HUNDREDS of Play School fans – old and new – packed into Tamworth Regional Gallery this afternoon for the opening of the Happy Birthday Play School exhibition.
In a rare treat for all ages, former program presenter and ex-Tamworth man Philip Quast gave his time to sing with the littlies, leading them through several favourites such as I’m a Little Teapot and Dingle Dangle Scarecrow.
The din of small children and babies eager to be entertained didn’t deter Quast, who told the crowd that noise meant learning.
“I don’t want you to worry about saying ‘shh’,” he said to the parents and grandparents.
“The most wonderful thing about being here today is actually hearing the noise …
“While they are yelling and screaming, they are learning.
“The big problem comes when we have to tell them to go to school, and they have to be quiet and they are told to shut up and be still.
“Which is why Play School is really one of the most important parts of a young child’s life.”
Quast told the audience he’d had lunch with Noni Hazlehurst yesterday – “Do you know Noni?” he asked – “and we were reminiscing and talking about why we think Play School is a wonderful institution”.
He said the program’s format and attention to different learning styles such as visual, aural and kineasthetic kept it interactive, engaging and educational.
The Happy Birthday Play School: Celebrating 50 Years exhibition is in the city until April 15, on tour from the National Museum of Australia (NMA).
Gallery director Bridget Guthrie welcomed the crowd to the event, Kamilaroi man Len Waters gave the welcome to country, and David Arnold spoke on behalf of NMA and Glen Inglis on behalf of Tamworth Regional Council.
Dan Gillett provided the musical back-up to Quast’s singing, the latter commenting that they’d just met and hadn’t even had a chance to rehearse.
“In the spirit of Play School, we’re just making the whole thing up,” he said.
Tamworth is one of only seven locations across Australia to secure the travelling exhibition at this point.
Mr Arnold, the NMA’s programs and engagement deputy director, said the decision on where to take a travelling exhibition such as this was “a balancing act”.
It took into account which venues wanted it, where they were located, the cost of transporting and conserving the exhibition items and how long any loaned items were available to the NMA.
“Because we’re a national institution, we have a wide network of other institutions, galleries, libraries and so on, and when something like this becomes available, we put the feelers out,” Mr Arnold said.
“It’s really who bites and who is particularly interested.
“The tour also has to make geographical sense.”
Gallery education officer Kate Armstrong said she put the crowd at almost 300 people after a couple of counts.