Play is serious business – and so so needed

 This weekend, I was a guest at the launch of a new collaboration between the China based GengXing Culture Development Company,, and the UK based Big Foot Arts Education. Big Foot work in schools to inspire young people through play and arts to enrich their educational learning.

Hey, being a dinosaur will stay with you a lot longer than learning anthropological epochs from charts.

I was asked by a Beijing reporter why this was important. Babies and toddlers love to play and learn experientially. Schools then have a tendency to replace play with serious learning. This may seem like the best way to train our future employees – but I suspect most people reading this blog will be of a different mindset. You, like me, probably sense that the next inventors, creative, entrepreneurs, nurses and social carers, teachers and builders of society and political pundits need the skills of lateral thinking, problem solving, and creativity which lego, playdoh, loving reading and arts skills can offer.

The other question I was asked was what could the company say to parents across China who were not sure about this approach – and I my answer is, have faith. But maybe we can offer more to help

The RSA is underway with a review of existing literature which explores the power of the arts in schools to enrich the learning (formal) outcomes in STEM type subjects. They are also preparing for a major new research project on “cultural impact” with up to 200 schools across the UK. We know that government bodies need convincing that engagement in the arts can help young people to get higher scores in “important” subjects. Maybe in time this research will help. So good to be at the RSA meeting at Oval House facilitated by Chris Abbott of Kings College last week.

What’s the point of theatre in this day and age. How can we help in this complex world – well in all honesty if we can just help people to play, that would be a start.

Once in a while I come out of the theatre feeling that, if this was the last show I could see, I would be satisfied with my lot. Last night I was at the London International Mime Festival at Charleroi Danses tiny, massive, epic, tender, technologically immense, and delicately human “Kiss & Cry”. A Barbican Centre packed with young people where a pin could drop, and the whooping cheers at the end lifted the hearts 15 members of this global touring Belgian company. Thank you Kath for knowing I would be in floods of tears of joy within 30 seconds of the start of this heart opening piece.

And this morning, I write this sitting in a beautiful performance development space in Forest Hill with 10 creative artists from the Authentic Artist Collective playing…playing very seriously as they each explore their honed craft and skills, new shows and pieces. The heart of collective sharing comes from the generosity of spirit which is possible from humans who have understood group work, sharing, and creativity from their earliest school days.

My final thought to the chinese/uk venture was to reflect that, without classes and opportunities for young people to remember how to play, there will be no international actors, directors, designers, musicians and writers wanting to hone their craft by joining us at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts (and other spcialist conservatoires across the world).

Play young, learn creatively, stay inventive, become empathetic collective citizens, and (for some) – take up the arts professionally, so that there are future generations to encourage the young to keep playing

Thank you Hau Wu of Beijing GengXing, the Authentic Artist Collective, Charleroi Danses and Mountview for giving me delight through play.




  1. Thanks for posting this! Reinforcement for what one’s doing is greatly appreciated and helps moments of self doubt if/when they occur.

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