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Blog 1 – Anna Newell, Theatre Maker for Early Years & Children with Complex Needs

Image copyright - I AM BABA - Neil Harrison Photography

Image copyright - I AM BABA - Neil Harrison Photography

Anna Newell
Image credit – El Porter McCullough

Anna Newell is one of Ireland’s leading theatre makers for young audiences, creating unique theatre adventures for audiences of babies, early years and children/young people with complex needs.

She created the world’s first BabyDay, introduced theatre for children and young people with PMLD (Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties) into Ireland and helped start baby theatre in South Africa.  Her work for Early Years audiences has been seen on six continents.

The shows are informed and inspired by their audiences at every stage of their creation and have human connection at their very heart.​

Tonic Theatre Award winner 2017 - for “women who are changing the face of theatre”

Ellen Stewart Award 2016 finalist - for “theatremakers whose work with/for young people has had a major social impact”.

What. How. Why.

I remember really vividly where I was on 12th March 2020. I was visiting the cast at the end of their 3rd week of a 10 week tour of my show for babies ‘I AM BABA’ and our tiny gorgeous tent was set up in a rather grand hotel ballroom in Trim. We came out of the third show to the news of the announcement of lockdown. We threw the set and costumes back in my storage facility without masses of care – as we knew it was only going to be a couple of weeks.

I know.

For the next 2 months, I was lost, desperately trying to think what to do and how to do it.

And then I worked out that it wasn’t about the what or the how but rather about the why.

When creating ‘BLISS’, the first show I made specifically for audiences of children with complex needs, I was doing some creative consultation in a classroom and over the course of these few days these children revealed to me what I think theatre is – one human being connecting with another. That’s it. And that my job is to create the optimum conditions for that connection.

And for my audiences, the optimum conditions overwhelmingly are that it’s a live experience.

The work has always had at its very heart the live responsive connection and an inherent and crucial ability to nuance and change from moment to moment.  And I realised what I had to do was to take this built-in flexibility to a whole new level…

Thanks to the incredible support of funders, venues, audiences and artists and more than a little bit of luck, I managed to tour work live for 8 weeks in the summer, autumn and winter of 2020.

And in my next couple of blogs, I’ll tell you the how and the what.






School Level

Early Years