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Lullaby Leaf: A soothing sensory world for children with Down Syndrome

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5 min read

Lullaby Leaf: A soothing sensory world for children with Down Syndrome

5 min read

21/03/22

Lullaby Leaf: A soothing sensory world for children with Down Syndrome

To mark World Down Syndrome Day (21st March), Thomas Johnston of Ceol Connected details how the theatre company developed its latest work, Lullaby Leaf, as an immersive, inclusive and highly-participatory piece for children with Down Syndrome.

Sensory SongTales presents Lullaby Leaf

Ceol, most of you will know, is the Irish word for music. At Ceol Connected, we place music at the heart of what we do, composing and producing joyful music experiences for our youngest citizens. My name is Thomas Johnston, a traditional musician and theatre-maker, and Ceol Connected’s founder and Artistic Director.

I’m delighted to have this opportunity on World Down Syndrome Day to share some insights into our exciting Sensory SongTales presents Lullaby Leaf project that will take place this year in counties Monaghan, Cavan, Meath, Louth and Galway.

Over the last few years, Ceol Connected has been developing a strand of our work that we call Sensory SongTales. Sensory SongTales is the space where we work with exceptional artists and creatives to develop multi-sensory experiences for children with additional needs. Our work in this area has developed and deepened over the last four years with projects including Under the Wishing Tree, LEAF, Sounding the Senses, and multi-sensory versions of our A Winter Wish and TREEHOUSE touring productions.

In 2022, under our new Sensory SongTales strand, we are looking forward to presenting an immersive, inclusive and highly-participatory piece called Lullaby Leaf for children with Down Syndrome.

Across 36 performances in four counties – Monaghan, Cavan, Louth and Meath – our special guests can prepare for whooshing winds, gigantic raindrops, busy bugs, and bursts of colourful canopy in this fun-filled sensory experience. With the gentle unfurling of a leaf, a soothing sensory world will be brought to life through traditional music/song, light, smell, movement, and touch.

We are also delighted to bring Lullaby Leaf to Galway in partnership with Baboró International Arts Festival for Children.

Thomas Johnston

"In 2022, under our new Sensory SongTales strand, we are looking forward to presenting an immersive, inclusive and highly participatory piece called Lullaby Leaf for children with Down Syndrome"

Lullaby Leaf: Where it all began

In 2019, Ceol Connected was delighted to work with Draíocht Arts Centre as Theatre Company in Residence to develop LEAF, a multi-sensory performance for children with complex needs funded by the Arts Council.

A core creative team comprised of myself, Orla Kelly (visual artist/facilitator), Joanna Williams (director) and Claire Crehan (musician/facilitator) developed, with Draíocht’s support, our new LEAF performance, specifically-designed for young children with complex needs.

At the heart of this process was our exploration of how multi-sensory experiences – sound, touch, taste, smell, light, movement – could be meaningfully embedded in a theatrical performance to most effectively engage children with complex needs.

In 2022, we look forward to revisiting our LEAF production to develop a piece specifically for children with Down Syndrome. An important part of this process will be our research and development phase which will take place in May/June and involve children and their families from across the four counties.

You can catch a little glimpse into our original LEAF production below.

LEAF 2019

Open Video

Lullaby Leaf artists, creatives and partners

We have a wonderfully talented artistic and creative team on board to develop and present Lullaby Leaf. Our team includes Joanna Williams (director/facilitator), Orla Kelly (artist/facilitator), Seanan Brennan (artist/facilitator), Niamh McCormick (artist/facilitator), Tara Dunne (artist/facilitator), Brioni Gallagher (creative producer) & Lisa Mahony (production manager).

A strong partnership network supports Lullaby Leaf in each county including Creative Ireland, Monaghan County Council, Music Generation Cavan/Monaghan, Cavan County Council, Louth County Council, Meath County Council, Baboró International Arts Festival for Children (supported by Bank of Ireland Begin Together Arts Fund) and Tradoodle Festival Monaghan.

Other partners include venues in each county – Íontas Arts Centre, Droichead Arts Centre, Solstice Arts Centre – as well as Down Syndrome Ireland representatives and the Down Syndrome Centre North East in Monaghan.

It really does take lots of people and organisations to support a project like Lullaby Leaf, and we’re thrilled and grateful for the level of support that we have received. As they say, ‘It takes a village…’.

Join us on our Lullaby Leaf journey

As we begin the research and development phase of Lullaby Leaf, we look forward to sharing our story with you along the way. We’re so excited to meet and work with children and their schools/families across all of the counties, and invite them onto our giant leaf!

Please follow our Lullaby Leaf story in all the usual places – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – and of course we’ll provide updates here on the Creative Ireland blog too!

Read more about Ceol Connected.

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