Intro Text 

Are there elves at the bottom of the garden?

The imaginations of children attending Ballyogan Community Childcare Service inspired new artworks uncovered on the 31 March in a special ‘Celebration of Creativity’ in Ballyogan. Throughout the Autumn and Winter of 2021, musician and theatre-maker Thomas Johnston and artist and drama facilitator Joanna Parkes worked with the children and explored creativity through play based on the children’s ideas.

dlr Arts Office supported this Arts Council funded project in the Ballyogan Community Childcare Service and we are delighted to see the results of their creative work. An Cathaoirleach Lettie McCarthy attended the celebration and was enchanted by the new musical suite and the illustrations and book that the children created with the artists.

The creativity and imaginations of the children involved shine through the work and it was lovely to see and hear how the artists responded to their ideas"

The children and Joanna imagined that there were little wood elves living at the end of the garden! They discovered that these wood elves like to help Mother Nature with the changing seasons and helped them paint the leaves red, yellow and orange in the Autumn. Along the way they shared their ideas with illustrator Duffy Mooney-Sheppard who drew pictures of these elves and they now have a permanent reminder of the elves who live at the bottom of the garden. Thomas meanwhile introduced lots of musical instruments and together with the children explored what everyday objects sound like, with lots of sensory play. The children were very interested in the life of a fox that visits the city and hibernating hedgehogs – all these themes inspired a new musical suite called ‘Little Brave Fox’ by Thomas and his musical colleague Stephen Markham.

Ruth Burke, Early Years Manager said that

the children were given a space for them to creatively express themselves and the children delighted in Joanna and Thomas at all their sessions. We are so thrilled as a Childcare Service to have been a part of this inspirational project.

The artworks will remain with the childcare service for future generations to enjoy. Thanks to all the artists and staff involved and especially the young artists!


dlr Arts Office in partnership with Ballyogan Family Resource Centre commissioned 2 artists to work with early years children from 2 to 5 years to co-create artwork that is fun, creative and connected to the outdoors.

The artists are Thomas Johnston and Joanna Parkes.

Joanna Parkes has been working in the field of Creative Arts Education as a Drama Facilitator for many years, in many diverse contexts. Her practice uses participative process drama methods, underpinned by the belief that Drama provides people of all ages, from toddlers to 90 year olds, with wonderful opportunities to investigate the world - and their role within it - through play and lived experience.

Thomas Johnston is a musician, educator, researcher, his work lies in those spaces between Irish traditional music, performing arts for children and young audiences, community music, and music education practice and policy.  He is the Artistic Director of Ceol Connected, a company that produces and tours gig theatre experiences for young audiences, and Tradoodle Festival, County Monaghan’s traditional arts festival for young audiences.

These two commissions are funded by the Arts Council of Ireland and supported by dlr Arts Office and Ballyogan Family Resource Centre.

Playful encounters between children and artists offline have been rare in 2020 and 2021 and these 2 commissions are designed to create space and time for these two artists to co-create work with early years children in the Community Childcare Service in Ballyogan.