Festival is reaching out

THE Sheffield Children's Festival, opening this weekend, will be widening its reach by offering more events that are open for everyone to take part in.

More than 40 events and activities will be taking place from this Saturday through to July 4 and the aim has been to make the programme accessible to all young people from under one to 18-plus.

"As usual thousands will be involved through schools but we are also providing much more opportunity outside that for families to get involved and also things for pre-school children," said festival manager Richard Johnson.

Coun Roger Davison, council cabinet advisor for culture, leisure and streetscene, added: "We expect involvement in this year's festival to be higher than ever before, with people from Sheffield and beyond coming to take part in the free public activities."

One of those is Den with a Difference, where everyone is welcome to help build a huge den in the Winter Garden. Part den, part sculpture, it will have tunnels and secret chambers with lots to discover.

Another free activity, especially suited to young children, is the Mystical Animal Sculpture Trail in which metal and papier mache sculptures will be positioned around the Winter Garden for children to discover.

Among the opening day events, Sheffield children's illustrator and author Lynn Chapman will be running a storytelling workshop involving silly stories and songs and tips on how to draw at the Central Children's Library on Saturday.

The traditional focal point of the festival, Lord Mayor's Day, will this time provide the finale on July 4 and include a parade from the Peace Gardens, leading to an afternoon event on Devonshire Green.

The core of the festival remains the participation of schools who have enjoyed visits and residencies with professional artists.

In his second year as manager Richard Johnson has aimed to give the programme a more contemporary feel. "Kids will be working with artists as before but this has been widened to include architects, digital artists, photographers and film-makers and people linked to the creative industries." he said.

One example is the Avatars project in which children aged seven and eight from Hunter's Bar Junior School have been working with Sheffield-based digital arts organisation Lovebytes to design their own characters and make computer games and interactive art. Their work will be on show in the Lightwell of the Showroom cinema from Saturday.

Also on view in the first week of the festival is Place & Space, in which more than 1,500 children from city schools have been exploring issues such as the environment or the changing face of Sheffield.

The artworks, which number in the thousands, are on display at the Workstation, Sheffield Assay Office at Hillsborough, Butcher Works and Bank Street Arts.

Opening the following week at Persistence Works is Show of Hands, a project in which artist Jane Avgousti and poet Matt Black have worked with 3,000 children from Arbourthorne, Manor and Darnall.

"Each child has made a tiny sculpture from a plaster cast of the space inside their cupped hands and they will be assembled into a giant art installation," explained Mr Johnson. "It should look fabulous – a bit like Anthony Gormley's Field."

Persistence Works is one of a number of new venues for the festival, with the Memorial Hall hosting some of the drama programme along with the Library Theatre and Montgomery Theatre.

It will climax with a production by pupils of High Storrs School of musical The Wiz in the City Hall on Friday, July 3 and a performance of The Tempest by Sheffield Youth Theatre at the Central United Reform Church the following afternoon.

Hillsborough-based Inyerface Theatre Company and Sheffield Music Academy have joined forces to present two very different evenings of entertainment.

On Friday, June 19, Summerphonic will represent a relaxed evening of music, drama and poetry, including performances by the academy's Boys Barber Shop Group, Girl's Chamber Choir and String Quartet.

The finale to the evening will be the premiere of Flood, a new reflection on the great Sheffield flood of 1864, written in collaboration with Sheffield poet Rob Hindle and performed by students from the academy and Hallam Dance.

As a complete contrast, Saturday Night Live and Loud sees the talented singers, musicians and dancers perform a selection of upbeat songs from the charts, along with rock ballads, jazz standards and numbers from West End shows.

Both evenings at the Library Theatre include guest appearances by young singers, musicians and dancers from schools and theatre groups from across Sheffield.

VINCI Education are sponsoring Sheffield Children's Festival 2009. They are currently leading on the delivery of the Sheffield Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme in partnership with Sheffield City Council.

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