Aislinn Ó hEocha is the Executive Artistic Director of Baboró International Arts Festival for Children, which is Ireland’s flagship international arts festival devoted exclusively to children and families. It inspires children to engage with the world through their experience of the arts.
A Galway native, Aislinn grew up in Dangan and studied Italian and Economics at NUI Galway before undertaking a Masters in Aberdeen and travelling overseas for a number of years. At the Baboró helm since 2015, she tells us about the importance of the arts in childrens’ lives and takes us through some of the highlights of this year’s festival.
“Babóro is so much more than just a festival. Throughout the year it places creativity for children at the very heart of everything it does. It enables children and families to experience first hand the transformative power of the creative arts. Its mission is rooted in its commitment to children and ensuring that each child’s experience of the arts is enriching and deeply engaging.”
Aislinn is extremely passionate about the importance of children engaging with the arts and the impact it can have on their lives. “I was very lucky to grow up in a very artistic household. While my parents weren’t artists themselves, they always appreciated and enjoyed the arts. My father, Colm ÓhEocha, was the President of NUI Galway from 1975 until 1996. I was exposed to music, concerts and theatre from a very young age and there were always plenty of books around. To this day I love nothing more than getting immersed in a good book or reading to my children.”
Aislinn took up her position at Baboró after 14 years of working across arts, marketing and programming. “I joined Glór in Ennis as marketing manager and then became general manager with responsibility for programming. I went to Ennis for a year and stayed almost ten, as you do! I then took up the role of Artistic Director at the Source Arts Centre in Thurles, where part of my role involved developing programmes and audiences for children, theatre and the visual arts.”
In 2015 the opportunity arose for Aislinn to move back to Galway to lead Baboró into its next phase of growth. “There was always a pull back to Galway and there was no hesitation when the opportunity came up. We really are so lucky to live in such a beautiful city, with its incredible location beside the sea. Culture is such an important part of Galway’s make-up – it’s the beating heart of the city and what makes it such a great place to live. I feel very lucky to be able to call Galway home.”
Aislinn’s own journey with Babóro began in 2001 when she worked as a venue manager in the Town Hall Theatre. She cites her predecessor Lali Morris as an inspiration for the course of her own professional life. “I worked as venue manager for a week and I just loved every minute of it. I was really struck by Lali’s passion for work with children. It never left me and I’m pretty sure it planted the seed for my own route into the sector.”
Baboró’s vision is that every child in Ireland should enjoy equal access to enriching cultural experiences. Its mission is rooted in its commitment to children and ensuring that each child’s experience is inspiring and deeply engaging. The organisation values quality in the work it presents and respects children and their differing needs.
“My role at Baboró feels like a very privileged position and together with my very dedicated and passionate team, we do our utmost to ensure that the intrinsic values of Baboró are always front and centre in everything that we do. One of Baboró’s core beliefs is that children are full human beings at every age, and it is their right to experience art and culture in all its forms, right here, right now and not at some point in the future. It’s never too early for a child to see a show and there’s something very special about sharing those experiences with them.”