Festival celebrates 25 years as it brings global, UK and Ireland premieres to Belfast and tackles wide-ranging real-life issues through dance, drama, music and performance.

Clocking up 25 glorious years, Belfast Children’s Festival 2023 is celebrating a huge birthday with a festival filled with silver linings this spring! The Festival, which will take place fully in-person, will host over 100 events across 10 days in the city, from 3-12 March 2023, and celebrate all that is excellent in children’s performance through spoken word, music and song.

This year’s festival will delight children young (and old) with an abundance of creative treats planned from Little Murmur, a true story of a young person who one day realises they have been misspelling their own name, that features ground-breaking projection, an extraordinary soundscape and a blizzard of paper and confetti; to PRISM, a story of Inter-dimensional travellers Dawn and Dusk, who have been stuck in an empty void dimension for far too long. When Dusk devises a radical solution to their problem, they are hurled into our dimension. This has catastrophic consequences for their onboard guide and best friend, PRISM!

Replay Theatre Company will celebrate 35 years of creating artistic adventures for young people with a new production, Mirrorball, the story of Cherrie Ontop. She knows they’ve finally come for her, leaving Cherrie with no choice but to smash through the dressing room mirror to escape the grasp of fear and prejudice. In a different universe she is faced with the ultimate choice; do we confront our fears and fight for what’s right? Replay will host a two-week run at this year’s festival in the Lyric with sister show, PRISM,

Tackling real life every-day issues including dyslexia, autism, disability, gender, homelessness and mental health, the 2023 festival will showcase stimulating and thought-provoking new works by local company Maiden Voyage Dance working with Erik Kaiel from Netherlands and artist Michael McEvoy as well as visiting performances from Belgium, Netherlands, UK and Ireland.

From the Netherlands, Theater Artemis presents The Invisible Man a show about everything you don’t see and the joy of remaining unseen. This is a tale of crazy happenings on stage as everything becomes quite bizarre for two artists, their stage technician and musician, as they are about to start their performance. Why is a coffee mug floating through the air? Where is the audience? Who is playing the piano? And is that a ghost sneaking off with that extension cord?!

Nobody, Somebody from Northern Ireland Opera is an exciting and powerful new opera created for and with teenagers and young adults focusing on the pertinent and pressing issues of housing stress and homelessness some young people are facing everyday. Performed with the Ulster Youth Orchestra the project has placed young people in the driving seat to tell the story of their own lived experience.

Recognising the cost-of-living financial pressure on families and communities, this year Belfast Children’s Festival has held ticket prices at £5 and £10 per ticket. The Festival is also allocating a limited number of tickets to support local communities including those from areas of social need, to ensure as many families and communities as possible can access the festival.

Young at Art Director, EibhIín de Barra said: “We are so excited to launch Belfast Children’s Festival 2023 as we mark the significant milestone of turning 25 this year! That calls for a celebration, and this celebration is 10 days long! 25th Anniversaries are often called ‘Silver’, so after the difficult last few years, and indeed the challenging times we are currently finding ourselves in, we want to bring you the ‘silver lining’ to those clouds with the brightest, boldest and sunniest selection of theatre, dance, music, art and interactive events, including a massive range of free activities for all the family as part of our Big Belfast Birthday Bash. So, whether you are young, or simply young at heart, come and celebrate with us!

“This year we are working with Belfast City Council’s Lord Mayor to provide a Big Belfast Birthday Bash at City Hall and sites in the Cathedral Quarter. There will be music and performances as well as free events and activities for all the family to enjoy.”

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said: “Happy 25th birthday! The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support Belfast Children’s Festival bringing younger audiences and their families amazing creative experiences. A leading children’s arts festival on these islands, it attracts the best acts from around the world.

“As Young at Art celebrates the 25th birthday of its flagship festival, we can reflect on the fact that they will have been responsible for introducing thousands upon thousands of children in Northern Ireland to the wonders of the arts. We all know how influential our early experiences are on the people we will become, so it’s heartening to think that those who first visited the Belfast Children’s Festival back in the late 1990s may now be returning with their own children, who will embark on their own life’s journey, similarly enthused and enriched by the arts.”

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Tina Black welcomed the launch of the festival, adding; “We’re excited to be supporting Belfast Children’s Festival once again in this, their special milestone 25th anniversary year; and their first significant full international programme since 2020.

“A cornerstone of our city’s cultural experience for children, we’re proud to have supported the Belfast Children’s Festival over the years, and see it grow in reach, innovation and impact. Belfast really values its vibrant festival scene, which celebrates local talent, showcases the work of our emerging artists and, most importantly in the case of Belfast Children’s Festival, inspires our next generation of creative talent. The international element of this year’s programme is far-reaching, connecting us through creativity to other countries across the globe and attracting visitors to Belfast from near and far.”

In addition to 10 new shows, the Festival will return with a full Irish Language offering including Máire Zepf, and Rothar and festival favourite, Babaithe Cultúir.

To view the festival visit https://www.youngatart.co.uk. Communities wanting to secure tickets for events can apply via education@youngatart.co.uk or booking@youngatart.co.uk

Book www.youngatart.co.uk or 028 9024 3042. (Telephone booking line open Thurs 26 January to Fri 10 March; Mon – Fri 10am – 2pm).

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