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“Playing at Making Art” in Dublin’s Libraries

Co Author:
Ríona Sally Hartman

Ríona Sally Hartman is a musician who has been working with parents and toddlers on ‘Story Shoots & Musical Roots’, a music programme for very young children and their carers in Charleville Mall Library and Central Library in the city centre as part of Dublin’s Culture Connects’ The National Neighbourhood.

Myself and theatre maker Mary Sheehan have been playing with parent toddler groups in two central Dublin libraries for a few weeks now. We’ve been playing with sounds, playing with music, playing make believe…playing at making art.


I sometimes wish the delineation between play and art was as blurred with us adults as it is with toddlers. The toddlers don’t think twice about rolling on the floor pretending to be fish, or making up songs and singing them at the top of their lungs, playing and making art is a part of their normal everyday lives but us adults need a reminder every now and then that it’s ok to be silly in front of each other. We need reminding that it’s ok to experiment with make believe and those strange noises we call music. It reminded me that we all need to be kind and patient with our inner artist, to coax them out gently if we want to make honest art.

My favourite moment with the groups so far happened last week. We had been singing a South African lullaby together and when we were done we asked if they had any lullabies from home that they’d like to share. One of the parents sang us a beautiful Polish lullaby and as soon as she started singing her young son, who had stopped paying attention to us a few minutes earlier, crawled back to her and sat back in the circle with a big smile on his face radiating love. Lullabies are such an intimate thing to share in public, these private songs people sing in their homes when no one’s watching to soothe and comfort, it was like a brief glimpse into another family’s inner world.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been exploring songs and stories from far and wide, going on imaginary musical adventures, now over the coming weeks we’ll be bringing it home and asking the parents and children to share songs and stories from their home life with us. We’re hoping more and more parents will be sharing these brief beautiful glimpses into their world with us.

Ríona Sally Hartman, 2018.


Story Shoots & Musical Roots has been a six-week music and drama programme for toddlers and their carers as part of The National Neighbourhood. This programme comes to an end on April 27th, 2018.



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