Written by The Point's Dance Development Manager, Vicki Hargreaves following her research trip to Italy.
"Taking the time out for professional development, networking and sharing is all too often something we never seem to have time for these days. However, this is possibly one of the most valuable ways to develop your profession and, in turn, develop the organisation you work for and with. When I was asked to attend the Visioni di Futuro, Visioni di Teatro 2017 Children’s Theatre Festival in Bologna, Italy I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
"Over a long weekend, I was able to watch 11 performances from international companies, attend two seminars on the work of children’s theatre, network with fellow delegates (of which there were 178) and take the time to reflect on what it means to be programming performances for children and young people. Joining forces with 8 other programmers from the UK, generously organised through the House network, I was able, for the first time in a long time to really invest in learning with fellow industry professionals.
"After my first taste of beautiful Italian food and reading through my programme I was ready to taste what the festival had in store. On the first morning I walked up the large stone steps and was warmly greeted by festival organisers and shown around the vast spaces nestled in this large stone building, brimming with life and colour and conversation and in all honesty, I was a little awestruck. After receiving my tickets I made my way to the theatre space to watch my first show, alongside a nursery group of about 20 children, all chatting away in Italian to each other with excited tones and smiling faces. Once inside, with house lights down and music starting, the children hushed and the magic was ready to begin.
"Like every festival experience, you find yourself in a bubble, sometimes a repetitive bubble of show after show after show. However, with the layout of the festival all in one building and the calm pace of the day I was able to find moments to think and become inspired. Whether that be through talking to other international delegates, reading the Early Years Theatre book I had purchased or just soaking in other people’s presence, I was able to take the time to reflect on what we do and how to improve back in my working environment.
"Coming away with a group of other UK programmers was extremely enriching and certainly enhanced my experience. ‘Programmers on tour’ (as we titled ourselves!) gave us time to discuss, reflect, support and suggest. It gave us invaluable time to learn from and listen to one another without judgement, space to really be reminded of why we do what we do and celebrate that.
"Children’s first theatre experiences can offer so much to the very young, we have to give them the professionalism, quality and experience they deserve. They are not only the audiences of the future but the audiences of now and that needs celebrating. Taking the time to really understand our audience is key to making a theatrical experience a memorable one, one that will stay with them as an audience member for years to come. To make a lasting impact with great art, whether that be dance, comedy, theatre or music, we need to invest in quality in order to grow the cultural offer for our audiences, from the youngest ones right through to our older viewers. By developing ourselves we can develop our organisation and in turn, the people that matter the most, our future audiences."