Voice Lab

Voice Lab: What do you think it means for people to feel connected?
Child: It makes people feel like they have a place in this world and they are loved.

Voice Lab is a unique creative installation module for collecting the thoughts and opinions of children. It is the embodiment of Polyglot’s child-centred approach to creativity, putting the child literally in the centre of a powerfully theatrical experience. Voice Lab also embodies Polyglot’s vision – to empower children – as its purpose is to listen to children’s voices and use the information they provide to make changes that improve their lives.

In the physical Voice Lab mode, children are invited one at a time into a beautiful, serene dome. The online version takes place over Zoom and offers children the opportunity to engage from wherever they are in the world. In each of these private spaces children have a conversation with Voice Lab – an innocent, uninformed AI character voiced by an invisible, live performer, that asks questions, encourages opinion and regards the child as the expert.

Voice Lab encourages reflective thought and the articulation of opinions and feelings. The discussion can be completely tailored to explore children’s world views or to gather feedback on their experiences at school or in their community.

A strategic objective for Polyglot in 2022-2025 is to develop inspiring collaborations with artists, children and across sectors to reach audiences in diverse contexts. This brings learning, energy and innovation to the creative process, and opportunities for sustainable recovery.

Voice Lab is also an independent income stream for the company with huge growth potential – reflected by the demand from a wide variety of clients who seek the input of children in order to make positive change. Opportunities to engage with government and social sector organisations, specifically in education, mental health and welfare, showcase the power and impact of the arts to drive innovation and progress in our society. Voice Lab demonstrates Polyglot’s distinctive ability to turn artistic ideas into sustainable, in-demand projects that earn income for the company, contributing to Polyglot’s resilience and agility.

Australian clients and partners

Satellite Foundation: This organisation runs programs for children of parents with a mental illness, and has used Voice Lab since 2018 to offer children a safe environment to discuss their lives. Polyglot launched Voice Lab online with Satellite in 2020, where it spoke to children about life, home, school and the lockdown, as well as the Satellite programs they have been involved with. 

Voice Lab: If your voice could be heard by the whole world, what would you say?
Child: Understand that everyone around you could be a hero if they were seen in a particular light. Every single person.

Anglicare Victoria – Communities for Children Frankston and Gandel Philanthropy: The Voices of Children on Transition was a major two-year partnership aiming to gain a deeper understanding of school transition experiences and to improve processes around transition and children’s services as a result of listening to children’s thoughts and ideas. The project was evaluated by Monash University.

Mission Australia’s Communities for Children, Inala to Ipswich: The Voice Lab dome travelled to Queensland to assist with a project to discover what children would like to see in their community, schools and Mission Australia programs. 

City of Darebin: Voice Lab online spoke to children from four primary schools in the City of Darebin area about the impact of the Victorian lockdown, and how they felt about remote learning.

Bankstown Communities for Children – The Smith Family: The Children’s Voices Out Loud project aimed to discover what children thought about life in the area and to use their voices to help shape the development of the area as a child-friendly community.

International engagements

United States of America
In October, Voice Lab will be pitched at the virtual CultureCrew Festival by IPAY – the International Association of Performing Arts for Youth. CultureCrew Festival is a global gathering around youth-selected performing arts featuring a selection of youth-chosen productions and a series of developmental learning opportunities. It is is one of the only youth-juried international performing arts events providing virtual access to fully produced shows available for booking. 

South Africa
In July, Voice Lab online was due to work with the National Arts Festival in Makhanda, South Africa, talking to children about life in their community. While this was unable to go ahead due to lockdowns, it enabled Polyglot to develop an international engagement model specific to Voice Lab: a local artist will facilitate in a specific location, with the Polyglot team operating remotely from Melbourne.

Other partners

City of Booroondara
City of Melbourne
City of Port Phillip and RedRoad Consulting
Connie Benn Centre
Dandenong Communities for Children – Mission Australia
Melbourne Fringe
Wyndham City Council