On The Edge - UK’s World Festival of Theatre for young audiences hailed a success

  • 400 delegates from 51 countries across 5 continents attended the festival

  • 160 artists from 25 companies, presented 16 productions and 9 works in progress

  • Week long festival took place in 13 venues, with 91 performances attracting an audience of  9,500

  • Festival programme also featured 56 symposium events with over 100 speakers



The 2016 World Festival of Theatre for Young Audiences –ON THE EDGE - has been hailed a success. The event, held in Birmingham and hosted by the UK and Ireland for the first time, attracted over 400 delegates from 51 countries and featured a programme of 91 performances plus 56 symposium events. From 2 to 9 July an estimated audience of 9,500 people watched some of the best theatre for young people from around the world. 

ON THE EDGE, which was sponsored by HSBC, brought the best and most imaginative international theatre for children, young people and their families to the city.  Featuring 16 productions by 25 companies totalling 160 artists from 14 countries, including the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Australia and South Korea, the festival took place in 13 different theatre spaces across 8 Birmingham venues , with Birmingham Repertory Theatre as the main festival hub.

The ON THE EDGE learning programme enabled hundreds of local school children and scores of teaching staff from twelve Birmingham and West Midlands schools to get involved with the festival in innovative and interactive ways. This included residencies by international theatre companies in local schools and opportunities for young people to visit other international theatres.

The ON THE EDGE symposium programme featured workshops, lectures, sharings and panel discussions, and enabled delegates to explore creative practice, debate current issues for the sector, and learn from their peers.

Highlights of the festival included The Hamilton Complex, a performance by 13 teenage girls from Belgium that looked at moments in life when things begin to change, I Think I Can, a live interactive public artwork from Australian company, Terrapin Puppet Theatre, which allowed audiences to inhabit a model railway and village using the powers of technology, the exhilarating trampoline-based Boing! and Brush – a visual and inventive show that brought paintings to life.

The World Festival of Theatre for Young Audiences is an annual event brought together by ASSITEJ – a global association of professionals who make theatre for young people. ON THE EDGE was the ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016 organised by Theatre for Young Audiences UK and Theatre for Young Audiences Ireland and offered innovative, inspirational and high quality shows for theatre delegates from across the world and also local young people, families and schools. Next year’s World Festival of Theatre for Young Audiences will take place in Cape Town, South Africa.

Steve Ball, Executive Producer of ON THE EDGE and Associate Director at Birmingham Repertory Theatre said:

We are delighted with the response to ON THE EDGE. At a time when the decision to leave the European Union has created negative perceptions about the UK in the rest of the world, ON THE EDGE proved to the 400 delegates and thousands  of children and young people  that experienced some amazing Theatre for Young Audiences that the cultural sector in the UK remains firmly committed to diversity, inclusion, collaboration and internationalism.

Yvette Hardie, President of ASSITEJ, International Association for Theatre for Children and Young People said of Birmingham:

Birmingham proved to be an excellent choice for the 2016 ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering – ON THE EDGE - hosted by TYA Ireland and TYA UK. A vibrant and youthful city which celebrates its diverse multi-cultural tapestry with verve, Birmingham pulled out all the stops for the 400 international delegates from 51 countries, hosting excellent productions, stimulating discussions and workshops, and productive meetings. ASSITEJ is delighted to have had the opportunity to discover this culturally rich and distinctive city, which has showcased itself brilliantly over the 8 days of ON THE EDGE, proving that being On the Edge is a very exciting place to be!

Nina Hajiyianni, Chair of TYA-UK said:

ON THE EDGE brought many people together from Ireland and the UK who contributed to the festival’s planning, development and delivery. The festival became a collectively owned and unique celebration of the very best work and shared values. The performance and symposium programmes did a critical job in creating the conditions for meaningful discussion and international exchange, which is at the heart of ASSITEJ.

Maria Fleming, chair of TYA-Ireland added:

TYA-Ireland and TYA-UK came together to form a brand new partnership to deliver ON THE EDGE and we are thrilled with the result. The quality of the performance programme was incredibly high and we were delighted with the representation from Ireland both in the programme and in the contingent of delegates. We're particularly pleased with the response to the expansive symposium programme, which was funded by Arts Council Ireland, and led by TYA-Ireland.



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