I couldn’t have been more excited to receive today’s package in the post containing 20 ridiculously cute plushie hearts from Giant Microbes. My excitement was for many reasons, they really are ridiculously cute, they inspired the development of a character who has become very important to our work and they will each be heading off to a new home in schools across the country as part of our Arty’s Broken Heart Ready Boxset Go project very soon!
The arrival of this package represents a new chapter in what has been a long journey.
In 2018, following the five year anniversary of our successful One Giant Leap project, which used physical theatre to enthuse children to engage in science, we decided to develop our science partnerships by focusing on what we saw as a developing health crisis in our home city of Coventry. We had been shocked by local health statistics that reported the number of people dying young from heart attacks and strokes in Coventry had hit its highest level in seven years. In response we sought out new partnerships to inspire new ways of working with children in Coventry to improve their heart health and long term life outcomes.
City Beat funded by Welcome Trust, Coventry City Council, Heart of England Foundation and Arts Council England was developed to use the transformative power of physical theatre to empower 400 7-9-year olds to engage in an investigation to better understand their heart and how to maintain its health. Providing a rich programme of cultural activity to enable children to find value in scientific research, think critically about it, and trust its role in making decisions.
We were honoured to invite partnerships from specialists at both Coventry University and the University of Warwick. Working with the incredibly knowledgeable Dr Annette roebuck, who worked with us to better understand the biology, function and anatomy of the heart and the late Tim Hunter, Senior Assistant Registrarat Warwick Medical school, who provided us with incredible support for the project and access to the medical school’s team of heart specialists, including Dr Paramjit Gill (professor of general practice).
City Beat engaged children through physical theatre that inspired a sense of marvel.
Challenging existing barriers to accessing and participating in cultural activity, in January 2020 a team of seven fantastic artists began an exciting journey with children from seven schools. The journey included a day long visit to Think Tank, Birmingham, to take part in interactive workshops about heart health and have an opportunity to see our new performance Professor Coerium’s Heart Emporium.
“I liked the show because it made me think about how important my heart is.”
Credit: Andy Moore
City Beat, was almost complete, with only three more weeks of activity to deliver when school closures due to Coronavirus outbreak, meant we were forced to cancel any of the remaining activity. This was a very difficult experience for us, our artists the teachers and the children who had been so invested in the project up to this point.
As there was no understanding as to how long the closures of schools due to COVID-19 would last we took the decision to change the final element of our City Beat delivery, as we felt it was vitally important to do what we could to continue the momentum that the project had generated.
As a result, the final elements of the project were delivered through the creation of an online learning resource City Beat Online, providing teachers and children with the plans and resources to continue activity remotely. Including activities, videos and information that would deliver the same objectives as would have been met through the remaining few delivery sessions.
One year later and still facing restrictions which prevent our work in schools we once again reimagined how we might deliver this important work to children and Arty’s Broken Heart as part of Ready Box Set Go! was devised. Allowing us to continue to provide exciting and active ways for children to learn more about their hearts and how to look after them.
We are hugely excited about this development, as an opportunity to reach more children and to inspire teachers to lead their own activity on heart health using the resources our boxset provides. The development of Arty’s Broken Heart has also seen the incredible illustrations from Annie Kruntcheva come to life for the first time in 2D animation, giving us the opportunity to meet Arty as a ‘real-life’ character.
We hope you will be as excited as we are to receive your Arty’s Broken Heart boxset and that children will enjoy working with Dr Beat to find out what is wrong with Arty’s heart and what they need to do to make sure they keep their own hearts healthy.