Fancy a fantastical makeover to stand out from the crowd? Then look no further than the Belfast Children's Festival in March – back for its 16th year of creative fun and bringing a whole host of artistic talent with it – including a rather hair-raising treat.
Indeed, if you happened to wander through CastleCourt at the end of January, you couldn't have missed the colourful act appearing in the festival on March 7 and 8. Spanish stylists, Sienta La Cabeza, helped launch this year's event with a taster session of their show, and what a show it promises to be.
The Barcelona-based group is renowned for creating spectacularly extravagant hairstyles and founder, Fafa Franco (51), is delighted to be coming to Belfast for the first time.
"Children are very open to going into the fantasy of it and taking part in a big aesthetic transformation," she says. "Also, we want to encourage the parents to try this experience."
Married to Nick Prescott, a Scottish musician and also her partner in Sienta La Cabeza (loose translation – 'get your head together'), Brazilian-born Fafa originally trained in psychology. It wasn't until she moved to Barcelona in 1991 that she turned her hairdressing hobby into a full-time career.
"I grew up in a small town called Descalvado in the state of Sao Paulo," she says. "I graduated in psychology and my parents dreamed of a career for me in this, so it was a bit difficult, at the beginning, for them to accept my change of way. But now, they understand how important it is for me to use my creativity and how much I enjoy my work. Now, they're very proud with how I've developed my art."
This art, sees Fafa and her crew, which includes two artistic hairdressers – herself and Brazilian actress, Tatiana da Silveira – along with Nick as DJ.
With a penchant for bright colours, Fafa's creations are equally as eye-catching, but she insisted there has never been an adverse reaction to her work.
"I never had a bad experience with people," she said. "We always look for a feeling in each person and try to do something for them. We make sculptures with their hair with different materials, but sometimes we can cut their hair ... "
Sienta La Cabeza take inspiration for their designs from a myriad of avenues – how someone is dressed, their hair quality and style, or the theme of the festival or event. Meanwhile, one of their wildest creations includes the transformation of a three-year-old boy with long hair, into a little punk.
Explaining that her philosophy in life is to "enjoy every moment and experience and take advantage of them," Fafa left her home country to do just this.
After moving to Barcelona, she discovered "a nice art movement" at the end of the 90s. "I started experimenting with hair to have fun at the exhibitions and different events around the city," she said.
Fafa co-founded the street theatre/hair-art Osadia Company, where she worked for three years and in 2001, she and Nick combined music and hairdressing to create Sienta la Cabeza.
"In this moment I saw so clearly, that the combination of the hairdressing, psychology and art were the perfect ingredients to explore how easy or difficult it is for people to make changes to their images."
She adds that the most exciting place she has visited so far has been Arkhangelsk in Russia, "because it's so exotic, and I realised a dream to see the midnight sun".