An event was held for the Theatre for Young Audiences sector hosted by Capital E National Theatre for Children and Circa Theatre, in collaboration with Performing Arts for Young People Aotearoa (PAYPA) on 19th April at Circa Theatre Wellington. This was an inaugural event which included an introduction to PAYPA, the launching of a new award for the Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) sector, and a practitioner panel discussion on why and how we engage young people when making theatre. 

With an aim to bring the sector together and connect, celebrating the successes of making work for young audiences and looking forward to how work is made with children and young people, over 90 people attended in person and online.

TYA panel

Photo: TYA panel at Circa Theatre Wellington.

As part of the evening, PAYPA announced an exciting new award in memory of Peter Wilson, the ‘Peter Wilson Award for Excellence in TYA’. Peter who was the founding director of Capital E’s National Theatre for Children until he left in 2013 to start his own company, Little Dog Barking; passed away earlier this year. This annual award created by PAYPA will currently be looked after by the Wilson family until its first recipient is announced in 2022.

Kerryn Palmer, the administrator for PAYPA (Performing Arts for Young People in Aotearoa) held a panel for the evening to discuss how practitioners work with young people. Featured speakers; Tanemahuta Gray (Taki Rua productions), Kenny King (Little Dog Barking), Sacha Copeland (Java Dance) and Mel Luckman (Cubbin Theatre Company) offered amazing insights to the sector needing more advocacy and recognition for making work for children; not as an audience in waiting but one in their own right.

Photo: Tanemahuta Gray (Taki Rua) and Mel Luckman (Cubbin Theatre).

As Kerryn Palmer said, “It was exciting to have a group of TYA practitioners in the same room, celebrating and valuing TYA work in New Zealand. It is easy to feel disconnected within the industry, and alone as you often create work in a silo, so it is always great to come together and share ideas in a group. To have PAYPA supported by our only Creative New Zealand Totara funded TYA company – Capital E – and by Circa Theatre is fantastic. We can make real inroads into strengthening and advocating for all the TYA work that is happening nationwide, with the long-term goal of all children in Aotearoa New Zealand have access to high-quality theatre made specifically for and with them”.

Kerryn Palmer

Photo: Kerryn Palmer (second from left).

Sue Giles, the artistic director of Polyglot Theatre and newly elected President of Assitej International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People also spoke at the event on her work for young audiences in Australia in an effort to inspire New Zealand practitioners on how they approach this important young audience.

“It was so amazing to have Sue speak at the event, being such an influential figure in the sector internationally, looking to our international leaders to get inspiration and build connections” Beth Taylor, Producer at Capital E.

The event was a collaboration between PAYPA, Capital E National Theatre for Children and Circa Theatre and was the inaugural networking session for the sector but we hope to make this an annual occasion in the future, bringing practitioners and organisations together.

Sue Giles

Photo: Sue Giles (pictured on screen).

Photographer credit: Alex Rabina