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With contemporary dance based on the theme of hope, a ‘part Lord of the Flies, part Animal Farm’ theatre performance set in a post pandemic future, and an exhibition that explores the magic of everyday items found in the home, the line-up for Belfast Children’s Festival 2021 feels very much like art imitating life.
Young at Art Director, Eibhlin De Barra said:
“We’re delighted to be announcing our programme for the 2021 Belfast Children’s Festival, which will take place online for the first time over an extended period of 5-14 March.
“Who would have thought when we started to put the festival’s programme together almost 18 months ago the resonance that our opening festival performance from Replay Theatre Company would be a show about the aftermath of a global pandemic! We certainly didn’t think we would be delivering the entire festival online, which is a brand-new approach for us! We’ve all had to learn to adapt quickly since last year’s festival closing show on 14 March 2020, and we’ve learnt that we can still play in a new way. One thing remains constant: it is jam packed with exceptional creative experiences for children, young people and the adults in their lives. And this year that is vital, as we believe arts & creativity is needed more now than ever before.
We’re working with a dynamic range of artists and producers from NI, Ireland, Scotland, England and Australia. The festival programme will premiere a new horror opera for children from the Belfast Ensemble; feature a magical audio theatre experience for the whole family from Australia called Mountain Goat Mountain; and Grass, a beautiful piece of dance inspired by the insects that inhabit a world beneath our feet from Second Hand Dance; and we also welcome Catherine Wheels and Barrowland Ballet from Scotland. We’re also delighted to welcome Maiden Voyage Dance back to this year’s festival to premiere their new performance, Turnabout.”
In addition, the 2021 programme will feature Cahoot’s NI’s brain-bamboozling interactive ‘The University of Wonder and Imagination’. Festival favourites like the Book Clinic from Children’s Books Ireland and Baby Rave at Home from Young at Art have been specially adapted for online audiences and Cherrie OnTop who performed ‘Dragtime Bedtime Stories’ at last year’s festival will read a selection of diversity and inclusion themed bedtime stories especially for under 5s, throughout the festival. Meanwhile, Young at Art Artists Jane Butler and Duncan Ross asked schoolchildren across Belfast to tell their stories about lockdown and the pandemic from the perspective of the special objects they found within their homes resulting is the the ‘My Place’ virtual exhibition.
“Belfast Children’s Festival performances will be hosted across a range of digital platforms including QFT Player and Zoom and all bookings can be made through Young at Art’s website or our Box Office which is open 10am-2pm Monday to Friday. As always we are pleased to be able to make the festival as accessible as possible, with many performances offered free of charge.”
Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said:
“It has been truly heartening this year, of all years, to see how our wonderful arts and cultural organisations have gone that extra mile to ensure that the people of Northern Ireland can continue to enjoy the enrichment, the pleasure and the entertainment that the arts bring to our lives. Keeping the arts alive and available has probably never been more important, and indeed more valued and appreciated, as we have all needed our spirits lifted during these exceptional times.
As the principal funder of the Belfast Children’s Festival, through our National Lottery funds plus additional emergency Covid-19 funding from the Department for Communities, the Arts Council is delighted to have been able to support this key organisation as it has adapted and risen to meet the challenges. The Festival will feel a little bit different this year, but it will still deliver unforgettable, transformative experiences that will live long in the hearts and minds of the children, their families and carers.”
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Frank McCoubrey welcomed the launch of the Festival.
“We are thrilled to see Belfast Children’s Festival 2021 launch its programme and bring some much-needed light and hope into the city during what is such a challenging time for families and young people,” said Alderman McCoubrey.
“Belfast Children's Festival is one of four organisations to be awarded four-year funding through Belfast City Council’s Imagine grants in 2020, part of the Cultural Strategy 2020-2030. While this year it’s not possible to bring people together physically, this is a great opportunity to showcase our beautiful city to a global audience through the power of digital technology. We wish Young and Art and all the participating performers and artists every success with the festival.”