• By: OLM Staff

Ottawa International Children’s Festival Celebrates 26 years

The Ottawa International Children’s Festival (OCIF) is 26 years old.

The Festival is back and bigger than ever with its 2011 edition running this year from June 1- 5 with plenty for all children and children at heart, focusing on those between the ages of four to fifteen. For five days the Lebreton Flats and facilities of the Canadian War Museum are its playgrounds. The mandate is impressively simple and speaks to a crucial element a child’s development, the promotion of the arts in education. The five day version of the festival is just some of what the OCIF does. During the year, when you might think a 26-year- old child would be napping, they are tirelessly busy facilitating programming for families throughout the city. Productions come from Canada and across the globe.

The OICF has received prestigious awards for its worthy efforts including, The Lieutenant Governor’s Award for the arts (2002), The Community Recognition Award from the Council for the Arts in Ottawa and the Honourary patronage by Her Excellency Governor General Michaëlle Jean (2006).

Thanks to The Adopt-a-School program, this year’s efforts will enable as many as three hundred children to attend and enjoy the Festival for free. It is in its seventh year with the OICF. The program links service groups, foundations, businesses, agencies and organizations who them literally take a school(s) under their wing, the program exists in many communities. The Festival and its sponsors can manage a wider outreach effort into the community and provide greater exposure to the arts, in many ways, for many children in the region who might otherwise face financial challenges and other obstacles.

The program for the Festival is readily available and a glance through presents a wonderful series of events for this 26th year edition including interactive displays and multimedia presentations including interactive dance, videos and music.

If your child is 9 years of age or older and attending the Festival as part of a school group, they may be in store for the delights of the Mobile Circus School which is returning after its popularity as part of last year’s festivities. It is just what it says in the title and much more. It is a fun and participatory chance to try out and learn some circus skills with supportive instruction and with friends.

There are some fascinating and attractive theatre oriented performances. Here are some highlights with plenty for all age groups. Kids, bring the big children along (your folks!)

‘At Night Fall’ is an all ages show by Sursaut of Sherbrooke, Quebec will present a dance show aimed to children of all ages. The show tells the story of a shoemaker who works too hard and never goes beyond the walls of his shop. Magical people from a magical place encourage and introduce the shoemaker to new adventures.

‘Droplets’ is a show for younger audiences and is presented by La Societa della Civetta of Italy. This show presents the importance of fresh clean water to and for the world and will have its audiences actively thinking about the importance of every precious drop.

From Switzerland comes Trickster with a version of Hansel and Gretal called ‘h.g.’. This is a show mixing theatre and visual arts. The audience members will be able to interact with the scenery by walking through various physically oriented rooms and becoming part of the presentation.

Another Italian troupe, Teatronecessario, brings ‘Barbieri’. This show features the engaging animation of the barbershop – often the focal point of discussion of politics and other hair cutting and inspired topics. It looks like loads of fun including singing and a circus-like atmosphere. This promises great entertaining fun for the whole family.

From the US comes Imago Theatre and their show called ‘ZooZoo’. They play with perspectives and traditional ways of seeing things. Masks, costume and puppets all come together to present the worlds they create. For all ages that inner child will be crying out with laughter and enjoyment as the show goes from interactive to the fantastic and beyond.

You will also be entertained by busker-style performers and the fun gets enhanced in special areas for face painting and all around will be clowns and unicyclists and stilt walkers. All around the Festival grounds will be entertainers from Ottawa’s ‘A Company of Fools’, Montreal’s ‘Circus Montreal and Gatineau’s ‘Mini Cirque’. Look for a games pavilion and try your hands at some new games. Take in a story or two as the Festival joins with the Ottawa International Writer’s Festival by incorporating a book fair with great literature for young readers. There will be storytelling and workshops including authors reading from their books.

There is a wonderful and very colourful program accompanying this year’s Ottawa International Children’s Festival. It is chock full of all the information you could possibly need about the Festival and if you wish to know even more about all of the happenings give them a call at: (613) 241- 0999 and visit: http://ottawachildrensfestival.ca.

Having been part of a touring children’s theatre troupe, I have a soft spot for children’s entertainment. I attended a specialized arts program at my high school and have been actively involved in children’s education at a grassroots level in all of the communities I have lived in. I get a real charge out of all worthy efforts to encourage arts in education. There is no doubt the folks at OICF are all about this and more. They have packed one fantastic, entertaining journey through a broad variety of artistically entertaining experiences all over a period of five days in June. Go out and support the arts, enjoy as a family and release the inner-child in you!

Now – all together…”Are we there yet…?!”