Artists Interviews

August 2013: Cliodhna Noonan

Sticky Fingers Children’s Art House, Newry

Early Years Arts in Ireland is a recent and highly dynamic departure for both professional artists and teachers or carers of very young children. Two organizations on the island of Ireland have been involved in this process for a number of years. Both are part of the Small size, big citizen EU network for the dissemination of performing arts for the early years. Sticky Fingers in Newry (lead by chief executive Grainne Powell) and Baboró International Festival of Arts for Children in Galway (In this article an interview with Lali Morris, artistic director). Both organizations provide an opportunity for Irish artists to be part of the process of development of the sector through access to performances and visual arts of the highest standard across Europe. International networking is the future for the sharing of practice. Both Baboro and Sticky Fingers regularly involve artists from the international early years arts scene.

Guest Editor, Cliodhna Noonan


Can you tell us a little bit about the Children’s Art House?

Sure! The Children’s Art House opened in September 2012 for children far and wide to experience the Arts and Creative Play in an environment suited to the needs of the child. Children can drop in any day, Monday to Saturday, 10am - 5pm and one of our qualified Arts Practitioners and Art House Play Leaders will show them a fun arts activity to do. Most recently we have developed a workshop programme for our middle floor space and this is hugely popular with our regulars! We cover a range of both visual and performance art activities and we reach on average 60 children a day aged between 0 and 12 years.

What is Sticky Fingers’ connection to Small size, Big Citizen - the EU network for the dissemination of performing arts for the early years?

Sticky Fingers is a member of the UK micro network of partners of the Small size EU project . ( This project which comes under Culture 2014 is coming to the end of its current phase next February and ... we are absolutely delighted to have been selected as the host city for the final Big Event. In 2014 Newry will host 40 international performances, 20 workshops and various training opportunities for artists and childcare practitioners along with an international symposium on the rights of the child to arts and cultural experiences.

We see this as a huge opportunity for our city to become a leader in the field of children’s cultural activity and hope that the legacy to Newry will be visible far into the future. It is a chance to promote real partnership not only in our city between the private and the public sectors but also cross-border with a focus on the rights of all children on the Island of Ireland to cultural and artistic activity from the earliest age.

That’s a fantastic opportunity for sure! How do you see this event benefitting Newry in the long term?

Well, although we have managed to find suitable performance and workshop spaces for this event, they are for the large part non-conventional arts spaces. For many years Sticky Fingers has been highlighting the need for a new purpose built arts space for the children of Newry and Mourne. Even with the Art House we now operate, we have had to close our doors on a number occasions due to capacity numbers. We are frequently approached by the schools in the area for our resources, including the special needs establishments and we feel very strongly that Newry as a city would benefit hugely from the development of a brand new purpose built arts space for all these children.

Aside from this, we are incredibly proud to be offering the tourist industry in Newry the opportunity to highlight the many magnificent landmarks in the Newry and Mourne region and to enjoy the presence of such a huge international delegation for the duration of the event and beyond.

I mention tourism because Sticky Fingers has in the past been the consultant arts organization on the award winning Slieve Gullion Children’s Park project. We also have quite a few public art installations in and around Newry which were developed in association with local school children and professional artists.

You seem to have a very healthy record of the development of arts projects through partnership ...

O yes! Central to the ethos of Sticky Fingers is that we develop partnerships both with the private sector and the public sector organizations in Newry. We have the local community at the heart of all of our events and we love to adopt a slightly different approach to the definition of professional theatre for family audiences! The success of our haunted market and wishing tree events clearly demonstrate this but by far the most successful event to date has been the Dragon Safari on Slieve Gullion. We had forty life size dragons placed on a trail in the park and the event was publicized with a locally promoted story beforehand involving councilors who found giant dragon footprints and shopkeepers who found dragon eggs outside their premises in the lead up to the event. It galvanised our whole community and has helped to put Sticky Fingers on the map as a leading organization for arts for very young children on the island of Ireland.

How do you keep all of this going Grainne?

Grainne (laughs):
Sticky Fingers has a fantastic team of core staff and trained volunteers at the Children’s Art House. We are lucky to work in a supportive atmosphere where the focus is on enjoying our activities to the full and sometimes dreaming up more wild and wonderful ideas for the future.
We enjoy a very healthy relationship with our local council, and we are well supported by the private sector in Newry and the Arts Council of NI also.
The rest is luck!!!

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