We’ve now had our first Parent & Baby Groups With A Difference in both Canterbury and Greenwich! So wonderful meeting people from such different backgrounds and who have ended up having children through such differing ways.
It’s been interesting the responses we’ve got as we’ve explained to friends and family and colleagues about these workshops. We’ve had a few people expressing similar sentiments along the lines of: “But neither of you have kids, why are you running a parent and baby group?”
And they’ve not been trying to be accusatory, just intrigued by what we’re doing. But it’s made us realise how rather sad it is that society can be so exclusive. It’s lovely to meet people that are on the same page as you, that you can relate to, but why is it so surprising or unnerving to connect with people from different parts of society? There’s the big important topics of race and class and gender that come to mind of course, but what about people in different phases of life to you, of different ages, or with different identities to you?
We’ve only had one session so far with these parents, but we’ve connected over so many things, had such challenging and fun discussions, and learnt so much from one another.
Just as our shows are not built for an audience who are just like us, neither are our workshops!
We’ve also found that parents can be very apologetic of their children. Wanting to make sure that it’s suitable for them to be there. We may be having adult discussions and not playing games with the babies, but if your baby is screaming that’s okay, if you need to pop out and change your baby, that’s okay, and if you just want to attend for some of the workshop, that’s okay and we still want you there.
Loving the following from Hollie McNish:
On bringing newborns to my gigs….x
Last week I had a lovely, lovely gig in Leeds library. The room was rammed, the audience was super and there were about ten parents with newborns. Maybe more. There was no problem at all with this. Like any parent would, when the babies cried then they were rocked and walked and fed or passed to friends who did the same and were fine. No bother.
I have loads of people coming to my gigs with newborns who they can’t leave. In Belfast on tour last year one of the pubs I played in had a full on line of babies being rocked at the back of the room.
So…if anyone is thinking they might wanna come to one of the gigs but are feeding a baby or have a baby they can’t leave for another reason, I think of it the same way the baby cinema works. The content is adult. My stuff is not child or family friendly. If you wanna bring your 12 year old that’s up to you (The poetry reading is verging between 15/18 I’d say – sex, swearing etc etc). But under 1s are all good, the same way they are allowed into 18 rated films.
That doesn’t mean all the venues I play in will have baby changing, push chair access etc. But don’t let them tell you that because the show is adult content that you’re not welcome. Or that I don’t allow it. I do. And you are.
Also – some staff – a lot – have talked to me concerned before gigs that people may bring babies. They have been concerned that if the baby screams, cries etc then other people won’t be able to hear the poems and will get pissed off. Every time this has been said, I’ve replied that no parent in their right mind would comfortably sit in a gig as their baby screams through the evening. It doesn’t happen! It never has. I’ve been asked to make announcements like: ‘Babies are welcome as long as the parent is aware of their noise levels’. But I won’t. Cos it’s ridiculous. And never happens. Babies start getting tetchy and the parent is ready with nipple, teet, rocking and walking every time. Also – I have a mic. I just wanted to make that clear. If the venue isn’t over 18 and the music or other acts aren’t too loud but you phone up and they say that the show is adult only, that doesn’t mean babies strapped to your chest / nipple / back. I am totally fine for you to bring them.
Last week, I had to do a gig with my 6 year old daughter sat between my legs on stage. She was silent and I did the gig exactly the same as ever. Some might say unprofessional. I’d not x
So yeah – I can’t promise facilities. And my squeaky, slightly nasal voice when spoken loudly and quickly through the microphone is no lullaby. But I am absolutely happy for your baby to be there.
Thanks for saying this Hollie (also if you don’t know Hollie’s spoken word and poetry, check it out, it’s pretty phenomenal)! This can be a phase of life when you are suddenly excluded from art and culture and theatre, but we want to remove these limitations too! This is how we feel about our workshops, but also what we are trying to make happen for our shows. There will be a number of performances of Re: Production which are programmed at a time early in the day which is more convenient for parents, and your babies are totally welcome too! We are very much testing this idea and hope that we can also get to a point in the future where all of our shows are welcome to babies. We hope more companies and theatres might join us in making theatre more accessible and inclusive to all.
Find out more about our Parent & Baby Group here & pop Wednesday 21st June in your diary for our first matinee performance of Re: Production at the Gulbenkian, Canterbury, where babies are more than welcome!
(Image courtesy of stills from Jake Dypka and Hollie McNish short film “Embarrassed” – check it out here)