Edinburgh International Children’s Festival Blooms in the Botanics and Beyond

Two years after celebrating its 30th anniversary, Edinburgh International Children’s Festival (EICF)  presents  a hybrid festival of outdoor and  digital events of  theatre and dance for young people with many online shows available to watch any time during the Festival, the first of the Edinburgh festivals to do so in a sector which has been hit hard over the last year.

In the early days, EICF went under the name of  Imaginate and  shows were performed in tents in Inverleith Park. More recently, city theatre venues have housed the variety of shows from Scotland and around the world  aimed at children and young people. Like other arts organisations, EICF has been affected by Covid regulations and these venues are currently still out of bounds. However, what could be seen as a back to the future result, this year’s festival will feature free pop-up events to be held outdoors in the grounds of the Capital’s Botanical Gardens as well as in other site-specific venues across Edinburgh.

A digital programme including streamed performances and ‘live’ digital interactions, schools and families from all over the UK are able to take part this year, as many of the online shows can be watched at any time during the 13 days of the Festival. Booking for 5,000 school pupils across the country to watch shows on line, including 200 in Shetland alone, demonstrate EICF’s net being widely cast to new audiences.

The specially commissioned events, including 16 new works commissioned involving over 100 freelancers, two of which are new commissions by Scotland based artists, will showcase the talent of Scotland-based artists. Many of these are familiar names in the scene of children young people’s theatre who have created a range of innovative and inspiring site-specific encounters for families.

Thanks to its international reputation, EICF is also as usual attracting industry professionals from all over the world – albeit online – who welcome the opportunity to take part in discussions and discover new artistic talents.

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.”

Highlights of EICF 2021 are:

The University of Wonder & Imagination (7-11 years) 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 years) – watch any time
An show exploring what it means to be disabled today and in the 80s by Scotland’s only disabled-led theatre company.

Removed (12 years +) watch anytime
The story of a young man’s experience of the care system in Northern Ireland.

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

Tickets and full details of the EICF programme are available on the imaginate festival website.

Irene Brown

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