Our Story

The Carousel Project brings new and exciting creative learning experiences to early years children and their families.

Local professional artists, specialising in interdisciplinary early years arts, work collaboratively to engage young children and their families through highest quality creative arts sessions, based around exploration of stories.

Working creatively together, young children and their families can set their imaginations free, unlocking a brand new world of open-ended discovery in which to thrive and achieve their full potential, creating a powerful context in which each child can flourish.

At the heart of our work lies a firm belief in the importance of nurturing children’s innate creative potential from the earliest point and the critical role of families in supporting their children’s play.

It was upon this guiding principle that The Carousel Project was founded in 2011.  Having experienced first hand the positive impact that access to creative and cultural interventions can have on individuals’ personal development, health and well-being, following the birth of her daughter, combined with redundancy, Katherine Ford, Director,  reflected upon the experience and skills that she had gained throughout her career and established ‘The Carousel Project’ CIC.

By inviting a group of local artists specializing in a variety of cross-discipline art forms; animation, dance, music, printmaking and visual arts, to embark upon an explorative and experimental project to pilot the work and finalise the core offer, The Carousel Project was born.   Please see our evaluative documentary film following the journey of undertaken during our pilot year.

The learning gained from this experience was applied to the relevant and innovative portfolio of work across 2012/13, having a positive and lasting impact on over 300 families across Devon.

Our Mission

We engage young children and their parents/caregivers through an enjoyable, lively, stimulating and diverse programme of high quality participatory arts, creative learning and outdoor play activities, enriching lives, building confidence and self-esteem and helping individuals to fulfil their potential whilst combating barriers to taking part in the arts, be they economic, social, cultural or access.

Our Aims

1) We aim to stimulate imagination through engaging children in creative play, unlocking a brand new world of open-ended discovery in which children can thrive and families can flourish.

2) We aim to inspire families to get more involved in creative and cultural activities, and to celebrate and delight in their local environment, heritage and locality.


Since our launch, Carousel have developed a positive collaborative relationship with University of Exeter’s (UoE) Graduate School of Education (via Dr Kerry Chappell) and multiple collaborative relationships with local and national EY providers and strategy organisations (eg Children’s Centres and Early Arts). We have a strong capacity and expertise for R&D and our proven commitment to researching and developing practice helps sustain our culture of continual improvement and allows us to be responsive.

Via an open-ended approach centred around maximising children’s experiences, ‘ten hallmarks of excellence’ in practice were identified drawn from personal reflection, observance of key national strategies and through ‘Playing with Circles’, our collaborative action research undertaken at Stoke Hill Nursery with Early Years Professionals, Clare Farion and Gill Holmyard and facilitated by Dr Kerry Chappell.

The Carousel team’s research journey is therefore well underway, practically and theoretically.  Our most recent piece of collaborative action research with the University of Exeter ‘Round and Round You Turn Me’ is grounded in the thinking above and our own previous collaborative action research.  It asked: how and why does creative practice so effectively support Early Years children’s development?   Over Autumn 2013/14, Carousel artists Catherine Cartwright (printmaker), Lizzie Swinford (Movement artist) and Tamsin Pender, (visual artist) created and delivered six mini projects, each
 spanning a half-term.
 They worked with over 100 children and their parents/carers, spanning
 from 4 months+ to 70 years+.  Find out more about our Action Research here

Based on our research findings, participant feedback and EY practitioner expertise, Carousel artists have since developed a series of short courses, targeted at very specific age-groups from 4 months – 4 years, which we are now thrilled to be able to offer to early years settings across Devon.  Please see our Short Courses

This short film highlights our findings…

Round and Round You Turn Me – An Action Research Project from RA Projects on Vimeo.