World's first Baby Day to take place in Belfast

Next month Belfast celebrates its tiniest citizens with the world's first Baby Day featuring art, music and imagination. Jenny Lee finds out more

The world's first Baby Day takes place in Belfast on September 27
The world's first Baby Day takes place in Belfast on September 27

BELFAST is set to come alive to the sounds of babbling, giggling and laughter when the inaugural Belfast Baby Day is held on September 27. Modelled on the idea of Culture Night, there will be music in the air and a real festival feel as more than 70 events take place across the city.

"Baby Day is more than just a fun day out. It’s a moment to ask ourselves, what kind of city do we want for our tiniest citizens? Also at a time of arts funding cuts, it’s a great opportunity to shout about the importance of what we are calling arts at the heart from the very start," says event organiser Anna Newell.

Anna has been making theatre adventures for all ages since 1989 and in her role as artistic director of Replay Theatre she started making shows for babies, including their highly successful shows Babble and Tiny, which this autumn they will tour to South Africa.

Inspired by the response to their baby shows and the research of Scottish based, American development psychologist Suzanne Zeedyk, Anna invited other arts organisations and individual to respond to the need to address young audiences and the result is Belfast Baby Day.

“Neuroscience research shows that what happens in the first three years of a child’s life changes not only our behaviour in later years, but it actually changes how our brains are formed. We believe its absolutely crucial that some of those experiences should be creative, practical, imaginative, lyrical, stimulating, soothing and full of wonder. That's what Baby Day is all about," adds Anna.

“And for adults it’s about seeing the world through a child’s eyes and seeing what Belfast could be if there was connection and not division. We hope Baby Day celebrates the power of creativity and the unique connection that it makes: connection between parent and baby, connection between communities, and how vital these connections are for a happy future for all of us."

From baby yoga, Bollywood dancing and tribal drumming to opera, poetry and animation, Belfast's biggest ever play date will feature events for all the family, culminating in the premiere of a Belfast Lullaby, written by award-winning Belfast composer Neil Martin and sung by the Belfast Mamas and Papas group in the grounds of Belfast City Hall.

Anna would be delighted if other cities follow the lead of Belfast in hosting a Baby Day, but rather than creating an annual event she is interested in it's transformative potential. “What I would like to see from it is a change in terms of how people think in terms of infant mental health and the importance of the first few years and the key role the arts can play in that. Already that change can be seen with organisations like NI Opera creating work specifically for babies."

The festival features an international element with the interactive theatre piece Taking Flight, which was devised by New York educator and programmer Tamar MacKay, together with performers Janette and Mari Martinez. It invites children aged three to five are invited to discover how it feels to have the world at their fingertips.

“There are parts of the show that the audience members control, and other parts in which the audience can come up and get on stage to become performers,” says Tamar, who met Anna when Replay visited New York last Spring with their show Babble. “The US is really behind Europe in developing early years theatre and we are so excited about Belfast Baby Day, its festival feel and the fact that families all over the city will have access to programming."

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Baby Day Highlights

The Womb Room, Belfast City Hall 11am - 5pm

Video artist Conan McIvor has created an immersive world of film and sound for babies under one using ante-natal sonograms child’s drawings and rich textures inspired by primary school children’s response to the questions ‘What is it like for a baby inside its mummy’s tummy?’.

Lily's Magical Journey. Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, 11am and 1pm

Children aged six and under are invited to join Lilly’s magical journey as her garden grows bigger and comes to life.

Little Bollywood, Spectrum Centre, 2pm

A dance and movement sensation for the under three's featuring dancers from the South Asian Dance Academy Arts Ekta that will get everyone wiggling their fingers, tapping their toes and bouncing in their babygros.

The Baby Gig -– Anthony Toner, Skainos Refresh Cafe, 3pm

Belfast-based singer-songwriter Anthony Toner and friends offer a baby concert where all the songs will have the world baby in the title.

Woofle: Songs about a dog: Dan Leith and Belfast Comedy Festival, Black Box, 11.30am and 12.30pm

A show about one Dan and his dog with lots of silly songs. From chasing bees and rabbits to warding off ghosts, this set of songs gives you an unusual view of the ups and downs of having a dog as your best friend.

World Cinema Club. Ulster Museum, 3.30pm

Sit back and enjoy a relaxed family screening of a classic short animation from around the world. A nostalgic flashback to your childhood to share with your little ones.

Sea of Stories, Ulster Museum, 11am-4.30pm

A magical sea of tents each with a story waiting inside for you to read to your little one including stories specially written for Baby Day by local authors Maria McManus, Geraldine Hughes, John McCann and Daragh Carville.

Big Ears – Sonic Arts for Tiny Ears, Sonic Arts Research Centre, 11am, 1pm and 3pm

Older kids, aged eight and over, are invited to bring their younger siblings into our unique sound laboratory. They can record their baby sibling sounds using cutting edge digital tools, edit the sounds and create a short sound piece using of baby babble, gurgle and chatter.

Little Lullabies From NI Opera. Duncairn, 11am, 11.45am and 12.30pm

Fun and relaxed mini concerts for 0-18 month old babies and their adults featuring songs you might know and songs you definitely won’t know.

Ulster Orchestra Baby Day Surprises

Musicians from the Ulster Orchestra will be out and about throughout BabyDay – you never know where or when they'll pop up.