Putting modern childhood under the spotlight

January 2017

The International Festival of Childhood, planned for later this year, aims to examine the issues affecting modern childhood. The evidence suggests that there is a massive toll on child health and wellbeing, say the organisers.

The Festival, to be held in Bath from 29 June to 2 July, is the result of a collaboration between the Save Childhood Movement and the Bath-based cultural organisation 5x5x5=creativity. It will consist of a multi-disciplinary seminar “surrounded by inspiring, creative and playful events and activities”, the organisers say in a press release.

“From the erosion of family life, to increasingly risk averse societies, commercialisation, the impact of the digital world and the downward pressures of the schooling system, over the last few decades there have been massive changes in the lives of young children,” Wendy Ellyatt, founder of the Save Childhood Movement said.

“The evidence suggests that this is having a massive toll on child health and wellbeing. Combining a serious four-day seminar within an extravaganza of playful events and activities, the festival offers a global platform for people to come together to explore the issues and to seek solutions.”

Penny Hay, founder of 5x5x5=creativity, added: “The International Festival of Childhood will celebrate the wonder of childhood, and share some of the most innovative and playful experiences in its ‘Forest of Imagination’.”

Global dialogue

After the first IFC in the UK in 2017, the aim is for the event to then be replicated bi­-annually, primarily through the involvement of leading universities, but increasingly through unique creative collaborations, on the same dates in countries worldwide.

“We will then network the presentations, workshops, research findings and conversations with the aim of initiating and maintaining an ongoing global dialogue. We will also strengthen the call for a new, independent guidance body, focused on the science and art of human learning and development, that can better inform governments on how to maximize the wellbeing, potential and contribution of their own peoples,” the IFC says.

The Festival is aligned with Bath’s annual Forest of Imagination contemporary arts initiative, and partners include UNICEF and the UK organisations The National Trust, the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), and Bath Festivals.

The City of Bath is hosting the event as part of its commitment to becoming a UNICEF Child Friendly City and Community. What would the world look and feel like if we really maximised human potential and creativity? What kind of people would we be? And what global problems could we solve?

“From scientists to paediatricians, pedagogues, early years experts and psychologists; from educational researchers to businessmen, creative artists, writers, teachers, parents, practitioners and policy-makers, the festival aims to unite the thinkers with the doers in order to put these questions at the forefront of everyone’s agenda,” the organisers say.

“Children first”

Launched as a not­-for­-profit company in 2013, the Save Childhood Movement consists of a growing collaboration of individuals and organisations that share a deep concern about societal values and wellbeing and the current erosion of natural childhood. It has a particular interest in how modern culture is impacting family life and the changing nature of children’s worlds and experiences. In the three years since its launch it has established a national presence and has attracted a fast-growing number of high-profile supporters.

5x5x5=creativity is an independent, arts­-based action research organisation with charitable status that supports children and young people in their exploration and expression of ideas, helping them develop creative skills for life.

The UNICEF international Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) was launched in 1996 to act on the resolution passed during the second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) to make cities liveable places for all; in UNICEF terms, aiming to put “children first”. The UN Conference declared that the wellbeing of children is the ultimate indicator of a healthy habitat, a democratic society and of good governance.

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