Today, at the National Museum of Scotland, the Festival formerly known as Imaginate launched its exciting and inspiring 2017 programme under its new name, the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival (EICF).
As explained by company CE Paul Fitzpatrick in his opening speech, the new title reflects the company’s wider role in the sector which is supporting artists to make new work year -round and producing the flagship festival that is EICF.
New Festival director, Noel Jordan, who takes over from long serving Tony Reekie, gave an account of his personal journey growing up in Melbourne to the world of dreams and imagination that is theatre where empathy can be learned by seeing the world through the eyes of others and says, “I am thrilled that 2017 will see the staging of my first programme in the role of Festival Director and am genuinely excited by the calibre of local and international artists presented at the festival. No two productions are alike and in no other city in the world is there an opportunity to see this incredible array of work which is electrifying, stimulating and continually surprising.”
The 2017 festival programme offers children, young people and their families the opportunity to see some of the world’s best theatre, dance, multi-media and puppetry performances made especially for them. The festival includes 16 shows from 9 countries, including 3 home grown Scottish productions – all curated to stimulate and inspire children and young people to consider their identity and place in the world with a focus on the visual and stories with a heart.
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said, “This year’s festival will deliver a diverse, high-quality programme of work in Edinburgh and beyond including Night Light, which was funded through £80,000 provided by the Scottish Government EXPO fund. ... As Edinburgh celebrates its 70th anniversary as a festival city, it is a time for our artists to dream, reflect, invent and celebrate, bringing Scotland to the world and the world to Scotland through arts and culture.” Expressing solidarity in the aftermath of yesterday’s events at Westminster, she added the positive message that children be told to look for helpers in such tragic situations as helpers mean hope and that word, along with ‘light, life and happiness’ are what should be at the core of good children’s theatre.
This year’s opening show Fallen Dreams from Dutch company Het Filiaal Theatermakers is a multi-media production that takes the audience inside the head of a girl on the cusp of teenagehood. The show reflects the shift of emphasis on works for older children of 11 plus in explorations of current issues. The Queen Has Vanished, from Belgium’s famous Kopergietery, focuses on the grief of losing a parent; and You and Me and The Space Between tackles climate change and migration through the story of a girl whose island has sprung a leak.
The very young are catered for with hypnotic shows including from German company Alfredo Zinola and Filipe González Primo, an underwater performance installation performed in a large inflatable swimming pool and viewed through portholes and Grass, a dance exploration of the earth and its wriggling inhabitants performed on real turf from English company Second Hand Dance.
This year the festival will go beyond Edinburgh with a 3 week tour of Scotland of Night Light, a new co-production for 3-6 year olds by the legendary Andy Manley, co-creator of the multi award winning show White, and the internationally renowned Teater Refleksion from Denmark that is funded by the Scottish Government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund. The show will be performed in a tent-like structure lit up by fairy lights where the audience will be immersed in a magical universe, following the journey of a curious little girl who wants to explore the night.
As part of the Wee Night Out project, the festival will also be the culmination of a special initiative which gave a group of 10-15 year old children from Craigmillar the opportunity to work with the Festival Director. Together, they attended eight productions at the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and following heated discussions about what they had seen and liked, selected two productions that have been included in our 2017 programme - Evil from Danish company Folketeatret, with its real life unflinching exploration of bullying in a Swedish boarding school and Into the Water from Welsh company Up and Over it that involves stomping dance and percussion. The project was funded by The City of Edinburgh Council’s 70th anniversary fund and the two shows will play at the Lyra Theatre in Craigmillar during the festival.
This year, two new venues Roxy and Filmhouse, that will show Girl Asleep a film version of an Australian stage play, will be added to existing established ones. This may be a far cry from tents at Inverleith Park of years gone by but show the big ambition of EICF in preparing future generations for the experience of quality international theatre that chimes nicely with the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh International Festival.
Following last year’s success, the festival, which is funded by Creative Scotland, will once again open with a family weekend at the National Museum of Scotland with free drop-in events all day including live music, pop-up performances, storytelling, hands-on arts activities and a human scale snakes and ladders game.
For 28 years, Edinburgh has been host to an annual festival celebrating international theatre for children that was originally known as the Scottish International Children’s festival. In 2014 Imaginate was winner of the Critics’ Award for Theatre in Scotland CATS Whiskers’ Award “For outstanding achievement in 25 years of excellent programming”.
EICF runs from 27 May to 4 June 2017 with tickets are on sale now. For full programme and booking information, go to www.imaginate.org.uk. Tickets can be booked online or at 0131 228 1404.