What is the Campaign about?

Welsh language information

The Family Arts Campaign is a national Sector Support Organisation funded by Arts Council England and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to raise family engagement with arts and culture.

Since our beginnings in 2012, we have focused on three main areas of work:

  • Increasing the amount and range of artistic work available to families
  • Increasing the quality of experience for families
  • Improving marketing to reach more families

We are here to support National Portfolio Organisations, museums, libraries, community groups, individuals, and anyone else looking to better connect families with arts and culture.

You can take part by signing up to the free Family Arts Standards and Age-Friendly Standards quality-marks, by attending training and events, or accessing our online resources library. You can also promote all of your family and age-friendly events for free as part of our Fantastic for Families  campaign.


Who is running the Campaign?

We are a cross-sector and cross-artform initiative steered by a consortium of ten organisations and trade bodies. Our lead partner organisation is The Albany.

Logos of consortium partners: AMA, CVAN, ITS, One Dance UK, Society of London Theatre, UK Theatre, The Albany, Kids in Museums, ABO, The Audience Agency


The campaign is overseen by a Project Board:

Matthew Swann(Interim chair) Chief Executive, City of London Sinfonia
Sebastian CaterHead of UK Theatre and Workforce Development, UK Theatre
Charlotte JonesChief Executive, Independent Theatre Council
Cath HumeExecutive Director, Arts Marketing Association
Robert O’DowdChief Executive, Rose Theatre Kingston
Gavin BarlowChief Executive/Artistic Director, The Albany
Mark PembertonDirector, Association of British Orchestras
Anne TorreggianiExecutive Director, The Audience Agency
Karla Barnacle-Best CEO, Discover Children’s Story Centre
Alison Bowyer and Laura BedfordExecutive Director and Head of Programmes, Kids in Museums
Paula OrrellDirector, Contemporary Visual Arts Network
Frederick HopkinsHead of Business Development and Membership, One Dance UK
Sarah Mears and Liz McMillanProgramme Manager, Libraries Connected / Libraries and Culture Services Manager, Slough Borough Council 


Central co-ordination team:

Anna DeverHead of Campaign
Rukhsana JahangirCampaign Manager
Sophie EvansDigital Marketing Manager
Daniela GerstmannDigital Marketing Officer

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AsOne Theatre’s ‘Library Live!’ brings free first theatre experiences

Fantastic for Families Award 2020 Case Studies

We’re pleased to bring you a series of Case Studies from this year’s Shortlisted Organisations for the Fantastic for Families Awards.

AsOne Theatre Company is one of the shortlisted organisations for this year’s Best Family Event Award, for their participatory Library Live! programme.

A young women is kneeling on the ground holding a puppet in front of some children. She has a guitar on her back

Library Live! is an intimate, participatory & diverse project bringing free live theatre to children and families in their local library. Through partnerships with library services, schools and local authorities, it has been inspiring children to share in their early experiences of reading and encouraging families to explore and use their local community library facility.

The project was a natural development on from our existing audience development work around theatre, with previous projects having focused on delivering first-time magical theatre experiences for young children, with participatory elements for intergenerational audiences.

Library Live has so far visited 45 libraries and schools across five counties to delight and inspire children and their families.

The importance of good writing

For our initial pilot tour for Library Live, we commissioned a play that would be aimed at a family audience. The Fisherman’s Daughter is about Jess, a young girl who is inspired to read by a redundant librarian and her friend (puppet) Harold, the one-legged seagull.

Well-considered writing is always important when making theatre for families. Social issues need to be highlighted to children in a manner which is non-patronising, and the story must spark inspiration for different generations. We wanted something fun but also multi-layered in order to offer an engaging experience for both young and old, toddlers through to grandparents.

Jess and Harold’s story tackles themes including learning difficulties and childhood bullying. It also encourages children to search within their local library to discover classic books that were such an inspiration to the character of Jess. The story was extended within a second companion play; Jess’s Odyssey, which follows Jess’s journey as she makes new friends and her confidence grows. The audience are involved too with participatory jokes and performances are limited to around 45 minutes to allow time for questions to Harold the puppet.

Some of the challenges we faced

As part of the project we worked with a large number of libraries across different library services. Whilst the feedback we received from audiences and librarians was overwhelmingly positive, difficulties emerged when coordinating so many individual libraries. The fact that performances were limited to school holidays and Saturdays restricted the number of families able to experience it. A more flexible approach to programming will be needed in future to give more children the opportunity to take part. There were also some challenges in creating performance spaces in some of the smaller libraries, although, the staff were always cooperative and inventive in accommodating children cross-legged on the floor with space for wheelchairs and baby buggies.

What we’ve learned

As the new initiative was to attract more children to the libraries, an innovative & coordinated partnership arrangement was set up between county library services and the local primary schools. The library invited their local primary school to ‘walk up’ in school time with a class or year group to see the performance of a unique, educational, informative and exciting play.  We also introduced complimentary themed colouring, book searches and quiz activities, inviting family audiences to performances during school holidays. The concept was rolled out in the form of Mary Anning’s Fossil Depot – an original, interactive play about the famous fossil hunter. The children were able to handle real fossils, complementing areas of the Key Stage 1 and 2 syllabus, and use fossil hunting tools to piece together a complete plesiosaur skeleton.

In line with our company’s strategy, our main aim for the tour was to be able to present live theatre to children for free. We visited 45 Libraries/schools across five counties. Evaluation of the tour’s success shows that:

  • 43% of guardians would not have been able to bring their children if it had not been free entry.
  • For 53% of the children attending it was the first experience of live theatre

The joy on the faces of the audiences at every venue was proof of its success, with one teacher summing it up by saying; “What a lovely, lovely way to learn”

Others said:

, “Extremely enjoyable & engaging – presented in a way that was accessible to children.”

 “We felt we were taken back in time.”

“Very enjoyable, perfect length, great performers, great set, brilliant idea.”

“I have been a teacher for 16 years and have hosted many visiting theatre companies and this is the best I have ever seen.”

We are committed to extending this project into museums and other public places and are starting with vacant shops and partnerships with town Business Improvement Districts. The compact, pop-up style of the show will be essential to ensuring its accessibility for these smaller community venues.

Being shortlisted for the Fantastic for Families Best Family Event Award is wonderful recognition of the hard work and commitment our small team have put in. More importantly, it provides confidence to enable us to develop further and act as a beacon to attract new partnerships and funding sources.

The impact of Covid-19 has meant that unfortunately, the project has been paused but our fundraising has continued throughout to ensure that Library Live! will continue to provide free access to theatre for children in 2021..

Jane McKell is the Founder and Artistic Director of AsOne Theatre Company

AsOne Theatre Company which specialises in making theatre out of community stories, working with memory and verbatim as a creative catharsis. People’s lives, encounters, and journeys fascinate and inspire her. Highly respected over 15 years for its successful work in theatres, schools, prisons, and libraries.


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