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Vital Spark goes international

The Spark Arts for Children are thrilled to announce the first Vital Spark International partnership.

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children will unite with The Spark Arts for Children as a lead international partner on The Spark’s artist development programme, Vital Spark. Together we will deliver a trailblazing Artist Relationship Programme to empower underrepresented artists to make incredible live performance for young audiences.

Both The Spark (Leicester, England) and Baboró (Galway, Ireland) have a robust track record in supporting artists to excel in the Performance for Young Audience sector and this impactful partnership will marry each organisation’s ambitions to elevate underrepresented voices in the sector. Expanding The Spark’s existing artist supports, and building upon Baboró’s LEAP programme (2022), this new opportunity comprises international residencies focused on developing craft, informing career strategies and building strong relationships and networks both nationally and internationally. Applications will open on Tuesday 4th of July.

Led by The Spark, Vital Spark is a movement addressing the chronic lack of diversity in the performance for young audiences sector. Through development and commissioning opportunities, strategic partnerships and relationship building, it is the UK’s flagship project in making the Performance for Young Audiences sector more relevant and inclusive. Baboró formalised its artist development initiatives in 2017 with the formation of the GROW programme. Through a suite of opportunities, including the aforementioned LEAP, GROW emboldens, nurtures, and trains Ireland-based artists in creative and professional skills. The most recent GROW opportunities have focused particularly on the assertion that children deserve quality art that truly represents them, created by artists with whom they can relate.

Through this new iteration of Vital Spark’s Artist Relationship Programme, 4 England-based, and 4 Ireland-based artists will take part in a transformational 6-month programme and be paid for their time to learn, develop and grow through:

  • A 4-day ‘Go and See’ trip to Baboró International Arts Festival for Children, Galway, Ireland in October
  • A 5-day residential comprising masterclasses and coaching in Leicester, England in November
  • A 2-day sector symposium in Leicester in March

The project is also supported by Vital Spark Host Venue Partner Attenborough Arts Centre, based in Leicester, who have been a long supporter of Vital Spark to make change in our sector.

Thanks to this new partnership, Vital Spark’s Ideas Fund will be open to performance artists based in Ireland for the first time. Baboró and The Spark have together created a seed commission fund with the goal of enabling artists to develop early ideas of a new production for young audiences. The fund will provide time for artists to explore their idea with guidance and project support from both organisations, without the pressure of a ‘finished’ product. The project is also supported by Vital Spark Host Venue Partner Attenborough Arts Centre.

Christopher Gorry, Artistic Director of The Spark said “I am so excited that Baboró is joining Vital Spark as our International Lead Partner. It demonstrates a real commitment to developing the sector as a whole and the opportunities for cross learning for the artists will be exemplary. The investment from the Arts Council of Ireland to the project, enables the movement of Vital Spark to reach much further and that is of real importance to us as an organisation, and most importantly the artists who will experience it.”

Aislinn Ó hEocha, Executive Artistic Director of Baboró said “I’m thrilled to announce this exciting new international initiative. Since launching GROW Artist Support Programme in 2017, we have helped more than 50 Irish based artists to develop their craft, career and professional networks. This ambitious partnership is the next logical step for Baboró and will shine a light on underrepresented artists and stories, so that our diverse young population is truly reflected on stages throughout Ireland. We are excited to partner with The Spark who bring valuable experience of supporting diverse artists in the UK and are grateful to the Arts Council for getting behind this partnership.”

Artists can apply to take part in the Relationship Programme and Ideas Fund, or both, through The Spark Arts website from Monday 3rd to 31st July. Please join the Vital Spark mailing list or Baboró newsletter, or keep an eye on our socials for when applications go live.

The Vital Spark behind everything we do

We believe that all children should be able to experience arts and culture, and that they should be able to see themselves represented in these experiences. This is not yet the case for every child and we’re committed to changing that.

Our response is Vital Spark, and it's at the heart of everything we do. Vital Spark is about challenging and changing the lack of diversity in children’s arts and culture; it’s about diverse-led artistic decision making; it’s about not being afraid to stand up for what’s right.

We do this by supporting artists who are currently underrepresented in children’s arts and culture. We also work with partner organisations to create world-class opportunities for these artists and share best practice.