20 Years Young!

A monumental walk-in sculpture, the world’s smallest action hero, penguins, a 4-legged clothes monster, a man with a chocolate beard, and a boy on a quest to make friends with a star are a small snapshot of some of the delights that will appear at this year’s 20th annual Belfast Children’s Festival where the theme is FAMILY.

From Friday 9 to Wednesday 14 March, more than 110 events will take place in 14 locations across the city. Belfast Children’s Festival has become one of the largest children’s arts festivals on the island of Ireland and the UK, attracting just under 30,000 people last year.

Eibhlín de Barra, Director Young at Art, unveiled the packed programme at Belfast City Hall.

‘The 2018 Belfast Children's Festival celebrates our 20th birthday in style, with a wide and wonderful mix of theatre, dance, comedy, music, visual arts and literature for all the family. From the exquisite Horses from world-renowned kabinet k, to the madcap exploits of Egg-tion Hero, from Branar's beautiful adaptation of Oliver Jeffers How to Catch a Star, to the heart-warming tale of Penguins, and the welcome return to Belfast of Architects of Air's magnificent Luminarium, there really is something for everyone. And on top of it all we're throwing a giant birthday party across the festival weekend, so come on down and join in!"

Young at Art are delighted to be presenting several UK and Irish Premieres, including Horses, Getting Dressed, Penguins, Egg-tion Hero and Sensescapes. Horses, by world-renowned kabinet k and hetpaleis (Belgium) is a dance performance with a cast of 5 children and 5 adults. It playfully explores how we want to be a grown-up and yet remain a child. It reminds us that we can all be vulnerable; nevertheless we learn to trust and count on each other. 

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nuala McAllister, who hosted the launch said: “I’d like to offer my warmest congratulations to Young at Art on turning 20 - and in such style with this amazing programme for children and young people.

Young at Art continues to play a fundamental role in animating Belfast and inspiring creativity, joy and curiosity in our children and young people. Indeed, Belfast Children’s Festival has become a true highlight of the family cultural calendar, bringing magical, memorable experiences to residents and visitors to the city.  I’m very much looking forward to introducing our young son Finn to the festival this Spring at the Big Botanic Birthday Bash in the beautiful surroundings of our very own Botanic Gardens.”

From 1pm-4pm on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 March the Big Botanic Birthday Bash will be jam-packed with fun family activities including free children’s art workshops, theatre & music performances including Egg-tion Hero from Maas Theater en Dans (Netherlands), Dance Exposed from Maiden Voyage Dance, and Northern Ireland Opera's Little Lullabies, drumming workshops, Sow & Grow workshops and much much more.

You may be forgiven for thinking that an alien spacecraft has landed at Botanic Gardens. The Miracoco Luminarium (Architects of Air) is a monumental walk-in sculpture that invites visitors of all ages to explore the dazzling maze of winding paths and soaring domes. Inspired by natural forms, geometric solids, Islamic and Gothic architecture the Miracoco Luminarium promises an unforgettable sensory experience of light, sound and colour. It is open 12pm-6pm from Friday 9 to Sunday 11 March and is set to be the most photographed structure in Belfast that weekend.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is principal funder of Young at Art, and thanks to public and National Lottery funds, Young at Art is able to programme and deliver a wide range of artistic content, education & engagement programmes and professional development throughout the year.

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive Arts Council of Northern Ireland, congratulated Young at Art on its long history of achievement in engaging children of all backgrounds and circumstances in the arts.

“For many children and their families, the Belfast Children’s Festival presents the first real opportunity to experience live, professional arts, by world-class artists and performers. We are proud to have supported Young at Art over the past 20 years, as champions of the rights of all children and young people to have access to excellent creative experiences as an indispensable part of their learning and development.”

Based on the beloved book by award-winning Belfast author Oliver Jeffers, Branar Téatar do Pháistí (Ireland) present How To Catch a Star. Audiences are in for a real treat, as this production combines world-class puppetry, a magical soundtrack, atmospheric lighting and beautiful staging to transport you into the world of the storybook.

Second Hand Dance (UK) make their Irish Premiere with the quirky Getting Dressed inviting audiences to dive into a world of colour, texture & movement.

Belfast’s own children’s theatre company Cahoots NI have 2 shows in this year’s programme: Penguins and The Assistant’s Revenge. Belfast Children’s Festival has secured the Irish premiere of Penguins, a co-production between Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Cahoots NI and Prime Theatre. This delightful new theatre production for young audiences (3+) is based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two male chinstrap penguins who lived at New York's Central Park Zoo; together they hatched an abandoned egg and raised a chick. Featuring live music, dance and animation, this warm and engaging story explores friendship, acceptance and the ever-changing definition of what makes a family.

The Assistant’s Revenge is the second production from Cahoots NI. Aimed at ages 8 plus, it’s a spellbinding murder mystery packed with music, glamour, magic, death-defying escapology and more twists and turns than a ten-inch corkscrew.

Belfast based Amadan Ensemble present a brand new show Pink & Blue that explores if we can all be who we want to be and accept others as who they are too.

Sweden's Teater Pero bring the delightful Aston’s Stones to Belfast, a beautiful tale about how easy it is to love and appreciate the joy in small things. The festival has two special events for early years. Also from Sweden Sensescapes, created by Stockholm based choreographer Dalija Acin Thelander specifically for 3-18 months, beautifully merges art installation, performance and interactive discovery. Back by popular demand is Young at Art’s own Baby Rave for under 4’s and their carers, the original and the best.

The festival will also present several relaxed performances, which are designed for children and their families who may be living with additional sensory and communication needs including learning difficulties and autistic spectrum conditions.

Young at Art has embarked on a new Visual Arts and Families Project, in association with Ulster University and Moving Up Moving On (MUMO). I Think I Will Tell You About My Dream is an exciting artistic collaboration between families from MUMO and illustrator Duncan Ross, who together used drawing and dialogue to explore their relationship with place. Their work will be on display in the Ulster University Belfast campus during the festival.

Belfast born illustrator PJ Lynch has chosen the theme “The Big Picture” to be his legacy project during his tenure as Laureate na nÓg (Ireland’s Children’s Literature Laureate). On display in the Crescent Arts Centre will be the work of pupils from five primary schools, who have responded to The Big Picture, exploring the themes of “Family” and “Home” using visual storytelling. The public are invited to add to a sixth panel.  Taking a short walk up the road to the Ulster Museum, the public can enjoy Pilgrims, Princesses and Beardy Old Men, an exhibition of stunning drawings from PJ Lynch’s award winning books.

Festival favourites Mini Mid-Week MagicPigeon and Plum’s Vaudeville Cabaret, Acoustic Picnic at Oh Yeah Music Centre and Children’s Books Ireland’s Book Clinic, return by popular demand.

Young at Art continues to build on a strong partnership with Translink, and is encouraging families to travel with Translink into Belfast city centre. Special discounted family travel tickets, a travel activity pack for the journey, (available online and in the February edition of Ni4kids), and the guarantee of lots of amazing free fun at the Big Botanic Birthday Bash makes for an easy decision for a big family day out. On Saturday 10 March, passengers at Central Station will also be treated to amazing moves and fast paced action in Dance Exposed, a new work for public space commissioned by Maiden Voyage Dance from acclaimed Scottish choreographer Jack Webb.

Translink’s Ursula Henderson said: “Young at Art has organised an amazing line-up of fun family entertainment so we want to bring more people into Belfast to enjoy all the action by providing discount travel including our popular Family & Friends tickets along with comfortable bus, coach and train journey choices. We’re especially excited about the Big Botanic Birthday Bash and are encouraging party-goers to enjoy travelling by train to the nearby Botanic Train Station or using Metro Route 8 for extra convenience. With such a tempting creative programme in store, we’re looking forward to joining the Belfast Children’s Festival celebrations and would like to wish this fantastic event a very Happy 20th Birthday!”

Belfast Children’s Festival also boasts a specially selected Schools Programme of international and local performances, which take place during school time. With subsidised ticket deals and classroom resources linked to the curriculum, it promises to be the perfect outing for children aged 3 and upward.

The festival also offers a diverse Industry Programme aimed at grown-ups, and those working, performing or studying in arts and education. TYANI (Theatre for Young Audiences NI) presents a 4-day showcase of some of the finest performance work for young audiences being created here in NI. The platform includes performances, works-in-progress, ‘scratch’ performances, discussions and networking events. The festival is set to welcome a delegation of international programmers and producers to Belfast.

Tickets are on sale at www.youngatart.co.uk. This year adults will pay the same price as children, maximum ticket price £10, and many events are free. Many festival events sell out so you are advised to book early to avoid disappointment.

The diverse programme of theatre, visual art, music, comedy, dance, literature, workshops and talks are guaranteed to inspire joy, creativity and curiosity. The 20th Belfast Children’s Festival will once again be nourishing the creative minds of children from 0-18 years old and proving why arts and culture are so important for the social, emotional and educational well-being of our children and young people.


Media enquiries to

Sarah Kelly, Marketing & Communications Manager





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Notes to editor

Young at Art is Northern Ireland’s leading arts provider for children and young people, engaging with over 50,000 people each year, and home to Northern Ireland's flagship international arts and cultural event for children, the annual Belfast Children's Festival.

We connect with children and adults through a host of engagement programmes including Creative Child and Visual Arts and Families. Our Young at Art Events agency delivers unique and unforgettable arts events to children and families across Northern Ireland, with an extensive events portfolio and the ability to design and deliver bespoke performances and events. Our Creative Writing Centre, Fighting Words Belfast, delivers a range of creative writing workshops to build a love of stories and storytelling. We’re also proud to offer professional training to practitioners and teachers, as well as special ticketing schemes and resources for schools and youth groups.



Young at Art receives core funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council and Education Authority.

Belfast Children’s Festival is funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Lottery Project Funding Programme, Tourism NI’s National Tourism Events Sponsorship Scheme, Belfast City Council’s Community Festivals Fund and a host of other funders, supporters and sponsors.

Translink is the major festival partner. The festival continues its media partnerships with Ni4kids and QRadio. Ramada Encore is official accommodation partner.

Young at Art fundraises each year to ensure children and families can access quality relevant arts at low or no cost, working directly with over 30 schools annually and delivering over 600 separate events, performances and exhibitions each year for children aged 0 up to 18 years.


Translink offers include:

Family & Friends Ticket: Unlimited day travel on any scheduled Translink service in NI.

£22 for a Family and Friends ticket – unlimited day travel on any scheduled Translink service across the NI network for up to 2 adults and 4 children.  Available all day Saturdays and Sundays and every day during main school holidays. Also valid after 9.30am Monday-Friday during school term time. (Not valid on Ulsterbus Day Tours or on cross-border services).

Metro Family Ticket: Unlimited day travel on Metro services.

£9 for a Metro Family & Friends ticket – unlimited day travel on any scheduled Metro service for up to 2 adults and 4 children. Available all day Saturdays and Sundays and every day during main school holidays. Also valid after 9.30am Monday-Friday during school term time.