Edinburgh International Children’s Festival to return with outdoor events for families

Free outdoor events are to be staged across Edinburgh to help the city’s annual children’s festival make a comeback.

Four-year-old Rosa Kirby with The Unicon, who will be appearing in Family Encounters, the outdoors strand of this year's festival.
Four-year-old Rosa Kirby with The Unicon, who will be appearing in Family Encounters, the outdoors strand of this year's festival.

Some of Scotland’s first post-lockdown performances are due to go ahead in late May and early June as part of the annual “Imaginate” event, which had to be cancelled in 2020 in the face of the pandemic.

The Royal Botanic Garden in Inverleith, North Edinburgh Arts Centre in the Muirhouse area and the Craigmillar-based venue Lyra all all be hosting live performances in their grounds.

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More than 100 different artists, performers and other freelance workers will be involved in the event, also known as the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival, which will have a hybrid programme of live and online events this year.

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The programme for the festival, which will run from 25 May- 6 June, features some 16 brand new commissions.

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At least 10 pop-up performances and shows embracing theatre, music, dance, storytelling and visual art –including a giant swing-activated sound installation, a holiday travellling machine, a unicorn and a mysterious tree spirit – will be staged at the Botanics under the festival’s Family Encounters strand of outdoor events.

It will also include a show due to be staged for pupils at Oaklands, a school for children with special needs, a basketball-inspired hip hop workshop at Lyra and a carnival-themed dance and theatre show at North Edinburgh Arts.

The only indoor show in this year’s line-up, which will be staged at Assembly Roxy in the city centre, will be an interactive installation, which one extended family will be able to experience at a time.

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Festival director Noel Jordan said: “For this year, we made a commitment that we would not be cancelling our festival, as we had to do last year.

"We’ve had to plan (and re-plan) events that can adapt to changing restrictions, so that no matter what, we can bring much-needed art, culture and entertainment to children and young people.

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“The result is an exciting hybrid programme which might look and feel slightly different, but is no less bold.

“There are so many things to celebrate about this year’s festival.

The All or Nothing aerial dance company will be bringing a giant set of swings into the Royal Botanic Garden for the festival. Picture: Suzanne Heffron

“We’re proud to be able to offer paid work to so many Scottish artists, freelancers and companies, from an industry that has almost been at a standstill for over a year.

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“Most importantly, we are appreciative and inspired by the opportunity to be able to present much need arts and culture to children, young people and their families at this time of need.

“As our community re-emerges from lockdown now is the time to enjoy the world of wonder, curiosity and connectedness that the arts can offer us.”

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Paul Bush, VsitScotland’s director of events, said: “Events play an important role in our communities by supporting artists and performers as well as bring social and economic change.

The Undiscovered Creature will be popping up at the Royal Botanic Garden during the festival. Picture: Ruth Armstrong

“With restrictions starting to ease and summer on its way, the event’s free outdoor programme provides the perfect opportunity for families to enjoy a range of artistic activities in a safe, outdoor environment.”

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Neil McIntosh


Tortoise in a Nutshell will be staging the holiday-themed show Away...From Home in the Botanics.



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