From March 10 - 15, Young at Art's announcement of the 19th annual Belfast Children's Festival will feature music, dance theatre and visual arts from all over the world.
Under new Director Eibhlin de Barra, this year's programme will offer the unique opportunity to gaze through the eyes of some amazing creatures in stylish headwear with free access to Paris-based Irish artists Cleary Connolly’s Meta Perceptual Helmets in a variety of festival venues (March 11 - 15), to discover Dracula through the French Bob Theatre’s humorous production of Nosferatu (March 10 - 12) and to be wowed by Spanish dance theatre company Aracaladanza’s Flights/Vuelos (March 15) inspired by art of Leonardo da Vinci.
There's also an extra special selection of shows aimed at early years (aged 0-4 years old), including two from Italy on March 14 and 15; Little Ballad for Peu, a mesmerizing spectacle of colour, light and music and Spot, about a friendly and endearing stage light that loves to tell stories, with a selection of ‘relaxed performances’ for children with autism.
Due to popular demand Young at Art will run its Baby Rave over two days in the MAC (March 11 - 12) and a range of events from some of Northern Ireland's finest artists and companies, including the return of Cahoots NI’s dramatic story of six-year old boy Ernst and a great magician against a World War II backdrop in Nivelli’s War (10-12 March) and Replay Theatre Company and Dan Leith’s Woofle (March 10 - 12) with lots of silly songs about having a dog as your best friend.On March 12 Belfast Music Society return with their Chamber Babies event introducing families to classical music pieces in an informal, relaxed setting at the Crescent Art’s Centre, Colin Reid's To 1/Infinity and Beyond takes a fascinating look at infinite things, plus there's a festival first with a new family friendly Pigeon and Plum's Family Variety Cabaret Circus.
Expressing excitement ahead of her first festival as Director, Eibhlin de Barra said: 'The 2017 Festival has a wonderful mix of international and local work for ages 0 - 15. It's been a joy building on the strong foundations already in place from my predecessor Ali Fitzgibbon, while also bringing in something of my own, so expect some great theatre, fabulous dance, comedy, music, visual arts and literature. There really is something for everyone at this year's festival.'
In a bid to make the festival even more accessible to all Young at Art have designed two bumper Big Festival Days Out events jam packed with free activity for families over the main festival weekend. On Saturday, March 11 between 1-4pm the festival will take over the Titanic Quarter with a host of free events, workshops, exhibitions and activities co-ordinated in partnership with Wheelworks Art Cart, Q Radio, Bounce Culture, the ‘Wee Tram’ and much more.
Continuing the fun from the same time on March 12 the festival sets up camp at the Big Botanic Day Out, where amongst the free family fun at Botanic Gardens, Ulster Museum and Lyric Theatre, there will be performances and workshops from NI Opera, the Ulster Orchestra's instrument petting zoo, dance from Oona Doherty and much more.
Families are encouraged to make use of public transport with discounted tickets across the weekend from Translink. Young at Art will take over the tracks with performances and activities on board train services from Bangor's outbound service to Belfast (12.27pm, March 11) and Derry~Londonderry's inbound service to the city's Botanic Train Station (11.33am, March 12).
In addition to its international visitors, the 2017 festival will host a plethora of other local talent. Festival favourites Seedhead Arts will be back with their Mini Mid Week Magic sessions (March 15) and a new Junior Street Art tour event for families (March 11) meeting the artists and exploring the artworks that have transformed the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast.
Family music sessions will also feature strongly in the programme with new offerings from Moving On Music’s Jazz Improv (March 10 - 11), the Oh Yeah Centre’s Acoustic Picnic and Bounce Culture’s Black Star Beat Conductors (both March 11).
There's a diverse range of visual arts and literature events on offer, with four exhibitions running in MAC, Golden Thread Gallery and Titanic Belfast, and newly commissioned exhibition Under Napoleon's Nose in Ulster University for which artist Ann Donnelly has been working with local school children to produce a unique perspective of the city.
Belfast-born Laureate na nOg PJ Lynch returns to the city with two events – Making Big Pictures with PJ Lynch and Moonshine and Miracles, and author events include an interactive workshop from author Paul Howard (The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark), and the return of Children's Books Ireland's ever popular Book Clinic.
The festival also offers a diverse programme aimed at adults, professional arts practitioners and those working and studying in related fields. Highlights include the exposure platform, (March 11 - 13) an intense performing and networking programme including the presentation of performances in development by five emerging Northern Irish artists, and an exciting Young Critics programme in association with Theatre NI – offering young people the opportunity to work with high profile arts journalists from the Irish Times and The Guardian, Lyn Gardner and Helen Meany.
Tickets are now on sale. For more information on all event listings and to download a copy of the programme see www.youngatart.co.uk or call 028 9024 3042.