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The Sparkiest of Sparks

Harriet Roy leaves The Spark Arts for Children this week after a whopping 16 years’ service to the organisation. We challenged Harriet to share some of her most memorable moments.

“As my time as the General Manager at The Spark draws to a close, my mind is inevitably drawn to looking back over the last 16 years, and sorting the archives ready for my successor makes me very nostalgic. All those yearly Festival routines, like packing up 90,000 bookmarks for Leicester schools. This took an army of hard-working Volunteers, a bucket full of tea, plenty of biscuits and the radio to entertain us as we weighed bookmarks and stuffed envelopes.

The weeks of piecing together the Festival brochure from all the information and images from the visiting companies and cross checking with the various venues. The traumatic moment of the final brochure proof check before sending to the printers. Seeing the Festival design come to life through our designer Keith Turner, and then catching sight of it at poster sites across the city. It has been fun looking through all the years of festival brochures and remembering favourite shows.

And although my role was very much behind the scenes, it was always a busy year from the moment we finished one festival to get ready for the next. As we grew as an organisation, we ventured into more year-round activities. I am so proud of being involved in all these adventures – almost too many to mention, but here are a few! Since 2003 The Spark has…

  • Presented two water performances in the Cossington Baths swimming pool, with scuba diving scene shifters.
  • Ran a mini Baby Fest at De Montfort Hall with activities in and out of the building – painting the grass, messy play with spaghetti and dancing with astronauts.
  • Created three books of stories written and illustrated by children and 4 poetry anthologies.
  • Designed Open-Minded Play Spaces at Aylestone Meadows and Braunstone Park, in collaboration with local school children.
  • Curated the family area at Summer Sundae and at the Leicester City Summer Festivals.
  • Presented acrobatics, classical music and Tetris (in the form of dance) in parks across Leicester.
  • Brought music as play to settings across the city and helped train musicians and early years practitioners
  • Commissioned our first play Tree Child by Joseph Coelho, and took our second (A Boy a Bear and a Boat) to the Edinburgh Festival.
  • Had 12 incredible “artists in residence” in 6 libraries over 8 years.
  • Led a consortium of East Midlands library services to programme story based theatre and dance into library spaces.
  • Worked with children to create their own artworks and open their own gallery, encouraged them to create games up and down the Museum’s Victorian gallery, and finally to take over whole venues for the festival weekend.
  • Brought some amazing actors, dancers, storytellers and musicians to our local schools, with stories to tell that resonate with our children as audiences.
  • Been a lead organisation for connecting schools with arts organisations in Leicester/shire.
  • Created our first digital festival and took our artists to our families’ doorsteps during the pandemic.

Through all these, and more, I have seen amazing artists, project managers, technicians and yes administrators make wonderful arts experience for, with and by children. And as I move on to pastures new, even more exciting things are on the horizon for The Spark, under its new Director Christopher Gorry. I can’t wait to see how the company grows and inspires even more children and their families and teachers in the future.”

Harriet has been instrumental in the organisation's success over the period, and we'll miss her lots! On behalf of the whole team, trustees and stakeholders I want to say the deepest of thanks to her for her immeasurable impact on the organisation.

Christopher GorryArtistic Director