News Story

Roll back to 2020. All of us trying to hold it together, but in reality more like rabbits in headlights. We were all finding our way through the shock of lockdown and for many of us the crush of work with homeschooling.

We talked about this with Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari, two artists who are never short of ideas. We spoke about the significance of kids experiencing something that grown-ups couldn’t give them a map for - all new, unknown, sometimes scary, sometimes just really, really boring.

There’s something about Nigel and Louise and their work; they radiate warmth and weirdness and indulge us in the beauty and madness of the world. They remind us that there’s a child in all of us.

Their idea was an experience that could revive a sense of freedom and joy in our kids. Empowering them to make sense of their environment by making and building through imaginative, chaotic and uninhibited play. Where grown-ups weren’t allowed and children set the rules.

A man in a fluorescent vest holds a mic to a young boy with a lightsaber, there are other children in the background.
Credit: Billie Holiday 2022
A woman in a high vis vest interviews a group of young children.
Credit: Billie Holiday 2022

We put a lot on this generation of kids - we’re hoping they’ll be the ones who can think and do things differently. To get us out of the mess we’ve created.

Play will be the thing that lays down the foundations for our next generation of inventors, innovators and creators. And theatre can do its bit in this. It’s what theatre is, isn’t it - play and storytelling?

That's what inspires us about Kidstown. We’re not a society known for our ability to listen and learn from our children. But maybe that’s a change we need to start to see. Give them a chance to show us what's possible and see what happens…

A young boy is rowing in an imaginary boat.
Credit: Billie Holiday 2022

So over the August bank holiday weekend we piled up cardboard, fabric, paint, anything we could lay our hands on from our props cupboard... and let the kids of Newtown put their imaginations to work.

Castles were built. Shops opened. Mayoral elections were rudely interrupted by tiger chases. Grown-ups flicked through copies of National Geographic listening intently from the outside. All the while, Nigel and Louise asked questions and listened to what the kids had to say.

This is just the beginning of Kidstown. We’ll be back in Newtown next year and venturing further afield too. It’s all about making theatre, just maybe not as you know it… yet.