Pop Up Picnic Online 2020
Helium Arts’ Pop Up Picnic is a multi-sensory performance created for young children with complex needs and their families. The project supports families in absorbing creative and play skills to be used in everyday life in the home, providing parents with new ways of bonding with their very young child using sound, light, music, movement, smell and touch. The project has been developed in collaboration with the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation.
In the summer of 2020, faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to develop an online version of Pop Up Picnic to ensure that we could continue to support families while restrictions were still in place. With assistance from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Arts Office’s Cruinniú na nÓg funding, we set to work on reshaping the project so that it could take place remotely.
There were a number of considerations to be taken into account when working on the online version of Pop Up picnic. We were eager to ensure the programme retained the core feeling of the in-person Picnic and wanted to make sure the activities weren’t solely online. It was decided that the best way to deliver the fullest experience was to augment the live on screen singing, music and play with a hand delivered picnic basket for each family. The picnic basket contained a variety of sensory props and objects that the parents/carers/siblings could utilise easily during the performance. This allowed the family to become performers in the show, following the instructions and actions of the performers on screen to bring the show fully to life in their home!
Once the plans were in place, we scheduled a number of rehearsals to test our new programme via video calls. We were thrilled with the results, particularly the level of engagement and how well the family were able to use the props. With in-depth feedback, we made arrangements to perform to three families over one day in August!
With the safety of our audiences in mind we carefully selected the objects for the picnic baskets to allow for ease of use by each family, and ease of cleaning and sterilising by our team. One of our performers, Niamh Lawlor, also our Stage Manager, managed the preparation, delivery, collection and cleaning of each picnic basket. The process of hand delivering to each family allowed for a (safely distanced) in-person interaction with the family. The opportunity to meet in person, answer questions, and get feedback when collecting the basket was an important part of the experience.
“I would definitely recommend it, it was very different, and great for the current situation. I particularly welcomed that my other children got to see a special event created for their little brother as there are so many activities etc they can benefit from that he can’t enjoy. My daughter had been upset recently about her brother’s prospects in the future, so she was very glad that she got to see him enjoying something made for him.” – Family 1
“She really enjoyed it, and was very calm afterwards, she sat calmly for a while afterwards. Everyone was in good form actually, my three older daughters and me. I found it very relaxing. I was pleased at Grace’s reaction to the bread and oranges as usually she doesn’t go for them. I’m not sure if Grace remembers the Mansion House experience but perhaps her relaxed attitude this time was related to this being the second time she experienced the show. She loved the water. I like the fact that this was just for us. In the Mansion House, the other busy children could make it hard for Grace to focus. We are very happy with everything.” – Family 2
Following the success of the first run of the remote Pop Up Picnic, we are excited to bring the programme to more families in the new year. A pre-existing booking with Kildare Libraries Service for an in-person performance will be delivered online to three families in November 2020 and we are already looking at options for early 2021. Keep an eye on our website for updates!