Early Hurly Burly (EHB) was a live performance project for Early Years families, funded by Arts Council England and carried out by a partnership of the library services, music education services and other music organisations in 12 West Midland local authorities.
Libraries are valued, safe community spaces offering resources and support for everyone during their lives. The Early Hurly Burly was a project designed to make the most of that offer for hard to reach families, enabling them to build a relationship with their local library while engaging with a development activity for their children. Libraries wanted to increase their contact with this group, moving from outreach to families coming into library buildings.
The project was led initially by 9 and then 12 local authorities in the West Midlands. Herefordshire Council made a strong commitment to the project by agreeing to be the lead applicant for Arts Council funding in both phases and undertaking joint management with the Music Pool. In all areas the key partners were the library service with financial commitment in staff time and matched funding plus the local music education service with resources. Each delivery area supported the project and a partnership group of library and music service staff oversaw the planning and delivery.
Key partnerships with children’s centres and early years settings together with outreach work delivered by music services enabled relationship building with participating families. In phase 1, weekly music sessions were held in target locations in order to reach the project audience.
Key to EHB success was the partnership between library services and music services across the region (music organisations represent a range of sectors from LA to charities). The partnership has devised, developed and delivered activity, which demonstrates two sectors working together as a successful partnership.
The project commissioned a new performance piece of theatre and music for library spaces. The group devised a tender that focussed on live music and performance to be participative with follow up activity for families at home. Open Sky Productions successfully tendered and followed through with their show Hairy Fairy Tales which toured across the region. Weekly music sessions also allowed for other art forms to be included as music and arts practitioners planned and shared sessions.
In some areas the weekly sessions have been sustained, in others staff have used their training to enhance existing sessions. Staff training has been key in both phases to give library staff and practitioners confidence in delivering future activity themselves. The success of phase 1 led to securing funding for phase 2. Currently a third phase is in development to explore new types of musical performance and conduct academic research on the impact of the programme on children and families. Practitioners have reported positive development in their own practice while performance practitioners have welcomed the opportunity of working in a new type of space.
As a result of the project 48 theatre/music performances were hosted across the West Midlands between May 2016 and August 2017. 2454 children with their parents or carers attended the performances. 13% of families who completed the evaluation were from hard to reach audiences.