Since a couple of months, when I attended a conference called “The Periphery” at the Bábkarská Bystrica festival in Slovakia, I have taken interest in cultural peripheries. Attending conferences around the world is always an occasion to listen and think, and every time I leave, my bag is full of information and reflections that start to bounce around, creating movement and new thoughts. So, the issue of Cultural Peripheries has started to resonate, bouncing from thought to thought. It connected with the issue of cultural expense, the right – always neglected – to have all equal access to Culture and to receive a suitable offer in terms of both quality and quantity, as well as with the right to cultural welfare and the impossible conditions many colleagues are forced to deal with every day. The days spent in Yaoundé at the FATEJ Festival are still dancing in my mind, together with the idea that what we did to organise it really has been a Herculean challenge, especially considering the few resources we had available. Yet, the Festival was there and it was full of children. Peripheries are full of precious cultural acts that are necessary for our future. I don’t know how we can always be creating new windows, new bi-directional communication pathways between peripheries and centres. I don’t know what we can do to make the most out of the cultural richness that is expressed by peripheries, both those of far countries and the ones of my area and town. I don’t know what or how, but I know that we should be searching and doing. It’s a matter of guaranteeing equal opportunities of cultural citizenship.
And this topic touches a very important issue common to all the countries of the world: the cultural periphery where children are kept. All children, in all countries.
This periphery is not acknowledged the ability to create cultural acts, and it is only offered the crumbs; crumbs of art and culture.
I feel the increasingly urgent need for adults to consider children’s rights as “Children-rights”.
Not small rights, but rights that adults should always guarantee to children.
A responsibility that should lead us to “accompany children”. In Italian, among its various meanings, the verb “to accompany” has a special one: “to accompany someone: to join someone’s path”.
Without losing their caring function, adults, artists, teachers and parents should experience with the children, in a real, bi-directional educational dimension.
“Accompany the children” to experience together cultural and artistic acts, empathic moments where sensibilities are shared.
All children live in the peripheries of culture, behind barriers.
But the youngest ones live in the periphery of peripheries, because the pleasure to raise barriers seems to be innate in the human soul. So, these barriers are raised between the different age groups, testing their ability to understand, do, “be trained”.
The youngest children remain the outermost periphery because they can’t understand, they can’t be trained nor tamed, not yet, they are not ready.
These barriers are fake. Small children are so full of abilities and sensibilities. They are scientists and explorers.
Small size was born from these thoughts, because we think that a theatre for the youngest children means to try and tear down the barriers of the peripheries and go beyond borders.
For those who are not familiar with our network, Small size is the Network for the diffusion of performing arts for early years – the children between 0 and 6 years of age, with a special focus on children under 4 years old.
The Network currently includes 57 members – 49 of which from 18 European countries, and 8 from Asia, Africa and America. The large majority of the members are theatres and cultural centres that have been focusing their artistic research on children and that have developed a real and specific professional competence in the field of performing arts for early years.
The network is open to all the theatres that could be interested. If you would like to discover more, you can contact us, but an ideal first step could be to attend the Small size Days, the event organised every year by the Network on the last weekend of January, in the different cities where the members are based.
In 2016, 65 activities were presented by 33 members across 19 countries.
The Small size Days are a three-days event dedicated to shows, workshops and other activities for children from 1 to 6 years, to state that the arts are significant and valued in our lives, from birth onwards, because “The Arts are not a matter of age, but of curiosity”.
More info: www.smallsize.org