A CHILDREN'S theatre company has been recognised for its work to create family-friendly art during the pandemic.

Darlington-based Theatre Hullabaloo was shortlisted for the Fantastic for the Families Awards 2021.

Its work creating baby play packs, which are aimed at youngsters under the age of one, earned it the nomination in the audience impact and innovation category.

They were distributed to parents and carers of new babies to help them enjoy creative play time at home during lockdown.

The packs were Theatre Hullabaloo’s response to the concerning increase in post natal depression and social isolation felt by parents and carers during the pandemic.

The project also included work with the Institute of Social Justice at York St John University who undertook research into the impact of the packs on parental confidence.

Miranda Thain, artistic producer at Theatre Hullabaloo said “We are immensely proud of the Hullabaloo baby play packs and the impact they have had on new parents’ confidence to play and bond with their baby.

"We understand the challenges of being a new parent during the pandemic and the closure of our venue, The Hullabaloo, meant that we weren’t able to meet and support new families and encourage their play and creativity as we would in usual times.

"The developmental value of play in the first year is significant and, with support from Tees Valley Combined Authority partners, over 3000 Hullabaloo Baby Play Packs were distributed throughout the Tees Valley which hopefully brought those benefits and some fun to those families.”

The theatre has also commissioned research into the baby play packs, which it says showed they had helped parents and carers to feel more confident playing with their babies and gained a better understanding of the value of play from birth.

Anna Dever, Head of Family Arts Campaign said “After such a challenging year, the Fantastic for Families Awards are a brilliant opportunity to celebrate the creativity, innovation and resilience that the arts and cultural sector has shown during the pandemic.

"The organisations nominated, and all those who applied, are wonderful examples of how creativity and cultural engagement can bring joyful moments of collaboration and connectivity in difficult times.”

All shortlisted organisations will now have their nominations reviewed by a panel of expert judges from the creative sector, with winners being announced in a virtual ceremony on 16 November 2021.

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