Young children are "big" citizens and, as such, subjects of rights. "Small size, big citizens - Widening of the European Network for the diffusion of the performing arts for Early Years" gives claim to young children's right to enjoy the Arts to be part of the artistic processes that nourish their emotional intelligence and help them develop harmoniously their sensibilities and competences.
The purpose of the project is to spread the exchange of ideas on performing arts for the early years (0-6 years of age) within Europe, creating a "territory" of meeting, exchange and knowledge in which we can work together on the development and promotion of projects, events and initiatives. The primary objective of the project is to make an increasing number of young children, in an increasing number of European countries, approach artists and their artistic acts; an objective to be pursued while trying to support, qualitatively and quantitatively, the artistic production for children from 3 to 6 years of age and promote and foster the experimentation for even younger children, those from 0 to 3.
We believe that this objective has a strong innovative nature, because the idea that children can actively and gratifyingly enjoy an artistic dimension is far from being widely accepted. "Small size, big citizens" intends to further develop the previous projects financed by the European Commission, which have brought first to the foundation of the Small size Network (with the annual project 2005-2006 with the same name), and then to its actual start-up (with the three-year project "Small size, the Net", 2006-2009), in order for the Network to acquire its own identity. The project aims to increase both the number of partners and countries involved, to try to spread the partnership through the whole of the European Union, avoiding to give a regional character to the network.
The 4 countries involved in the first project (Belgium, Italy, Slovenia, Spain), grew to 7 in the three-year project (when Germany, United Kingdom and Romania joined in), and in "Small size, big citizens" there are 12 partners of 12 different countries: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Spain, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Hungary.
Through the two main stages - foundation and start-up - the Network began to take shape. With Small size, big citizens our aim is to increase the knowledge flows that "physically" move in Europe, inside and outside the Network. The circulation of knowledge or of an artistic act is strictly connected to the circulation of artists. Artistic knowledge is, in fact, a "handcrafted" type of knowledge; it is concrete knowledge that expresses itself through a unique act, because it can never be exactly reproduced. Acts and knowledge come from daily work and from the blending of single competences.
Every artist, just like every Small size partner, has a specific expertise that can be networked. In doing so, individual work can be helpful to create a theoretical-practical reference capital: a set of ideas and experiences that must not be lost. A sort of active memory, a higher step from which to start off or continue to climb in order to make performing arts for the early years evolve. For this to happen, we judged it necessary that the project should be centred on mobility: mobility of operators (artists, researchers and teachers), mobility of artistic products and mobility of ideas (theories in the educational, cultural and artistic fields). Many chances of exchange and sharing will therefore be enhanced in the 12 countries the 12 co-organisers belong to: festivals, showcases, productions/co-productions, workshops, stages conferences and meetings. All of these are possibilities for presenting ones own artistic views, but also for meeting artists and researchers coming from different European countries and foster new exchange and co-operation.
This project activities can be grouped in three areas: production, trainingand diffusion-exchange. Productionsand artistic research have a lead role. During the project, the partners mean to realise many productions, co-productions and artistic performances for children 0-6 years, and support the production of new pieces of theatre for children 0-4 years by other European companies. The several training activities, different for kind and structure - workshops, research groups, stages - are addressed towards artists, teachers and children. These activities are fundamental, especially when thinking about an improvement in expertise and a wider diffusion of the idea that Arts are a right for the youngest ones too. Diffusion activities have a key importance for an expanding network, and this because of their capacity to create relationships, occasions for sharing and an active memory. These activities are publications, multimedia, research and exchange among the partners, but also events such as Festivals and Showcases. "Small size, big citizens" Festivals - the key "exchange stations" of the Network - deal with theatre, arts and culture for early childhood, with a special attention on 0-3 age group. They host shows produced both by Small size partner and by other companies, round tables, workshops for teachers and educators together with artists, workshops and ateliers for children. Fourteendifferent European cities will host Small size Festivals. The objectives of the projects aims to are dynamic ones, and as such they can never be declared as achieved: the nature of a Network implies the idea of a double, continuous, outward and inward movement; while growth and enlargement, which are aimed at involving an increasing number of identities and subjects, go hand in hand with the strengthening of the relational texture among co-organisers and between co-organisers and their local areas. It is this dynamic movement that activates the process through which the different Associated Partners are identified. As far as its organisation is concerned, "Small size, big citizens" will start an active cooperation with partners who are willing to get involved in the development of the project even though they will not get involved in economic terms. They will work following three main guidelines:
- Theoretical, technical and scientific support, by cooperating with Universities;
- Intertwinement with other networks that share (at least partly) the project's aims and that deal with art for children;
- National micro-networks.
The third type of cooperation - chosen by the reference national partner - is functional for creating other "exchange stations", i.e. festivals. In particular, the project will involve three national micro-networks: the Spanish one, in which Acción Educativa (Madrid, Co-organiser) will cooperate with Teatro Paraiso (associated partner) in the organisation of the Festival for the Early Years to be held in Vitoria-Gasteiz (Basque Country); the British one, in which Polka Theatre (London, Co-organiser) will cooperate with Sticky Fingers (for the Newry Festival in Northern Ireland), Starcatchers (Edinburgh - Scotland) and Take off (Gateshead - North England); the French one, in which the Municipality of Limoges will cooperate with Théâtre O'Navio (Limoges - France).