Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Children’s Festival back to inspire

2015 line-up offers feast of cultural treats to fire up the imagination of our young at art

By Amanda Ferguson

The Belfast Children's Festival is back with a brilliantly bonkers line-up aimed at the little people in your life.

The team behind the programme for the colourful arts event, now in its 17th year, promise a feast of creative cultural treats will be served up from March 6 to 13 at locations across the city.

The festival, aimed at children up to 14 years old, offers youngsters from all backgrounds the chance to experience a range of art forms, from theatre and dance to music and visual arts.

Festival organiser and Young at Art director Ali Fitzgibbon is looking forward to this year's event but warned budget cuts imposed by Stormont "raise concerns that this festival may not see its 18th birthday".

She believes "art is a vital ingredient for building a shared future in Northern Ireland".

"A shared future begins with every child," she said.

"Art is good for the social, emotional and educational wellbeing of our young people but it also promotes dialogue, respect and tolerance as well inspiring future artists and leaders.

"The 17th annual international Belfast Children's Festival, like the 16 years before it, will provoke joy, thought, delight as well as giving children in Northern Ireland a vital dose of aspiration and dreams. 

"We do it because we believe all children from all backgrounds should experience the arts and benefit from their imagination, their ideas and inspiration. In Northern Ireland especially we need to open the minds of our children and young people and show how the arts can help us all grow as part of a shared, positive and international society."

Last year 40,000 people enjoyed the festival, which is media-partnered by the Belfast Telegraph, with some 25% coming from disadvantaged areas. The 2015 programme aims to, once again, appeal to a wide audience as it delivers artists from all over Europe. The Office of Important Art returns for 2015 with Young at Art's free activity hub running daily throughout the festival in CastleCourt shopping centre.

A thought-provoking exhibition entitled Citizen of the World, Now features the work of 18 European artists inspired by the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. 

In addition, Book Clinics with Children's Books Ireland and a dance presentation by international company De Stilte will all be on show to delight young audiences.

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature at the Arts Council, wished the Young at Arts team well.

"At the Arts Council we believe that everyone has the right to access high-quality arts experiences," he said.

"Since their inception, Young at Art have championed that right, dedicating themselves to breaking down political, social and cultural barriers, to create opportunities for our youngest citizens to come together to watch, experience and be a part of great art."

He added: "We wish them all the very best with this year's festival."

Top 5 festival picks

1. Constellations (March 12 & 13) is a stunning dance piece choreographed by award-winning Enrique Cabrera, performed by world-renowned Spanish dance troupe Arcaladanza and inspired by the art of Joan Miro.

2. Onirica Mecanica’s Fragile (March 11 & 12) from Spain is a unique theatre piece that will have audiences spell-bound as robots come to life in the most human ways.

3. French company Flop will present Happy Glimmer (March 7-13) in association with Belfast’s Golden Thread Art Gallery.  Running alongside this unique production of optical illusions and magical mechanics Golden Thread will also host an interactive exhibition entitle Meat Clunk for families.

4. Theatre for Young Audiences NI (TYA NI) will present their annual showcase. Highlights will include  a double-bill of early years shows for 0-4 years TiNY and WiggleGiggle presented by Replay Theatre Company and two world premieres; one from Young at Art’s associate artist Mary Frances Doherty called Katie’s Birthday Party, directed by Loose Canon Theatre Company director Jason Byrne, and multi-sensory theatre production The Gift by popular Belfast Company Cahoots.

5. Back by popular demand the Office of Important Art returns for 2015 as Young at Art’s hub of free activities will run daily throughout festival in Castlecourt Shopping Centre. Highlights will include  Citizen of the World, Now — a free exhibition of panels by 18 European artists containing the rights inspired by UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Tickets are now on sale. For more information visit the Young at Art website www.youngatart.co.uk or call 028 9024 3042

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