Small size, Big success! Newry hosts International arts festival

February 10, 2014

Newry city played host to a huge international children’s arts festival last week, which attracted more than 300 delegates from across Europe including representatives from the arts, children’s rights and political sectors from 12 different countries.

Taking place from 6th-9th February, the ‘Small size, Big festival’ event and conference was hailed as a major success by organisers and festival-goers alike, placing Newry and Mourne firmly on the international cultural map for years to come.

Chosen by ‘Small size’ UK, to bid against Spain and Hungary for this event, Newry emerged as the chosen host city based on its ability to deliver world class access to the arts for children primarily through Newry arts organisation, Sticky Fingers, with very limited resources and infrastructure.

Members of ‘Small size’ UK, the European network for the diffusion of performing arts for early childhood, also saw Newry as a compact city where the entire community could get involved – which is exactly what happened during the planning of the event.

The festival, which saw shows open to the public in venues right across Newry, marked the grand finale of the work that has been developed in 15 countries throughout Europe during the ‘Small size, big citizen’ project for more than five years.

The local community showed up in their droves to attend many of the 40 events held throughout the city over the 4 days, including performances from a host of European groups as well as workshops, conferences, round tables, exhibitions and book launches.

Grainne Powell, Chief Executive of Sticky Fingers said the project had been “a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase what we can do in Newry and indeed in a region such as Northern Ireland to make the arts accessible to children. This is both to help aid children’s development as well as using the arts as a way towards a better society by engaging children at an early age.”

With senior figures from arts and political spheres in attendance at the festival and the international Symposium, “The Children’s Cultural Citizenship,” Grainne hopes the city has created a legacy of further investment in the arts locally and that delegates witnessed how “somewhere like Newry can achieve when people come together.”

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said the organisation was pleased to be able to lend significant financial support to Sticky Fingers in bringing the Small size, big festival to Newry and said the event had provided valuable “networking and learning opportunities for arts practitioners and companies here to meet with their European counterparts and share new ideas to shape the future of arts for early childhood. It is an exciting time for children’s arts as ever more credence is given to its positive impact on the development of a child’s personality and learning.”

The festival culminated in the spectacular ‘Moondance’ which took place at Narrow Water Castle on Sunday night.  Tiny revellers were thrilled and delighted by the magical experience which showed the creatures that live in the Mournes coming to life to play and dance with the moon.

The original musical and animated performance featured lights, magic and Irish mythology as well as a cast of giant dragons, part of a new collection of the famous Sticky Fingers dragons created by artist Francis Morgan.

The fabulous Moondance experience topped off a wonderful few days of arts and culture which will no doubt replay in the imaginations of the many children who were treated to such unique displays and performances in their home town of Newry.