Excitement courses through the corridors of the Gulbenkian Theatre at the moment, in anticipation of the bOing! festival happening at the end of the month. I tripped down the corridor to talk with the dizzying whirlwind of creativity that is the Director of the Gulbenkian, Liz Moran, to find out what’s in store.
Tell me about the festival.
bOing! is a new international festival for children to share with their families. This year, it’s over a weekend and over the next few years it will grow to be an even bigger event.
Family events lie close to the heart of Gulbenkian programming; why is that ?
I believe there is an imbalance in the quality and investment in work for younger audiences in the UK and I believe that is unfair. Children and young people should be considered as audiences now, not as future audiences with access to inspiring, imaginative work.
There don’t seem to be many other events, particularly locally, quite like it; what’s unique about bOing ?
I think what’s unique about bOing! is that although we are targeting younger audiences, the programme is not all ‘children’s’ work. I think it important children and their parents share seeing amazing artists together, so we have included a range of work and workshops that can be shared and enjoyed by all ages We are also taking bOing! off campus with a fantastic dance piece to be performed in the playground on the sea front in Herne Bay; that will become an important part of bOing! In the future, taking it all over Kent in unexpected places !
Children and young people should be considered as audiences now, not as future audiences, with access to inspiring, imaginative work
What were the challenges of programming the festival ?
A new festival is a challenge in persuading world-class companies to come and present their work. Having companies such as TPO from Italy who are coming with Bleu! is a major coup; they’re in demand all over the world, and that is exactly the kind of inspirational, awe-inspiring work we want to share with our audiences. Money and resources are always an issue; big ambitions often need major investment, but we have been fortunate this year to have secure additional financial support from Arts Council England and Kent County Council.
Family Concert: A Wonderland is an interesting project; tell me more…
A Wonderland is a family concert put together by cellist, singer and producer Matthew Sharp; it forms the centrepiece of the opening day. Everyone who comes to the concert will be invited to stay at the end and learn a new piece of music that they themselves will perform later in the day. The choir is for all ages, not just children, and the idea is to give families the opportunity to sing and perform together in a magical musical wonderland that Matthew is creating.
Is there anything that you are looking forward to especially ?
I can honestly say there is no one thing; all of the companies and artists involved are inspirational
And you’ve made the festival appealing and family-friendly in terms of cost, too.
Yes. Many of the events are free (details here) but I would urge people to book now for the paid events which have been priced very low, between £4 and £5 for the festival; it’s a unique opportunity to see international work such as Bleu! and award-winning Paperbelle, but please book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment on the day!