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Carousel Project

Involving childrens’ centres and Early Years groups in Devon
Funded by The Arts Council, Exeter City Council and Devon County Council

This innovative participatory community arts project originated in 2011 when the project’s director, Katherine Ford, wanted to address a lack of local creative activity for under 5s and their families.

Katherine brought in Double Elephant and other local artists and educators to embark upon an explorative and experimental pilot year, focusing on a collaborative approach to develop models of best practice to engage under 5’s and their parents in creative and cultural activity.

During 2011 and 2012, Double Elephant worked with the Carousel Project in many venues, including West Exe, Beacon Heath, Silverton and Whipton Children’s Centres on projects combining art forms with early years.

Printing in Early Years settings was not a new undertaking for Double Elephant, but what particularly appealed to us was the project’s collaborative and process-based approach, as well as the value the project placed on family learning. Printmaking lends itself so easily to individual engagement that it was exciting for Double Elephant to facilitate sessions where families worked together in groups, all contributing creatively to the project rather than individually.

It was also a departure from the typical residency where artists deliver workshops independently from an organisation’s staff. Instead, we planned, implemented and evaluated the sessions in close collaboration with each organisation to build a firmer partnership and ensure the experience was successful for everyone. Working with other artists and artforms meant that printmaking could be combined with animation, dance and painting.

We were also key partners in an action research project examining how artists can work with under fives and how the children benefit from working with artists. This project ‘Playing with Circles’ was also partnered by University of Exeter, Stoke Hill Nursery; and the artists were Catherine Cartwright (printmaking), Tamsin Pender (visual arts) and Lizzy Swinford (dance)

‘Playing with Circles’ has been disseminated at three venues including a presentation at Early Arts ‘International Unconference’ in 2012, and a teaching seminar for Masters in Education students at Exeter University.

For a brief insight into the project see this short film of our work at Stoke Hill Nursery

and the the website Carousel Project: Playing with Circles

Handcrafted by Rock Kitchen Harris