A roller-skating soldier, a magic bear, and dancing aliens are a snapshot of some of the delights that will appear at this year’s 21st annual Belfast Children’s Festival, where the theme is ‘Our Place in the World’.

From Friday 8 to Wednesday 13 March, over 90 events will take place in 12 locations across the city. Belfast Children’s Festival has become one of the largest children’s arts festivals on the island of Ireland and the UK, attracting over 31,000 people last year. The 21st Belfast Children’s Festival will once again be nourishing the creative minds of children and young people and proving why arts and culture are so important for the social, emotional and educational well being of our children and young people.

Eibhlín de Barra, Director Young at Art, unveiled the packed programme at Belfast Cathedral today saying: “The 2019 Belfast Children’s Festival is a wonderful mix of theatre, dance, comedy, music, visual arts and literature for families. From the powerful Oorlog (War), to the madcap exploits of Expedition Peter Pan, from Cahoots NI’s charming adaptation of Jon Agee’s Milo’s Hat Trick, to the hilarious The Alien’s Guide To Dance Gone Wrong, there really is something for everyone. On top of it all we’re creating an inSPIREd family programme of events and activities in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter.”

Young at Art are delighted to be presenting several world, UK and Irish premieres, including Oorlog (War), Loo, Removed, and The Alien’s Guide to Dance Gone Wrong.

Opening the festival at the festival hub, the MAC, on Friday 8 March, Oorlog (War) (ages 7+),by award-winning Theater Artemis (The Netherlands), explores the challenging subject of the effects of conflict and the chaos that this has on people and their surroundings, and ultimately, how the human spirit endures.

Removed (ages 11+) is a funny yet moving and shocking insight into the experiences of a young man sharing his story of life in the care of the state, and will have its world premiere at BCF19. For three years, Prime Cut Productions and writer Fionnuala Kennedy have collaborated with VOYPIC (Voice Of Young People In Care), working with looked after young people across Northern Ireland to explore their experiences and learn from them.

Closing the festival on Wednesday 13 March is the high energy and playful Expedition Peter Pan (ages 7+) by Het Laagland (The Netherlands). This production promises a wild adventure of imagination, hilarious surprises, and rediscovery of the child in all of us.

On Saturday 9 March the inSPIREd family fun day will be bursting with exciting activities across the Cathedral Quarter including a one-off special Baby Rave ‘Rave in the Nave’ in Belfast Cathedral, free children’s art workshops exploring home and the urban landscape around us, DJ workshops with Bounce Culture, Acoustic Picnic in Oh Yeah Music Centre, digital animation with Can Do Academy, augmented reality workshops with Art Cart, theatre workshops with Northern Ireland Opera, and more, all supported by new sponsor Destination CQ BID.

Ponten Pie and El Mes Petit de Tots (Spain) make their Irish premiere with the visually stunning Loo (ages 2-5).The Loo is a hot, dry wind from Asia. Set around the bow of a sunken boat, in a sea of sand, this production uses evocative music and stunning visual effects, inviting young audiences to explore how this wind can change its surroundings.

Another incredibly powerful performance is We Come From Far, Far Away (ages 10+),presented by NIE (Norway/UK), which tells the story of 2 boys who have travelled alone from Syria to Norway and is based on true stories. Thanks to support from Belfast City Council’s Good Relations Unit and Community Relations Council, Young at Art have designed an accompanying education programme and will be working with 360 school children in areas where Syrian families are settling.

Thanks to support from the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Young at Art are delighted to again be hosting the TYANI (Theatre for Young Audiences NI) Showcase. The 4-day showcase will profile some of the finest performance work for young audiences being created right here and features performances, a unique work-in-progress from the Belfast Ensemble, a ‘scratch’ performance platform featuring four emerging individual artists, discussions and networking events. The festival will also welcome a group of international programmers and producers to the city.

Kicking the showcase off will be Cahoots NI, who have been selected to appear at the IPAY showcase (International Performing Arts for Youth) in Philadelphia this month. They will return with Milo’s Hat Trick (ages 3+), based on the book by Jon Agee. Expect magic, music and mischief in this charming tale, following a struggling magician on the search for a sensational new trick.

Maiden Voyage Dance return with a new show having enthralled previous BCF audiences with Quartet for 15 Chairs and Pause & Effect. The Alien’s Guide to Dance Gone Wrong(ages 4+), created by world-renowned choreographer Lea Anderson, promises to be a fun feast for the senses, as aliens attempt to rediscover a thing humans used to do called dancing.

The festival features more home-grown talent in the shape of the irrepressible Paul Currie with a new Family Comedy Club  (ages 6+), and three events for early years. Baby Daddy, by Replay Theatre Company, combines sensory theatre, live music and play and has been specifically designed for babies aged 6-18 months. Back by popular demand is Young at Art’s Baby Rave for under 4’s and their adults. A special edition ‘Rave in the Nave’, takes place in the impressive surroundings of Belfast Cathedral on Saturday 9 March. There’s also a special festival edition of Babaithe Cultúir(Culture Babies) for 0-4 year olds and their adults, delivered in Irish and everyone is welcome regardless of fluency.Cultúrlann McAdam Ó’Fiaich in partnership with Young at Art successfully piloted two seasons of these interactive creative sessions in 2018.

The festival will present several relaxed performances, for children and families with additional sensory and communication needs including learning difficulties and autistic spectrum conditions, audio-described performances for those with sight loss and, on Sunday 10 March, the Black Box will host a Mini Moon Disco, which has been specially created for children aged 0-7 with any kind of disability.

The Right Twig Showcase (ages 14+) will be the first outing of new plays created through an exciting new young playwrights’ programme (14-18 years old) with Fighting Words Belfast and the Lyric Theatre. The rehearsed readings take place on Sunday 10 March. The teens can also check out Volume Control(ages 13+), a music gig organised by young people for young people, taking place in Oh Yeah Music Centre on Friday 8 March.

Young at Art’s visual art engagement project, HOME, will culminate in an exhibition inthe MAC featuring the work of pupils from eight primary schools, in West, East and North Belfast. It is part of Belfast City Council’s ‘(Y)Our Home’ programme, which allows young citizens to explore what it means to feel at home in Belfast. Visual art is also at the heart of Da Vinci Day, a day of interactive activities at the Ulster Museum, on Sunday 10 March, to connect families to the much-awaited exhibition of the great master’s works from the Royal Collection Trust.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Deirdre Hargey, said:“Once again, Young at Art has lined up an incredible programme of quality cultural entertainment for families at the Belfast Children’s Festival this Spring –  animating our great city and inspiring creativity, joy and curiosity in children and young people through affordable, accessible and energising events.

“Belfast City Council is proud to invest in the Belfast Children’s Festival – it’s a true highlight of the city’s family cultural calendar, bringing magical moments and experiences which will be fondly remembered for years to come by audiences of all ages. I wish all the Young at Art team and performers every success and hope to get the opportunity to enjoy one or two of the shows and events with family and friends myself.”

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is principal funder of Young at Art, and thanks to public and National Lottery funds, Young at Art is able to programme and deliver a wide range of artistic content, education and engagement programmes, and professional development throughout the year.

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive Arts Council of Northern Ireland commented “As Young at Art’s main funder and its longest running partner, the Arts Council is pleased to support the 2019 festival programme. Now in its 21st year, the Belfast Children’s Festival continues to produce fresh, innovative and entertaining events tailor-made for young audiences. We know that inspiring the imagination at a young age can provide the building blocks for a creative and fulfilling life and there is no better way to introduce children to the arts than by offering them access to quality arts experiences from a young age.”

Young at Art continues to build on a strong partnership with Translink, and is encouraging families across NI and beyond to take a creative journey with Translink into Belfast city with special discounted family travel tickets. The guarantee of lots of amazing free fun coupled with fantastic performances makes for an easy decision for a big family day out over the festival weekend.

Translink’s Ursula Henderson added: “Translink is pleased to support Belfast Children’s Festival again this year! Young at Art have created a fantastic line-up of fun family entertainment and we want to bring more people into Belfast to enjoy all the action with discount travel options including our popular Family & Friends tickets along with convenient bus, Glider, coach and train services for a special day out.”

Belfast Children’s Festival boasts a specially selected Schools Programme of international and local performances, which take place during school time. With subsidised ticket deals and classroom resources linked to the curriculum, it promises to be the perfect outing for children aged 2 and upward.

The festival also offers a diverse Industry Programme aimed at grown-ups, and those working, performing or studying in arts and education.

Festival tickets are on sale now at youngatart.co.uk The maximum ticket price is £10, and adults pay the same price as children. Many events are free.

Pictured: Primary 7 Pupils from Seaview PS exploring the 2019 Belfast Children’s Festival with Keithopolodicus an intrepid explorer from Australia.

Nadia Duncan

Author: Nadia Duncan


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