What we do > Open Sesame



A partnership of cultural organisations and children’s services providers, led by East Sussex County Council, with match funding from Arts Council England, is producing 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).

An account of the first year of this programme (2014-15) can be found here.

During 2015-16 the Open Sesame programme will continue to deliver an ambitious programme of activity under a number of strands. These include:

  • Partnerships between arts organisations and children’s centres in areas of need
  • A series of participatory events for families and young children, a brand new piece of work devised by Octopus Inc, to be developed for children with disabilities.
  • New immersive, tactile and multisensory spaces specifically for uner 2s, to be shared in museums, libraries and other cultural venues, 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 University of Plymouth.

This innovative and broad-reaching programme will be 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.

Sally Staples, Cultural Strategy Manager for East Sussex County Council, says, ‘Open Sesame is an innovative project that fosters collaborative partnerships between artists, early years practitioners and cultural organisations. Putting children at the centre of the work, Open Sesame will extend creative practice that supports children’s development and nurtures creativity in the adults who care for them…. We hope to achieve a significant shift in thinking in the cultural sector about the needs of this age group and their parents and carers, aligned to the positive role that culture can play in the lives of diverse audiences.’

In summary, the project aims to

  • create new participatory work for under 5’s in museums and libraries
  • take existing participatory work to wider audiences
  • offer learning opportunities to staff from museums, arts organisations, children’s centres and libraries that will give them creative skills, confidence and knowledge about working with under 5’s leading to significant changes in their practice
  • offer parents with children aged 0-2 opportunities to participate in new arts and cultural activities, and develop their own understanding of nurturing creativity in early years children
  • share learning from the project with a wide audience to achieve a significant change in thinking about working creatively with under 5’s

Confirmed partners in 2015-16:

East Sussex County Council

Octopus Inc

University of Plymouth

South East Museum Development

Brighton & Hove Museum

East Sussex County Council Libraries Service


University of Brighton

Brighton and Hove Library Service

East Sussex Music Hub

Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft


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

This project is produced by Culture Shift.  Please direct enquiries to Hannah Osmond hannah@hannahosmond.co.uk or 07780 708864.


In progress

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Past projects

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Events and training

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