London’s upcoming International Youth Arts Festival

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July sees this year’s International Youth Arts Festival return to Kingston – a festival dedicated to the best of international dance, drama, music, poetry, puppetry, circus and more, as well as having events, workshops and a whole range of indoor and outdoor performances. In anticipation of this, we spoke to Aniela Zaba, Creative Youth’s Artistic Director.

How did the International Youth Arts Festival begin?
The International Youth Arts Festival has been a dream in the borough for 20 years – as long as the dream to have a theatre in the borough. Once The Rose Theatre was opened some of the founders decided to progress with the festival – I came in for an interview and the rest is history! It started with a week-long festival in July 2009, with around 450 participants. It is now the largest youth arts festival in the UK, running for 3 and a half weeks and averaging 5000 participants. Creative Youth became a charity in 2010 to recognise that we were delivering a programme of year-round work separate to simply running the festival. The purpose of Creative Youth is to help any young person with a creative idea to make that idea a reality. We mentor ten start- up companies in the arts, support 25 young trainee project managers and work with around 30 schools and 160 volunteers annually.

What do you see as the core values for the festival?
The core values of the festival are two-fold. Firstly, it’s to celebrate the highest quality of young people’s work. This isn’t about the ‘Isn’t that cute?’ clap or a sympathy clap – this is about the very best work that young people are producing. However, hand in hand with that is that we want every single young person that wants to be involved to be involved – so providing opportunities for anyone to get engaged with high quality. This might be through projects we deliver, workshop opportunities or embracing a range of skills that young people have – whether this be in marketing, administration, photography, film-making, press, project management, blogging, design etc. – not everyone needs to end up on stage.

We are also absolutely driven by the ideas that young people have – it’s our job to help them make them happen.

Tell us some more about this year’s programme.
This year’s programme is very exciting. It’s really diverse across the artforms and I’m really excited to see genres such as Dance growing so much with the Ignition Dance Festival, and Visual Art transforming the streets with projects such as the IYAF Art Walk. The programmes have just been delivered, so you can see for yourself just how much there is to choose from! There are almost 350 events across 18 venues!

What is the balance between returning participants and new acts?
We do have a lot of repeat participants because people have such a memorable time when they attend. There are not many places where so many young people from so many different cultures and backgrounds can come together under such a joyous umbrella as the arts! There are, however, a huge amount of new groups attending this year, including something I can’t wait for – A Mongolian version of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat!

How can we get the most out of the Festival?
The best way to enjoy it is to buy a Festival Pass – until the 1st of June you can get them at the early-bird price of £80 / £40 concession and after that for £95 / £55 concession. It gives you entry to every single show and is ridiculously good value! Also a must is Raise the Roof – our opening night of performances on the 11th July and which gives tasters of the very best of what’s to come and is a great way to choose some key performances to go and see. This year it is also our Royal Gala night, so you can buy special £50 tickets for a chance to schmooze with royalty and quaff champagne!

Tickets for all shows are available here / 08444 821 556 or from the Rose in person.

Gala tickets are available by emailing [email protected]

Full programme available here. You can follow IYAF on Facebook or Twitter.

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