The Open Sesame project was led by the Arts Service at West Sussex County Council, building on the previous CreatAbility projects from 2005-7 and supported by a range of partners. Funding for part of the programme came as a result of a successful application to be a Themed Enquiry project with Creative Partnerships Sussex and Surrey.
At the heart of the project was a question:
How can skills sharing between artists and early years practitioners can have a positive impact on children’s creative development and the early years setting?
Evaluation of previous projects with artists working in early years settings suggested that developing creativity in early years in the longer term might be better achieved through sustainable partnerships between artists and early years settings that included opportunities for artists and early years practitioners to share their skills and develop their practice together.
To give artists and early years practitioners some additional inspiration and the time and space to collaborate and learn from each other away from their work in settings, a series of masterclasses were set up. They were led by theatre
practitioners who make work for very young audiences, as this kind of performance work is multi-art form, encompassing story-making, music, movement, and visual arts. The first session included some exercises for the group as a whole to think about what they were expecting from each other and the project, and what they felt about their own creativity.
In between the masterclasses, the work that took place in the settings grew from discussions between the artists and practitioners, and resulted in different work taking place in each setting. For example, one setting concentrated on introducing dance, another used a nearby forest area to collect wood to make charcoal for drawing and to expand their use of the outdoors. A number of settings explored different kinds of storymaking, inspired by the ‘story square’ idea that was presented in one of the masterclasses, and another discovered that children were very engaged in music making and recording their voices.
At the end of the project there were ‘endings’ at each setting which were either events to share the project with parents or training sessions for staff.