Thursday 20 June 2013

Family Arts Festival launched – leading institutions join together for first UK-wide arts festival for families!

It has today been announced that the first ever Family Arts Festival will take place this autumn, from 18 October to 3 November, with leading arts venues and institutions including the Royal Festival Hall, Barbican, Sadler’s Wells, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Museum of London, Bournemouth Pavilion, Leeds College of Art, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall and Palace Theatre, The Lowry, Symphony Hall Birmingham, Bristol Hippodrome, Cambridge Corn Exchange, New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich, the Curve Theatre in Leicester, Liverpool Empire and Philharmonic Hall, Sage Gateshead, Sunderland Empire, Glasgow’s King’s Theatre and Theatre Royal, Edinburgh Playhouse, St David’s Hall Cardiff, Belfast Grand Opera House, Derry/Londonderry Millennium Forum, London’s West End theatres and many many more venues all programming events to entertain family audiences.

The Family Arts Festival will be the first UK-wide festival including theatre, dance, music and visual arts events designed to increase family participation in the arts and building on the momentum of the London 2012 Festival and Cultural Olympiad. The website for the Festival,, has launched today with full details of over 400 events already confirmed to be part of the family Festival celebrations. Further shows, concerts, workshops and open days will be added over the summer with more than 1,000 events expected to make up the UK-wide family arts extravaganza by the time the Festival starts on 18 October.

Music events already confirmed include the London Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Discover Berlioz’ events where audiences can spend the morning at the Barbican watching conductor Valery Gergiev put the Orchestra through its paces in an open rehearsal of the work of French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz, and the afternoon attending talks from leading experts and chamber music performances at LSO St Luke’s. Serious will present Natalie Williams and some of the UK’s finest jazz musicians in a fun-filled family afternoon leading the audience through some of the best-loved jazz classics from down the years at artsdepot in North Finchley. Other events include Britten’s The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra presented by the London Philharmonic Orchestra & CBeebies' Chris Jarvis at the Royal Festival Hall in London, and a riotous ride with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra on boats, bikes, cars, carriages, roads, sails, ships, shoes, hooves and a yellow submarine at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.  In Northern Ireland NI Opera will tour Gerald Barry’s award-winning opera based on Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ to Belfast and Derry/Londonderry.

Theatres across the UK are programming special productions and events for families, with the Crewe Lyceum Theatre staging family favourite ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’, a new promenade performance ‘Muse Of Fire’ for families at Shakespeare’s Globe, the Reduced Shakespeare Company in Birmingham, a special Blood Brothers Q&A in Liverpool and Wimbledon, a performance of Michael Morpurgo’s ‘The Butterfly Lion’ in Nottingham, family singing workshops taking place in ATG theatres across London’s West End and a performance of ‘Charlie and Lola's Extremely New Play’ at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton. The Barbican will throw open its doors to intrepid adventurers who will be able to discover the secrets of the Barbican through a cryptic clue solving, drawing and games adventure trail for families.

Dance highlights include Gobbledegook in association with MOKO Dance’s staging of ‘In A Deep Dark Wood’, an interactive show about a girl who bravely ventures into a mysterious wood, at Sadler's Wells and Lakeside Nottingham, a Baby Boogie Disco at Pegasus in Oxford, The State Ballet Academy of Belarus in Berwick with their ballet classic for the whole family ‘The Nutcracker’, a dance and design adventure in Milton Keynes, a family day hosted by Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Sunderland Empire, and English National Ballet life drawing and family workshops in Oxford.

The great range of visual arts activities includes print making at the RBSA Gallery in Birmingham, pumpkin carving for Hallowe’en at the Baltic in Gateshead, gargoyle painting with This Art of Mine in Maidstone and three days of varied painting and making at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds inspired by its production of ‘A Jungle Book’.

The Family Arts Festival has also joined forces with the Campaign for Drawing’s Big Draw. Launched in 2000, The Big Draw is dedicated to showing that drawing is accessible, fun and invaluable in education and everyday life. Big Draw events in the Family Arts Festival include the opportunity to become an aviation artist at the Royal Air Force Museum in London, workshops to create your own futuristic super hero or villain at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford, a Quentin Blake-inspired drawing workshop at the Herbert Gallery & Museum in Coventry, and kids will turn the conceptual art world upside down in JW3’s ‘Turnip Prize’ in London.

Find full details of all the events already confirmed at

The Family Arts Festival has been introduced following extensive research undertaken by the Family Arts Campaign which revealed that 55% of families believe there is a need for focus on family friendly activities at a specific time of year; however only 28% of families think there are enough high quality activities for families, and 35% of families do not find it easy to find out about appropriate activities. The research also highlighted that half of all families think there is a need to create work for older and young people to enjoy together and 79% of families agree that there is a need for a family friendly badge to recognise an agreed standard. The Family Arts Campaign and Festival are initiatives of The Association of British Orchestras, The Theatrical Management Association, The Society of London Theatre, the Independent Theatre Council, the Visual Arts & Galleries Association and Dance UK, and are funded by Arts Council England.

Kathryn McDowell, Family Arts Board Chair and Managing Director of the London Symphony Orchestra, said: “The research undertaken by the Family Arts Campaign shows a clear desire from the public for a festival that brings together imaginative arts initiatives programmed for the enjoyment of people across the generations. We’re delighted by the response of the sector to this campaign and to have 200 of the UK’s arts venues, both great and small, programming work for this Festival shows the arts sector wants to build on the audience development opportunities London 2012 presented us.

“The Family Arts Festival will be a fantastic programme of events for families taking place the length and breadth of the UK in our leading arts venues. By launching the Family Arts Festival website today we are providing an online resource for families to find great events happening near them that will be suitable for their families.”  

Leaders from arts venues, institutions and organisations from across the UK attended a Family Arts Conference at the Town Hall Birmingham in April where they were asked by Festival organisers to break down barriers to participation for families.

David Brownlee, Family Arts Campaign Director, said: ‘When we asked arts organisations to put on events that would be attractive to family members of all ages, we also stressed the need to look again at how welcoming they are to families.   I’m thrilled that all our partners have responded with such a fantastic programme and we are now working with a range of performing and visual arts organisations from up and down the land to set new standards in putting families at the centre of our work.  This autumn we will also be launching the Family Arts Festival Awards where audiences and participants can vote for their best experiences.’

The Campaign and Festival have been made possible by a major Lottery grant from Arts Council England.  Chief Executive Alan Davey commented: ‘The arts offer a space for people of all ages to spend time together, to have fun, to learn new things about each other as well as the world around them, and to build a stronger sense of community. This is why our investment in the Family Arts Campaign is so important in not only encouraging families to access the vast array of exciting arts events that take place up and down the country, but also to help arts organisations improve and build upon their offer to families.’

The Family Arts Festival is part of a wider programme, The Family Arts Campaign. Supported by Arts Council England the campaign aims to support organisations in providing high quality family friendly events. The initiative has been devised in consultation with over 1,000 arts professionals and 2,000 families. More details can be found at

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