The 15th annual Surrey International Children’s Festival will present award-winning performers from Scotland, the U.S., Quebec and B.C. for three days in May.
With theatre, music and magic shows, the festival aims to inspire “young hearts and minds through the arts,” as emphasized on the festival website (surrey.ca/childrensfestival).
Every year, the gathering is held the week following Victoria Day, Thursday to Saturday – from May 23 to 25 this spring – at Surrey Arts Centre and Bear Creek Park, with three indoor stages and two outdoor.
The 2019 lineup features Li Liu’s Traditions of Chinese Acrobatics, theatre shows The Man Who Planted Trees and Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, musicians Élage Diouf and Will Stroet, the all-female drumming group Sawagi Taiko and magician Rod Boss.
“This year we are exploring the seriousness of fun, art making experiences and all things culture,” says Marnie Perrin, the festival’s artistic director. “Why? Because having fun is serious business!
“The artists that we work with have dedicated their careers to perfecting their skills in performance and art for children,” Perrin added. “They understand that children are cultural consumers who deserve a specialized focus and skill set. Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) is a well-respected genre of professional theatre. For 15 years, the festival has inspired the community to experience new things and is encouraging children from an early age to become patrons of the arts and to be taken seriously as artistic practitioners and consumers. Join us May 23-25 for some serious fun!”
Site access and some activities are free, while the seven featured shows and some activities are ticketed. Ticket prices range from $7 to $15. Tickets to individual performances are available Thursday and Friday, and Saturday Festival Passes ($12-$15) are available for all-day access to shows and activities.
Among this year’s featured performers, Élage Diouf is a Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter from Quebec “whose songs about love and peace inspire hope.” Élage was a featured performer in Cirque de Soleil’s Delirium show, and he blends African rhythms, blues and reggae.
Formed in 1990, Sawagi Taiko “embodies the historical and cultural connections amongst different Asian cultures,” with drummers of Chinese and Japanese ancestry.
The Man Who Planted Trees, staged by Edinburgh-based Puppet State Theatre, is billed as a “multi-sensory theatrical adaptation of Jean Giono’s environmental classic,” about a shepherd who plants a forest, acorn by acorn, transforming a barren wasteland.
Axis Theatre’s Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, meanwhile, is an adaptation of the Eileen Spinelli story about empathy and kindness: “An anonymous valentine changes the life of the unsociable Mr. Hatch, turning him into a laughing friend who helps and appreciates all his neighbours.”
Also featured is Li Liu, who grew up in a Chinese circus family and demonstrates “flawless feats of hand balancing, plate spinning, ribbon dancing and foot juggling.”
CBC Kids TV star Will Stroet brings his “Will’s Jams” show, which promises to have kids “cheering for libraries and rallying for vegetables!”
With a blend of comedy and magic, Rod Boss is billed as “a master of mind bending, close-up magic.”
The festival’s hands-on arts activities will include nature play, clay arts, face painting, storytelling and music making.
As part of this year’s event, a three-day “Cultural Sharing Exchange” will involve students from the rural Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation of Alberta to connect with urban Indigenous children attending Lena Shaw Elementary in Surrey.
“It’s about sharing experiences and culture, and building friendships with all Nations in the Four Directions,” Perrin explained. “Close to 150 people – children, students and teachers – will spend one day at Lena Shaw Elementary and two days at the Surrey International Children’s Festival.”