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Unveiling the Vital Spark Artists 2023/24

Exciting news

We’re delighted to announce the nine incredible artists who make up this year’s Vital Spark artist cohort.  Eight artists, from across England and Ireland will go on a six-month development journey of masterclasses, coaching, and mentoring in the Artist Relationship Programme, which kicks off in October with a Go and See trip to Baboró International Arts Festival for Children Alongside this, four artists will explore and develop brand-new ideas for shows for young audiences though the Ideas Fund. All this will culminate in the Vital Spark Symposium – a two-day event in March 2024 in Leicester. 

We are excited to announce the diverse group of artists that make up this year’s Vital Spark cohort. The ambition of this year’s artists, our new partnerships and the planned Vital Spark Symposium in March is a clear sign of how much Vital Spark has evolved to be at the very core of what we do and the important role it plays in the sector internationally. We’re thankful to Arts Council England and Arts Council Ireland for recognising this, supporting its growth and the new wave of artists who are at the forefront of it.

Christopher GorryArtistic Director of The Spark

The artists

This year’s Vital Spark Artists include: 

  • Debora Naomi Adachi, a Dublin based illustrator, children’s author and art facilitator (Relationship Programme). 
  • Tanya Akrofi, a Lincoln-based writer and storyteller, heavily influenced by folklore and fairytales (Relationship Programme & Ideas Fund). 
  • Sarah Blanc, a London-based dancer, choreographer, movement director and artistic director (Ideas Fund). 
  • Justyna Cwojdzinska, a Limerick theatre practitioner, voice-over artist and arts festival founder (Relationship Programme and Ideas Fund). 
  • Alexandra Gogan, a Dublin-based writer and co-founder of an independent theatre company (Relationship Programme). 
  • Sarah ‘Rain’ Kolawole, a Nottingham-based playwright and spoken word artist (Relationship Programme). 
  • Lewis Major, a Leicester-based choreographer, artistic director and creative entrepreneur (Relationship Programme and Ideas Fund). 
  • HK Ní Shioradáin, a Dublin based composer, poet, lyricist and sound designer (Relationship Programme). 
  • Tandeka Williams, a Derby based emerging Creative producer, Youth practitioner and Director of Mashup Derby (Relationship Programme). 

If you’d like to know more about each artist just click their name above.

The Vital Spark Symposium

The Vital Spark Symposium will showcase and celebrate the achievements of the Vital Spark movement, now in its 5th year, as well as to discuss the ongoing development of the sector.

The Vital Spark Symposium aims to be unapologetic about where the Performance for Young Audiences sector is and how far it needs to move to reshape traditional approaches and become truly relevant and inclusive. Artists, directors, programmers, venues, practitioners and funders will be given the opportunity to get together and challenge each other to assess and develop the PYA sector to benefit everyone.  

There will be performances, there will be discussions, there will be learning and there will be socialising! These two days are a chance to celebrate the impact of Vital Spark, reflect on what should come next and collectively take action to drive the next chapter. 

Delivered in partnership

Vital Spark is the UK’s flagship approach to making the Performance for Young Audiences (PYA) sector more relevant and inclusive. Vital Spark is led by The Spark Arts for Children, in association with Baboró International Arts Festival for Children and in partnership with Inspire: Culture, Learning, Libraries, Attenborough Arts Centre & Lincoln Arts Centre. 

The project is supported by Arts Council England and Arts Council Ireland.   

Find out more

The Vital Spark Symposium

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.