Open Sesame 2014–2015

A partnership of cultural organisations and children’s services providers, led by East Sussex County Council, with match funding from Arts Council England, is delivering an ambitious two year programme of arts and culture for very young children (0-2) and children with special needs, and a creative programme of professional development for cultural organisations, early years practitioners, and families.

Open Sesame builds on the success of the previous Open Sesame partnership project managed by Culture Shift (2011-13).

The Open Sesame programme has delivered activity so far under a number of strands, including:

  • Partnerships between arts organisations and children’s centres in areas of need (Glyndebourne and Hailsham Children’s Centre; Hastings Museum and Arts Gallery and St Leonards Children’s Centre; Jerwood Gallery and Hastings Children’s Centre; Towner and Eastbourne Devonshire Children’s Centre; DLWP and Bexhill Children’s Centre).
  • New immersive, tactile and multisensory spaces specifically for under 2s, to be shared in museums and libraries along with audience development activities and interactive workshops.
  • A programme of professional development for early years practitioners and cultural organisations enabling them to extend their knowledge of working with under 5s, including a series of Creative Practice sessions with Octopus Inc, and a Level 4 course at University of Brighton in ‘Nurturing Possibility and Creativity in Early Years’.
  • Academic research led by the Plymouth Institute of Education.

This innovative and broad-reaching programme is managed by Culture Shift and delivered by Octopus Inc with and on behalf of East Sussex County Council and a range of cross-sector partners from Early Years, museums and libraries, heritage, the arts and universities.

Partners in 2014-15:
















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Outcomes from Year 1

This first year has been extremely productive with significant progress made against objectives.

In particular:

There are strong partnerships between participating Children’s Centres and cultural organisations, resulting in benefits to staff and children and families.

All delivery targets for the core programme (sessions with children & families, Creative Practice sessions and university sessions) were achieved.

The involvement of Portsmouth Institute of Education provides gravitas for the work and additional stimulus for early years practitioners.

The scale of individual learning undertaken by participants, evidence of changed practice and impact of children and families has been impressive.

A mini conference event entitled Creative practice and collaborations in early years was held at Towner, Eastbourne, on Wednesday 18 March 2015, and attended by 47 delegates including early year’s practitioners, venue managers and staff and freelance arts practitioners.

The seasonally themed edition of Octopus Inc’s immersive show for 0-2 year olds, ‘A Winter’s Trail’, was delivered to sell-out audiences at the Dome, Brighton during a 4-day run, comprising a total of 12 performances, with approximately 25 parents and children attending each show.

Octopus Inc are now offering a series of CPD packages, to libraries, cultural and heritage venues, and special schools.

Quotes from participants:

What has helped me is thinking more about the movement of a 0–2 year old. I’ve always done a lot of messy (play) with fabrics and textures, but not so much thinking about the movement and what they can see. So actually that is something that I’ve implemented and used in one of the groups; using movement with fabrics and materials, which is something I wouldn’t have thought of before.


I would say that the depth of my understanding has got better… It’s made me more passionate, actually, about how important those things are, you know, interactions with peers, and understanding about the developing brain, and why it is that what we’re putting out, and what we’re saying to parents is so important.


I feel that I’ve developed a lot…I’ve changed my way of practice, let’s say.


Through reflection and observation of the creative artist, deeper thinking and finding my inner creative self… I now feel a creative confidence when I am with children. I wait for a play cue or invitation from children, I engage with the resources through exploring, role modelling, investigation, motivation and creative thinking, whilst providing an enabling environment for fostering creativity in young children. This I will take forward with me into practice and role model for staff I work with to better their practice.


Open Sesame is kindly supported by Arts Council England, East Sussex Arts Partnership and East Sussex County Council.

The Open Sesame programme continues in 2015-16.

This project is produced by Culture Shift.  Please direct enquiries to Hannah Osmond, email: or 07780 708864.