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Infant Imaginings

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Community Health Project

Infant Imaginings

Helium’s current Community Health Project is Infant Imaginings which creates performing arts piece for babies and parents in healthcare settings. Two highly skilled, professional performing artists (a puppeteer and musician) visit health centres to engage creatively with service users and staff.

The Infant Imaginings project aims to promote relaxation, stimulation, communication and learning between babies/very young children and their parents through the performing arts. It aims to assist a socially disadvantaged community’s positive relationship with its local health centre and primary care team while promoting parent’s/carer’s understanding of infant/toddler wellbeing.

The project was piloted in 2008. In 2010, the work in progress which developed at pilot stage will be developed into a full audience-of-one production.

Infant Imaginings – An arts-based research & development project
with parents and babies

Infant Imaginings was a research and development project, which explored the use of the performing arts with parents and babies to promote well-being. Helene Hugel, in collaboration with musician Jonathan Wilson, facilitated exploratory sessions in a variety of health care contexts over a period of 3-4 months. They worked with parents and children aged 3months – 2years, and sometimes babies under 3 months. Tim Webb of Oily Cart, UK, www.oilycart.org.uk acted as mentor on the project. The outcome of their work was an interactive, intimate, work-in-progress performance for a very small audience.

The performance visited a local health centre during child development clinics. Positive feedback from staff reported that the project had a calming and relaxing effect on everyone, parents, babies, and staff. It also indirectly assisted nurses in their assessments. Finally, an early years specialist observed that the art intervention provided a positive role model for parents.

Parents written comments included:

"I think this is a brilliant idea. My daughter really enjoyed it and it totally took her mind off going to see the nurse!" (Mother of toddler 22 months)

"It was excellent, very interesting time, conscientious. Gave me great ideas to play at home with my little boy." (Mother of baby 3 months)

"I found the performance very interesting. My daughter likes the sounds and plays. Her reactions were amazing. I was really surprised." (Mother of baby 7 months)

"Fantastic idea for entertaining your baby, very creative and enjoyable to see your baby enjoying it" (Mother of baby 7 months)"

An important aim of the project was to develop an artistic work of high standard, which would inspire parents to replicate some of the creative experiences at home. A forum to discuss the value of this work was held in October at Tallaght Community Arts, chaired by Tony Fegan, artistic director. It was very well attended by a diverse group of professionals from healthcare, childrenʼs theatre, arts management, and childcare. For a report on the forum and its outcomes please see www.tallaght-arts.ie. A blog documenting the projectʼs process with photos (and eventually video) can be viewed on www.practice.ie (under projects, Infant Imaginings). Finally, for further reading, an article in the Irish times is here

This project was produced by Helium, in partnership with Tallaght Community Arts, and the arts office in the Adelaide and Meath Hospital incorporating the National Childrenʼs Hospital, Tallaght, and in consultation with the IPPA, the Early Years Organisation. It was funded by a Bursary Grant from the Arts Council.