The Sydney Children's Festival has found a new home, after a two-year hiatus, at the Seymour Centre. Bringing artists and children together in one central hub for edgier theatre and immersive workshops.
"Sydney really needs a major arts festival for children," says the Seymour Centre's artistic director Tim Jones. "We have a theatrical culture of risk-taking in Sydney but that element of risk isn't carried over into work for children. In a festival, we want to produce edgier work rather than seeing major book adaptations in the theatres. We want families to take a risk and see something a little different."
Aimed at children aged 5-12 years, the Sydney Children's Festival was established at Carriageworks in 2008, where it attracted 10,000 people in its first year and 17,000 in its second. But the venue handed the rights to the Seymour Centre in 2012 when it refocused its programming towards contemporary art experiences. The Seymour Centre is unable to provide the large, circus-based, free-play rooms that proved so popular at Carriageworks. Instead, Jones says, the venue will focus on high-quality theatre experiences followed by meet-the-artist workshops.
"We are really focused on direct contact between young people and the artists," says Jones. "A festival should provide special and unusual experiences made just for children. We want them to have a really fun time with an artist. We think that is more impactful than just seeing a show."
Up to 40 children will have the chance to perform on stage in Twinkle, a new work inspired by the night sky, or they can take part in an all-day hip-hop class, Let's Dance with Shaun Parker & Company ending with a public flash-mob performance.
The Australian Theatre for Young People will run a week-long, caped crusader drama class pivoting on KAPOW!, an acrobatic show from Victorian company Asking for Trouble.
A free program includes a collaborative sculpture workshop, a silent disco (in which children dance to music from headphones), a hula hoop workshop and a free circus tent in the venue's courtyard.
Director Jessica Wilson will be running shadow puppet workshops involving paper, masking tape and torches after Still Awake Still!, an anarchic work of music theatre from Melbourne-based Jump Leads. The show has just returned from a successful season at the New Victory Theatre in New York.
"I'm excited that the show is so joyful and doesn't fit any genre," Wilson says. "It is visual theatre that sometimes feels like an opera and sometimes like a comedy. It's quite rich and beautiful and abstract and ridiculous. It is genre defying and absolutely empowering for children. We want them to feel a part of the show and then we want that imagination to flow into their own creativity by making something of their own."
The Sydney Children's Festival is on at the Seymour Centre from September 23-28.
Still Awake Still!
Miss Ivory Tinklefinger has been hired to sing the audience to sleep, but her piano has a mind of its own. A surreal pantomime inspired by a suite of lullabies by popular children's author Elizabeth Honey, set to music by composer Sue Johnson. September 23-27, Everest Theatre
From physical theatre company Asking for Trouble, a comic look at the world of the superhero, the need we all have to be special, and what stops us from stepping up to save the day. September 24-28, Reginald Theatre
An exploration of science and storytelling in a verbatim show created from interviews and workshops held with up to 40 children on the previous day. September 26 & 28, York Theatre