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Bright sparks, creative hearts

An important date highlighting children’s unique rights and personal freedoms, today is Universal Children’s Day. Explore the many Creative Ireland Programme initiatives nurturing the endless creative potential of our young people.

Established by the United Nations in 1954 to promote unity and awareness among children worldwide and to further the cause of child welfare; 20 November also marks the UN General Assembly’s 1959 adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and its 1989 adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

With the ‘Creative Youth’ plan, part of the Creative Ireland Programme’s Pillar One, centred around enabling the creative potential of every child and young person in the country; we’re taking a look at some of our many initiatives that are elevating the importance of children’s creativity, self-expression and innate potential.

In September the Scoileanna Ildánacha/Creative Schools pilot kicked off with 150 schools participating in a new approach to learning. With the aim of increasing children’s access to creative activities at school, the selected schools range from primary, secondary, special, DEIS and co-educational schools, to Youthreach centres, rural, urban, single-sex and Irish-language medium schools too. Part of this innovative pilot also included the schools each being assigned a Creative Associate – an artist and/or educator with a true understanding of the arts and creativity, and its potential to transform the lives of young people.

Meanwhile, the dynamic Creative Clusters scheme is enabling the pupils of 73 pilot schools to learn through bespoke cultural and creative activities. This involves each school enjoying access to a specialist facilitator, artist or indeed any of the creative expertise necessary to devise tailor-made learning programmes for their students. So far, this has seen five Donegal schools develop activities rooted in drama’s enormous potential to build self-confidence; while five Clare schools are using recyclable materials to investigate, design and test scientific problems.

A host of child-centred initiatives are also in the works via our National Creativity Fund (NCF). Announced in October, the fund is activating and supporting an array of genuinely ground-breaking initiatives, research projects and community programmes. An initiative of The Ark – Ireland’s only dedicated cultural centre for children – next summer’s Festival of Children will revolve around emphasising the voice of the child. Still in the planning stages, organisers are even involving children in the decision-making process, including naming the festival itself! The festival will coincide with Cruinniú na nÓg 2019 and is set to be a celebration of art, culture and children’s rights with parades, shows, workshops and more.

An initiative of Tallaght’s Civic TheatreTenderfoot has been inviting young people to learn about theatre through the experience of creating it, for over ten years. Through the NCF, the organisation will soon expand its current transition year-based programme and hold a forum on professional theatre provision for young adult audiences.

Youth Theatre Ireland, supporter of nationwide youth theatres since 1980, is expanding the existing National Youth Theatre (NYT). A theatre-making programme for young people that combines a professional experience with an opportunity for personal and social growth, NYT is set to further amplify and represent the voices of young people today through its workshops and performance opportunities.

Also part of Creative Ireland’s NCF, The Royal Irish Academy of Music’s (RIAM) inclusive initiative Le Chéile plans to develop music ensembles for young disabled musicians in every province. This will culminate in the founding of the Open Youth Orchestra of Ireland, the EU’s first national youth orchestra for disabled musicians.

Eight branches strong across Dublin, Belfast, Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Cork and Wicklow, Fighting Words arms people with the creative skills to become resilient and successful shapers of their own lives. Founded by author Roddy Doyle, this game-changing creative writing organisation enables children and young people, as well as adults who didn’t have the chance in their youth, to discover the power of their innate creative potential.

Facilitated by The Glucksman at University College Cork (UCC), The Classroom Museum gives school children from rural areas the chance to participate in an imaginative creative learning programme centred around UCC’s contemporary art collection. Thanks to the short-term loans of artworks, teachers and their pupils will be able to interact with art in their own environment, building the valuable skills and confidence to express themselves in educational and public settings.

Meanwhile, the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland’s ‘DESIGN Skills’ programme is set to develop design-thinking capacity across post-primary schools. This dynamic programme links professional designers and makers with teachers, to develop a six-hour mini project that explores the actual design process. Focusing on the process’ ‘front end’, the programme emphasises ideation, problem solving, divergent thinking, risk taking and experimentation too.

These are just some of the many youth-focused initiatives taking place under the Creative Ireland Programme, read the Creative Youth plan in detail here.

A day for children, by children, there are lots of special events happening around Ireland for Universal Children’s Day – find out more at Children's Day

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