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A year at The Spark

Esmé Sensibar reflects on an eventful twelve months at The Spark!

I joined The Spark Arts for Children’s team in April 2022 as Projects Administrator, with the idea that I would help the organisation to wrap up on several major projects that were all finishing around the same time. During the time I’ve been here, I’ve been supported by an invested and caring team of people, reached across many of The Spark’s strands of work, and feel like I’ve become more involved and invested in my city and county (I’ve definitely visited plenty of new places).

One of my earliest tasks was to pull together family feedback, demographic data, and touring data for the East Midlands library touring partnership Among Ideal Friends, to be able to submit the years-long project for evaluation. It was surprisingly interesting going through the children’s feedback on performances I hadn’t seen, and gradually drawing a picture of the show based on the comments. Some of them left particularly funny or thoughtful comments which left an impression, and reminded me how creative and emotive children are, and how valuable it is to provide experiences which extend and inspire them.

A project that I particularly enjoyed was spending a week in August project managing a summer school in Braunstone. The Braunstone Beats summer school gave children aged 7-11 at Folville Junior School access to workshops from 6 professional music artists of various disciplines. The week included beat making and song writing, drumming, singing, music for wellbeing in a ‘zen zone’, 1 to 1 instrument teaching, and experimenting with DIY water xylophones and shakers. My job was to be the go-between for the artists and the school, to coordinate the smooth delivery of the week’s activity, and produce an evaluation. It was great to see the children come out of their shells over the week, and see some who didn’t seem fully sold on the idea at first, become genuinely excited by what they were exploring and the skills they were finding they had.

More recently, a lot of work has been about The Spark Festival, which ran February 13-19. I got a good look at the extent of work that goes on behind the scenes in order to make experiences like the Spark Festival possible. For something that spent so long in progress, the actual festival week passed in a flash. It was a treat to get to see a number of performances while working across the festival week, and I feel that I’ve definitely developed more of an appreciation of what children’s arts can look like and achieve. This is very much also thanks to the quality programming by The Spark, so a really big shout out to 2023’s festival co-directors Trina Haldar and Daryl Beeton.

I’ve also been working on The City Classroom, assisting the handover of Lead Partner from The Spark to the University of Leicester. I initially started as an assistant to The City Classroom and stepped into the Programme Coordinator role at the beginning of this year, following Gemma Bhagalia’s departure. It’s been an unusual position to be in, gradually switching from a focus on activity delivery and member relationships to focus on transition, as the handover gets finalised this March. My contract ends with the handover of The City Classroom, so some of the things I’ve started to plan for will be continued on by colleagues at the University of Leicester, which feels a little strange but exciting to me.

The first project I worked on for The City Classroom was the Black Curriculum Learning Resources, collected by Carol Leeming MBE FRSA. I got a quick but detailed crash-course from Carol about the resources – and learnt a good bit of Black British arts history – before getting them up online with the additional context and key points indicated by Carol. One of the final things I’m doing with The City Classroom has returned my focus to Black Curriculum for Leicester/shire. I’ve been investigating partnerships and reaching out to people – essentially hoping to make new connections, pick back up on old ones and pull together some the various threads of opportunity in Leicester into one lovely bow, so that the next person can move The City Classroom’s Black Curriculum work forward with good momentum.

Almost a year has moved really quickly while working at The Spark Arts for Children. I really could not have asked for a better bunch of colleagues – I’ll miss The Spark & its team when I go!

Find out more

Trina Haldar
Daryl Beeton
The City Classroom
Carol Leeming MBE FRSA