Ark angel

Pictured: Naoise Byrne.

Pictured: Naoise Byrne.

“What’s the best thing about the Council?”

“Everything!” So says Naoise Byrne, a fifth class student at St. Patrick’s National Girls School, Cambridge Road. Naoise is a member of The Children’s Council an initiative run by The Ark, Ireland’s only dedicated cultural centre for children in Temple Bar.

Launched on March 18th, the Council is made up of 15 boys and girls aged between 10 and 12 from inner city schools. Its creation stemmed from the need for inclusion and access to the arts for children.

The Council has now evolved into a forum and creative space where children are given a voice, encouraged to have opinions and provide feedback on The Ark’s programming on what they would like to see and do. It’s also a place where children can just be creative and have fun. They are children after all.

Each member is also given an ‘Access All Ark’ pass which entitles them to free admission to all the Ark’s performances throughout the year.

Byrne remembers the day she found out she was chosen to be a Council member. “I just remember Mr. Lehmann coming into the classroom and asking to see me. He had the biggest smile on his face so I knew I wasn’t in trouble.”

Mr. Lehmann is the Community teacher and was approached by The Ark to choose children for the Council and he thought Byrne would be a perfect fit.

Her first taste of her role on the Council started with a tour of The Ark, followed by two workshops. Here, she met the other Council members (now friends) and Shaun Dunne, the Council’s facilitator, and The Ark’s first Artist in Residence. Dunne is a young, energetic playwright whose work has been shown at the Abbey and Project Arts Centre. His own plays deal mainly with issues surrounding modern Ireland and of access to the Arts.

Dunne credits his early exposure to the Arts through initiatives like The Abbey’s Outreach Department and The National Association of Youth Drama for his current career and success and believes that every child should have exposure to the Arts to nurture their creative development.

From what Byrne said, the Council is definitely kept busy. They have already participated in two introductory workshops which culminated in the launch performance, a soapbox-style show surrounding the theme What Children Need. Byrne said the main things the group agreed on were that children need a space to express themselves creatively, education and to have a safe place to live.

The launch was supported by Cór Na nÓg, RTÉ’s children’s orchestra. The workshops also saw the beginning of a new story the group is writing together about a young boy called Sam who is living in emergency accommodation.

Not only does the Council provide the children with a voice but it also encourages children to be socially and politically aware. Let’s watch this creative space.

By Marguerite Reilly