Watching - an opera about sleeplessness

Katharine Craik (Photographer)

Research output: Non-textual formComposition

Abstract / Description of output

Watching is a new opera for children which aimed to excite interest in the function of sleep among families living in the city of Edinburgh. In a series of workshops, 134 children explored sleep from historical, biomedical, musical, dramatic and literary perspectives. Working with a team of visiting arts professionals and students from Music in the Community at the University of Edinburgh, they rehearsed a new opera which explored past and present sleep and sleeplessness. Watching culminated in four full-scale performances by twilight in March 2015 open to the general public, in the landmark Glasshouses of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden.

Watching brought together musicians, actors, a director, choreographer and designers to produce an immersive and rich artistic experience for the children in the P7 class (Botanics), and provide an opportunity for the children to take part in a large scale theatrical production. The project also worked with three classes between P4 and P6 and gave them the opportunity to explore sleep through a piece of creative writing and to make a musical response to it.
All the children came together to perform in an more informal school concert to family and friends at the end of the project alongside the P7 class, who performed selections from the Watching production.
Watching was supported by a Small Arts Award from the Wellcome Trust, and received further funding from the Development Trust of the University of Edinburgh and a generous charitable donor.


“The Watching project is one of a kind. A thrilling exploration of sleep science through music, theatre and history, Watching promises to demonstrate the real impact that art can have on public health. The creative team are uniquely equipped to generate fresh interest in the vital yet forgotten question of sleep’s crucial role in our lives. It is a pleasure to watch the project coming to fruition in schools, and at Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens, in 2015.”

Russell Foster, Professor of Circadian Neuroscience and Head of Department of Ophthalmology, University of Oxford

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • community
  • education
  • performance

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