The Edinburgh International Children’s Festival finally reopened its doors two years after celebrating its 30th anniversary, with a programme of online and outdoor theatre and dance for young people. It is the first of the Edinburgh festivals to do so in a sector which has been hit hard over the last year.

With a digital programme including streamed performances and innovative ‘live’ digital interactions, schools and families from all over the UK are able to take part this year (with schools in Shetland booking over 200 tickets), especially as many of the online shows can be watched at any time during the 13 days of the Festival.

(l) – ‘Potato Needs a Bath’ c. Tamlin Wiltshire. (r) Festival Cover

The Festival has also introduced a price sliding scale, with family tickets available for as little as £5, in recognition of the financial strain many families have experienced recently. This, alongside its successful schools programme, will help increase access to the Festival even further.

To complement the online offer, Festival goes outdoor with Family Encounters, a series of free pop-up performances and installations taking place in the Royal Botanic Garden and other Edinburgh venues in the first and last weekend of the Festival (29-30 May and 5-6 June).

The specially commissioned events will showcase the talent of Scotland-based artists who have created a range of innovative and inspiring site-specific encounters for families. Children can expect encounters with a unicorn, aerials on a giant swing or even a basket-ball inspired hip-hop workshop.

And thanks to its international reputation, the Festival is also once again attracting industry professionals from all over the world – albeit online – who welcome the opportunity to take part in discussions and discover new artistic talents.

(l) Islander c. Ali Wright. (r)’University of Wonder & Imagination’ c. Melissa Gordon

Culture Minister Jenny Gilruth said:
“It is wonderful to welcome back the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival which this year is offering young audiences and families both outdoor and online opportunities to enjoy theatre and dance. I am pleased that £108,000 of funding from the Scottish Government’s Festivals Expo Fund has contributed to commissioning two new exciting works for the Festival and the outdoor Family Encounters Programme, all comprising work delivered by artists based in Scotland.”

If you’re not sure what to pick, don’t miss:

· The University of Wonder & Imagination (7-11 yrs) various slots over the 2 weekends)
An interactive live magic show on Zoom where children encounter all kinds of problems and puzzles.
· The Super Special Disability Roadshow (for 8-13 yrs) – watch any time
An irreverent and humorous show exploring what it means to be disabled today and in the 80s by Scotland’s only disabled-led theatre company.
· Removed (12 yrs+) – watch anytime
The gripping story of a young man’s experience of the care system in Northern Ireland, told with heart, humour and humanity.

(l) Mixed up Master. (r) The Super Special Disability Roadshow c. Chris Dooks.jpg

This year’s Edinburgh International Children’s Festival is supported by Creative Scotland, the City of Edinburgh Council, the Scottish Government Festivals Expo Fund and the Platforms for Creative Excellence (PLACE) programme.

Family Encounters is supported by EventScotland, The Foyle Foundation, Cirrus Logic and the Walter Scott Giving Group; Removed is supported by Culture Ireland; The Super Special Disability Roadshow is supported by John Watson’s Trust and the Cruden Foundation; Mixed Up is supported by the Hugh Fraser Foundation and the Educational Institute of Scotland. Additional support for the 2021 Festival has been provided by the D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust and the Consulate General of Ireland in Edinburgh.

Tickets and more information available at www.imaginate.org.uk/festival

Top image – Down to Earth – credit Matt Robinson