3 images of infant school children playing

Moonbeams Eclipses

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‘Major Moments We Remember Forever’ :

Insights in developing resilience in early years through arts and creativity

Keynote Speakers:

Joseph Coelho, Poet, Waterstones Children’s Laureate 2022-24

Professor Chris Pascal, Co-director of the Centre for Research in Early Childhood

Professor Rachel Holmes, Manchester Metropolitan University


Date: 27th February 2023

Time: Registration from 9.15am Conference: 10.00am – 4.30pm

Venue: Midlands Arts Centre, Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham B12 9QH

Tickets: £100. Click here to book!

Who is this event for?

Early Years Educators, representatives from the arts, heritage and cultural sectors, including libraries, Academics, Local Authority Services and artists interested in early years.


What is Moonbeams?

Our early years programme – Moonbeams (for 0-5 years) was developed to raise the profile of early years creativity, develop new sustainable practice by building the leadership skills of artists and educators, and through learning networks address issues of quality and access.
The key focus of the programme has been on the critical role of arts, culture and creativity in the development of language and communication in early years particularly for those young children with limited language skills or who are non-verbal.


Details of the day

This will be Arts Connect’s second national/international Moonbeams conference. Our aim is that the conference is provocative, reflective and interactive and that you will leave inspired and energised. The day will involve keynote speakers and a wide variety of workshops.



Read about the exciting workshops below, and download the programme of the day here!

Bear Books

One of our Keynote Speakers, Joseph Coelho, will be book signing on the day. We are delighted that his books and other titles can be purchased from a local independent bookseller, Bear Bookshop who will be with us from lunchtime onwards.

Bear Books logo

Themes of the day:

The role of play and the imagination

Listening to children and valuing their creativity

The important role of adult/s (eg parents/carers; families; educators; artists)

Creating space to explore risk and change

Marking and managing life events to build resilience


Book now:

Book your ticket here!

Key Note Speakers

Key Note Speakers

Joseph Coelho, Poet, Waterstones' Children’s Laureate 2022-24

“Poetry is innate, young children use it in the playground, they make up ditties and delight in rhyme and alliteration in their games. When I started teaching poetry in schools, I soon realised that rather than teaching poetry to children, I was more giving them words to describe the language, the devices, they were already using. I was teaching them an awareness of their own innate creativity. As human beings we all harbour the potential for creativity but so often we learn, or are taught, that our creativity isn’t valid, isn’t good enough. I would like to share with you some insights I’ve discovered through helping young people access creativity through poetry”.


Waterstones Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho is an award-winning performance poet, playwright and children’s author based in Kent. His debut poetry collection Werewolf Club Rules (Frances Lincoln, 2014) was the winner of the CLPE CLiPPA Poetry Award 2015. His work has poetry and performance at its heart, drawing on over 20 years’ experience running dynamic creative literacy sessions in schools. He aims to inspire young people through stories and characters they can recognise and explores themes including fear, courage, diversity, gratitude, empathy and loss. In addition to exploring emotional landscapes, Coelho is inspired by magic, the ancient world and often draws on his own experiences transforming them into something universal that can be shared. Throughout his career he has highlighted the power of poetry and reading, championing and campaigning for local libraries and spotlights new voices and diversity throughout his work.


Coelho writes for children of all ages; his picture books include the critically acclaimed Luna Loves… series illustrated by Fiona Lumbers (Andersen Press) and If All the World Were… illustrated by Allison Colpoys (Lincoln Children’s Books, 2018) which won the Independent Bookshop Week Book Award 2019. His work across poetry includes the collection Overheard in a Tower Block (Otter-Barry Books, 2017), which was shortlisted for the CLPE CLiPPA Poetry Award 2018 and longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2019 and The Girl Who Became a Tree (Otter-Barry Books, 2019), which was shortlisted for the 2021 CILIP Carnegie Medal. Other work includes middle-grade series Fairytales Gone Bad illustrated by Freya Hartas (Walker, 2020) and YA Novel The Boy Lost in the Maze (Otter-Barry Books, 2022), as well as non-fiction titles including How To Write Poems illustrated by Matt Robertson (Bloomsbury, 2017) among others.

Headshot of Joseph Coelho

Professor Chris Pascal, Co-director of the Centre for Research in Early Childhood

Professor Chris Pascal will give an insight into the themes of the conference, including how to develop resilience in early years through arts and creativity, why it is important to listen to children and value their creativity, and how to mark and manage life events to build resilience. Professor Pascal has written extensively on early childhood development and the quality of early education services and served as an Expert Advisor to Dame Tickell’s review of the EYFS in England. She has worked internationally to support numerous national early childhood policies and strategies and is the current President of EECERA. She was awarded an OBE in 2001 and Nursery World Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

Professor Christine Pascal OBE is Co-Director of CREC, an independent research centre, based in Birmingham. She was a teacher in primary schools before moving into the university sector and specialising in early childhood research and evaluation projects. She has written extensively on early childhood development and the quality of early education services and served as an Expert Advisor to Dame Tickell’s review of the EYFS in England. She has worked internationally to support numerous national early childhood policies and strategies and is the current President of EECERA. She was awarded an OBE in 2001 and Nursery World Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

headshot of professor Christine Pascal

Professor Rachel Holmes, Manchester Metropolitan University

Hostile schools and unruly bodies: the importance of artistic research in educational contexts

Identity is a theoretical and political issue. Elizabeth Grosz (2005) proposes that as we move into a much less certain future, identity is more a struggle without an end rather than attaining and settling with recognizable positions and roles that are valued. This keynote thinks through the tensions of being a young person in school, identified as someone, labelled or diagnosed with something and how this process of recognition normalises forms of identity that elide difference and aggravate deeply embedded social inequalities. Drawing on a recent interdisciplinary study funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, ‘Odd: feeling different in the world of education’ (2018 – 2021), we examine how schools continue to be hostile environments for children who feel different often becoming marked as outsiders, with unruly bodies and minds (Nxumalo, 2021).

Discussing children on the Autistic Spectrum for example, Hebron et al. (2014) note how other children often view them as ‘odd’, ‘strange’ or ‘weird’, and therefore they are prime candidates for bullying and teasing. This complex and risky study examines the vital nature of methodologies of artistic research in educational contexts that utilise different languages to engage young children, including for example embodiment and affect. We take a look at how the Odd project’s inventive methods were made specific to the problem of identity and marginalisation, finding ways to attune to a young person and their relations with others and the everyday materiality of school.

Rachel Holmes is an educational researcher bringing together applied educational research, social science research and arts-based research within cultures of childhood. She is a professor in the Education and Social Research Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University.

head shot of rachel holmes

Morning Workshop: The ‘hundreds and thousands’ of ways of speaking’

Supported by Arts Connect and CREC (Centre for Research in Early Childhood) action research Triads have been developed to explore developing language and communication through arts and creativity with 0-5 year olds, these involve partnerships between libraries, early years settings and artists in areas of challenge in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Solihull and Telford & Wrekin. Early years practitioners, librarians, artists and cultural organisations have been in professional development Triad Learning Action Research Sets, supported over 9 months by a researcher from CREC. Educationalists and artist pedagogists challenged the Triads, provided provocations, informed the research thinking and shared best practice in arts and creativity to develop language and communications, including non-verbal, for 0-5s, their families and the wider community. This workshop will be an opportunity to explore the provocations and the learning that developed the language and communication of the child participants.

Early Years Educator Pedagogista – Mandy Cryan, retired Nursery Headteacher and a EY Nursery Schools Federation Lead (Birmingham).

Artist Pedagogista – Nicola Burke, Early Childhood Music Consultant, Contributor to Music Development Matters 2018, Music Teacher Award Winner 2017 – Excellence in Primary and Early Years.

Senior Research Fellow & Postgraduate Programme Lead  Dr Helen Lyndon, CREC

Recent publications –Lyndon et al. (2019) Pedagogically mediated listening  practices EECERJ Vol 27 (3)

Ludlow and Lyndon (2020) Role Play beyond early childhood education and care

Moonbeams Triad Coordinator: Morgan Stockton, Learning Officer (Family Programmes) at Leicester Gallery.

Moonbeams Triad – Newcastle-Under-Lyme: Terry Heath, Staffordshire’s Library Development Officer, Newcastle-Under-Lyme & the Moorlands; Nicky Ryan, EYFS Lead, Hassell Primary School, Newcastle-Under-Lyme; Mark Riley, Creative States Company, Visual Artist.

Moonbeams Triad – Solihull: Steve Palmer, Solihull Libraries- Specialist Priority Groups Lead;

Natasha Handley, EY Phase Leader, St Anne’s Catholic School, Chelmsley Wood, Solihull;

Claire Witcomb, Visual Artist.

Moonbeams Triad – Telford & Wrekin: Rachel Garbett, Library Development Officer: Children & Young People; Vanessa Holt, 0-19 Development Officer, Oakengates Children’s Centre, Telford & Wrekin; Sally Tonge, Verbal Artist.

the moonbeams team stand with umbrellas

Morning Workshop: Talent 25 Research Team; De Montfort University

Talent 25 is a longitudinal intervention study, funded by Arts Council England, that commenced in March 2019 in Leicester City and will run for 25 years. The study has several aims, including piloting a targeted four-year action research programme in Leicester that focusses on early years children and, by nature, their families (from currently less engaged demographic groups). The aim of the action research is to understand the interventions needed to increase cultural opportunities and engagement at the earliest possible point. The first four-year pilot phase of the longitudinal study utilises a staggered-entry approach to recruit multiple cohorts totalling 400 children aged 3-12 months and their parents/ carers over a period of three years. Professor Ochieng shares the fascinating findings of the initial years of the programme, with valuable insights into cross-generational family, and digital, engagement with arts and creativity.

Bertha Ochieng is Professor of Integrated Health and Social Care at De Montfort University. She has extensive experience of health and social care provision as a clinician, an academic and as a researcher working with community groups and health and social care providers. Her academic and research focus is on improving health and social care through the provision of high quality education and research that provides positive results to marginalised and social disadvantage populations throughout the life span. Bertha’s strengths are in developing solutions for addressing the health and social care needs of socially disadvantaged populations and building relationships with community groups and practitioners in the health and social care sector. Her work has resulted in collaborations with diverse teams, comprising of, voluntary sector organisations, academics, NHS Trusts and social care teams locally, nationally and internationally.

headshot of Professor Bertha Ochieng

Morning Workshop: Playful Bodies, Playful Voices!

Everybody has a body! In this experiential workshop Magic Acorns’ lead artists Charlotte Arculus and Sophie Fox will invite us to use our bodies and the space we are in as instruments for play. Drawing on movement, playfulness and funniness they will use shadow and lights, listening and anticipation, interaction and sound play to create a safe exploratory atmosphere where we get the chance to really play. One of the joys of working in this way is that they are not sure what will happen – just like when we are working creatively with children, being playful, and enabling playful discoveries.

Magic Acorns Collective

Improvised Spaces


Magic Acorns – Charlotte Arculus

An artist, educator & animateur. Through music, movement and materials, Charlotte generates artistic practices and pedagogies of improvisation that pay great attention to young children and their transversal, multi-modal thinking. This requires working with what is emerging at any particular time and moment. Charlotte is currently a doctoral scholar at Manchester Metropolitan University and is Co-Director at Magic Acorns.

Magic Acorns – Sophie Fox

Artist, educator and creative producer, Sophie blends exploratory creative play, music, performance and visual arts as a landscape . She engages very young children, babies and families as creative collaborators through playful interactions. Sophie has recently completed a research masters in early childhood music and arts education and is a Co-Director at Magic Acorns.

headshot Charlotte Arculus and headshot Sophie Fox

Morning Workshop: Partners in Play: Museums & Galleries as Spaces for Change

In the last 15 years museums and galleries have embraced their role as playful environments for young children and families; using the power of art and objects to support early childhood resilience through creative play. In the UK’s current social and economic climate, the need for resilience is ever greater; families can be isolated and under pressure, and arts, education and public sector resources are constrained.  In this context, what more can museums and galleries do, through their role as civic spaces, to bring imaginative and inspirational moments to young children and their families? How can museums and galleries create spaces for the wider early years sector to explore risk and change?


In this discursive and playful session, we will explore a new approach to early years provision in gallery, library and early years settings in west Cornwall, that puts partnerships at its heart. Through a discussion on Tate St Ives’ Toddle Tate programme, we will consider how to create playful sessions for young children, that are inspired by art and artists, and can take place in either gallery or partners’ offsite spaces. We will discuss, and play with, a range of fun hands-on resources that have been developed through the programme and delegates will be invited to create a toolkit of new ideas to take back to their settings.

Rachael Woodhead is Curator: Families, Schools and Young People at Tate St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden in Cornwall and has worked as Senior Curator: Learning at Tate Liverpool. Her playful practice champions access to galleries and museums, with a particular focus on children and young people.

At Tate St Ives Rachael leads on Early Years practice, resources and programming including Toddle Tate, an artist-led onsite and offsite programme for Under 5s and their families. Prior to this Rachael was Programme Manager (Early Years) at Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands – where the team was shortlisted for a Kids in Museums award. Rachael has a MA in Arts Policy & Management from Birkbeck, University of London. She has presented on Early years practice in museums and galleries in London, the Southwest and for the Museums Association, and has been a Renaissance Early Years Advisor for museums and galleries in London. Rachael is part of a multi-agency regional group exploring best practice in Early years provision in Cornwall, a trustee of Little Parc Owles Trust, an arts education charity in west Cornwall, and Chair of Governors at Penpol School.

Rachael Woodhead, a brunette woman smiles at camera

Afternoon Workshop: Creative Encounters

In this session we will explore multiple possibilities for understanding creativity in early years education. Zoe will share the findings of her doctoral research which used a new materialist theoretical perspective to think differently about creativity through observations and photo documentation in an art gallery and forest school setting.

Zoe’s work highlights the importance of connection and interrelationships between people and the material things that play an active role within what she will term ‘creative encounters’. Together we will reflect on how such creative encounters in informal education have the potential to shape young children’s creative identities through moments they may well remember forever.

Dr. Zoe Lewis has recently completed her EdD research exploring the relational nature of creativity in early childhood education. Zoe worked as a qualified early years teacher and leader before taking up her current post as a Senior Lecturer in Early Years at Birmingham City University. She also worked as a volunteer leader, trainer for adults and outdoor activities adviser with Girlguiding UK for over 25 years. Zoe has researched and published in the field of early childhood education with a focus on national policy and the characteristics of effective learning.

headshot of Zoe Lewis

Afternoon Workshop: Creating Environments of the Imagination

How can we create environments that enable and stimulate the imagination?  How do we have spaces that the children can co-create, explore and develop?  Explore these questions with a hands-on workshop, playfully creating a space using accessible materials to stimulate curiosity and imagination, providing lots of practical ideas to use in your own work and settings.

My work revolves around helping people think, make sense of where they are and provide an opportunity to express this. This has increasingly involved exploring creativity and thinking through making. In the educational context this has investigated teaching for thinking, using child led open-ended activities to encourage creative and critical thinking, that make their thinking visible.’ Mark Riley, Artist

Mark Riley is a visual artist living and working in Birmingham, United Kingdom.  He studied Visual Arts and Art History at DeMonfort University.  He is inspired by light, colour and landscape, and the marks that we leave behind on it.  He works mainly in pastel, combining his love of the immediacy of drawing and colour, and has also a long interest in printing.  He has exhibited at the Pastel Society Annual at the Mall Gallery, 2018, TALP Open, 2021, and received Highly Commended at the TALP Open in 2017, 2019, and 2021.

headshot of Mark Riley

Afternoon Workshop: Stories from the Nursery Garden

2 pm workshop leaders:  Lou Lowings, Headteacher, Madeley Nursery School & Nicci Burton, Executive Head, Atherstone Nursery School & Warwickshire Early Years Hub

Title: Stories from the Nursery Garden

This workshop will blend examples from nursery schools in the midlands with practical opportunities to take away. Using creative expression with graphics and digital media delegates will encounter creative strategies to explore nature and the beauty of ecosystems around us, building solidarity between children, their ideas and the world.

Nicci Burton is the Executive Head Teacher at Atherstone and Bedworth Heath Maintained Nursery School Federation in the West Midlands of the UK. Nicciand her outstanding team recognise that each child’s development is unique. We strive for the best outcomes for all children and families in a nursery community that is welcoming, nurturing, safe, enabling and inclusive. Nicci believes strongly in working with organisations such as Moonbeams and Early Education to ensure that research is shared amongst the early year’s community. Nicci was originally trained in theatre stage management and has transferred those skills into the daily organising of two schools!

Louise Lowings is the head teacher at Madeley Nursery School in Telford in the West Midlands of the UK. Her pedagogical approach is based on contextual relationships between children, their ideas and their encounters with the world. Together with the whole school community she has developed a place where educators and children are researchers. In 2000 she came across the work of the preschools in Reggio Emilia and continues to be inspired and delighted by their work. This led to encounters with other ideas and entangled influences. The most important of which were the ideas of Gregory Bateson, initially through dialogue and professional exchange with pedagogues in Stockholm and more recently through the IBI. This line of professional enquiry has transformed her understanding of the place of learning, of children, of educators and of schools. Louise was originally trained in art and design and brings this into every aspect of her work and life.

headshots Lou Lowings and nicci burton

Afternoon Workshop: The poetry of hopeful practice in hard times

‘I’m so small’ said the mole. ‘Yes’ said the boy ‘but you make a huge difference.’ (Mackesy 2019)

Every child (and every practitioner) is a unique person, who is constantly learning and who can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.’ This workshop will explore how hopeful loving pedagogy is not only right for children but also promotes professional confidence and growth.

We will take in Van Manen’s (2015) ideas about tactful pedagogy and Solnit’s (2016) call for hope as we talk about the poetry of practice that moves and dances with ideas, imagination and the creativity of young children and adults. We will think about how we can embrace the unknown and unknowable and provide an alternative to the certainty and risks of what Malaguzzi called ‘prophetic pedagogy’ which knows everything beforehand. And we will celebrate professional confidence and the poet in all of us as we think about ways forward that value young children as interesting, powerful, hopeful people in their own right.

Helen Moylett is an independent early years consultant. Early in her career she worked in schools as a primary, early years and home school liaison teacher, an adviser and then as a senior lecturer in early years and primary at Manchester Metropolitan University. In 2000 she became head of an early years centre. As a Headteacher she was a Birth to Three Matters trainer and researcher. From 2004-2011 she worked for  National Strategies and was centrally involved in developing the EYFS and led the Every Child a Talker programme. She was an expert adviser to the Tickell EYFS review and co-authored Development Matters 2012.

Helen has written and edited several early years books.

She works with the Centre for Research in Early Childhood in Birmingham and is a Vice President of Early Education.

She received a Nursery World Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.

Head shot of Helen Moylett

Grayson’s Art Club: The Exhibition at MAC Birmingham

You might be interested to have a look at, before or after the Conference, ‘Grayson’s Art Club: The Exhibition’ (Booking essential – Pay What you Choose). This is a major exhibition by Grayson Perry and features artworks from his popular TV series. It includes artswork from: Grayson and Philippa Perry; the public; established artists and celebrities – all in response to the themes of: Love; Heroes & Heroines; Normal Life; Inside my Head; Holidays; Future; The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. You can see artworks on the ground floor and on the first floor of mac but if you would like to visit the artworks in the main exhibition space then you will need to book separately here

reads grayson's art club