceived that creativity is relevant to them.

Since then, families with babies born during lockdown have been significantly affected by the pandemic with no or limited social contact other than with their immediate families. This identified a particular need to focus on those lockdown babies for the next phase of Playground.

I just get lost in play with her, which is what’s really nice. Enjoy special time engaging with her. I just lose myself with her, there’re no distractions.


The project is part of the work Jeremy leads in our Theatre for Young Audiences Research Centre. Through engaging with it, artists have the opportunity to develop their practice and achieve further gains in confidence. Collaboration with other artists is key, and the artists are excited by the possibility of co-creating inspirational work, as well as developing their own creative practice with babies in the current phase, and older children and those with complex needs in subsequent phases. By working collaboratively and with interdisciplinarity, it is the aspiration of the Playground artists that creative work with early years can not only become commonplace but also beautiful and of the highest quality.

The babies seem to take you deeper into your practice – as if they are the real artists and we just need to follow their lead.

Jeremy Harrison, Playground Lead Artist


To read more about this exciting and progressive work, please see the comprehensive case study on the Local Government Association website