The picture book, "Not Today, Celeste!" was written by Liza Stevens and published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in 2016. After receiving excellent feedback, especially from schools, Liza worked with the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust to adapt the story into a musical puppet performance, with accompanying workshops, for primary schools.
The project is designed to help children in years 3 and 4 understand mental health and wellbeing, and in particular, parent/carer mental illness. It gives school staff the vocabulary and opportunity to communicate with, and support children about the issue. Working with four accomplished theatre practitioners, Liza formed the Bobble Hat Theatre Co, and the initial pilot tour of 12 Brighton and Hove schools took place in 2018. It received very positive feedback, and demand for shows was great from local schools. In 2019 Liza was awarded funding from Arts Council England, and Brighton & Hove City Council, to tour for a second time. Brighton & Hove and Liza Stevens consulted with school SENCOs, and decided to open the show to parents and carers, with supporting workshops afterwards, facilitated by local organisation Safety Net.
Before the show, schools receive a hardback copy of the book from the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, and a pack, introducing the project and providing follow up activities for the children. The show itself is 30 minutes long, and includes puppetry and live music. There are joyful and sad moments, and opportunities for the children to participate. After the show, the performers visit the children in their classrooms and carry out activities with the children, focusing on emotion, wellbeing and who/what can help when feelings are poorly. The children meet the puppets and ask them questions. For the latest tour, parents and carers were invited to watch, and stay after the show, to chat to each other and to Safety Net representatives, where they can share experiences and receive advice and support.
As of April 2019, the show has reached:-
26 primary schools
225 teachers, learning mentors and other professionals
A selection of feedback about the puppet show....
“We thought it was excellent, powerful, very funny, moving and poetic too thanks to Al’s presence through her lovely songs and narration. I spent quite of lot of time watching the children and their reaction was very interesting and very in tune with what the characters were going through. I am sure it’s not very often they get a chance to connect with some of the issues portrayed and it’s so important they have that space to do so.” Brighton & Hove School Travel Advisor.
“Thank you all so much for this morning- it was such a powerful and beautiful show. The workshops complemented the performance beautifully. The children have been talking and we will continue to, but the message they took from this morning will remain with them for a long time.” Inclusion Lead, Mile Oak School.
Read more about Not Today, Celeste! at www.nottodayceleste.co.uk