20 great years for Playhouse Children’s Art Festival

Some of the kids who were performing at the Childrens Festival in the Playhouse.  (0108JB65)
Some of the kids who were performing at the Childrens Festival in the Playhouse. (0108JB65)

Normal business has been somewhat halted at Derry’s Playhouse during the past fortnight to allow for the energetic influx of 120 young people as part of the biggest ever Children’s Art Festival at the Artillery Street building.

Having exploded in popularity since its humble beginnings twenty years ago, this year’s celebrations were among the busiest and noisiest to date, bringing together children and young people from different backgrounds, parts of the North West and even different parts of Europe.

Festival co-ordinator Siuan McLaughlin could well claim to have been one of the busiest women in the city over recent days. As the woman responsible for all of the 120 children and the events laid on to spur their creativity, she has more than had her hands full.

Despite this, she has - she claims - enjoyed every minute of the festival.

“It’s been a genuinely enjoyable experience,” says Siuan.

“It is unbelievable the ideas and energy that these young people have and the energy they bring to the Playhouse building. For the two weeks, we don’t have a free space in the whole building. They just take over - and it’s great!”

Aged between four and sixteen, festival participants this year were grouped into three categories,

From the youngest, starting at age four, to the oldest teenagers, there was something for everyone, with a very special theme.

This year, the festival ‘A.I.M’ was to showcase Art in Motion.

Over the past two weeks, a team of fully qualified facilitators have taught a wide and colourful variety of classes, including visual art, drama, music and dance.

Playhouse general manager Niall McCaughan said the festival was one of the key events of the year for the city centre based Arts Centre.

“In recognition of the 2012 Olympics, this year’s exciting theme is Art in Motion- celebrating the ethos of the Olympics in celebrating teamwork, achievement and aiming high,” said Niall.

“The Playhouse Children’s Art Festival is an integral event on the Playhouse calendar. Children’s creative intuition is untarnished, honest, and gives a unique insight to how children see the shape of the world around them. The Playhouse Children’s Arts Festival strives to nurture these talents and give children an opportunity to express themselves through the Arts.”

Festival co-ordinator Siuan said the festival’s popularity has soared.

“There is definitely a high demand for it every year and one parent this year asked me if we could run it for a month. I think it’s a testimony to the hard work of the facilitators and staff that they’ve managed to keep the festival moving and keep the ideas fresh. They are the backbone to the whole thing really and that’s what makes it work.”

Siuan explained how children have come from as far as Spain for the Derry festival.

“We now have six children who were introduced through family here in Derry who make the journey from Spain every year and I think that’s a real indication of how far reaching the festival has become.”

Looking ahead to 2013 and Derry’s year as UK City of Culture, Siuan says the objective for festival organisers is to repeat the success of previous years.

“We’ll hope to do more of the same next year but we’ll continue to raise the bar because we’re always growing and developing as an organisation,” she says.