Grug and the Rainbow from Australia's Windmill Theatre is among the offerings at the 40th annual Vancouver International Children's Festival. Photo by Shane Reid
Grug and the Rainbow from Australia's Windmill Theatre is among the offerings at the 40th annual Vancouver International Children's Festival. Photo by Shane Reid

You don’t have to dig very far to realize the Vancouver International Children’s Festival team knows exactly who they are doing it for. No better example are the photos of the VICF staff and board as children.

“We’re very serious and absolute professionals when it comes to putting on the festival, but it reminds us who we are doing this for, and we need to have some fun while doing it,” says VICF artistic and executive director Katharine Carol.

Celebrating its 40th year, the Vancouver International Children’s Festival returns to Granville Island with an impressive 93 shows over its seven days.

Featuring thirteen artists from as far away as Mexico and Australia, this year’s festival speaks to the festival’s commitment to bring the world’s best children’s performers to the young, and the young at heart, in Vancouver.

“The festival is an opportunity for us to share some of the outstanding work from around the world,” says Carol, who spends some of her time on the off-season touring other festivals on the lookout for new and exciting acts.

This year, Carol is particularly excited about two shows, one from Down Under and another from a little closer to home.

“For the real little ones – ages three to seven – is Grug and the Rainbow from Australia’s Windmill Theatre who do some amazing work,” says Carol.

Based on the children’s story book, the show (in the video above) is a combination of live action and puppetry, as the imaginary woodland creature known as Grug sets out on an adventure to capture a rainbow which seems always just beyond his grasp.

For the slightly older set, it is A Heart in Winter (Le coeur en hiver) from Quebec’s Théâtre de l’Oeil. Based on the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, it too uses a combination of puppets and live action to tell the epic journey of the young Gerda in search of her missing friend.

“It is an absolutely stunning piece of work,” says Carol.

For any arts organization, forty years is a significant achievement. For Carol, it has been the loyalty of its audiences who keep the festival going.

“It is commitment by parents, schools and teachers with a belief arts for children is important, who keep coming out to have a wonderful time,” she says.

Regenerating its audiences every five years or so with new parents bringing their children, Carol has also noticed the festival has reached a point where children who grew up attending are now returning with their own children.

“Millennial parents are eager to share the festival with their kids and are enjoying the nostalgia of revisiting the experience again,” she says.

The Vancouver International Children’s Festival returns to Granville Island from May 29 – June 4. Visit http://childrensfestival.ca for tickets and information.

(A personal note from the author: this interview was readied for publication days before the horrific events in Manchester, England over the weekend. The irony is not lost as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Vancouver International Children’s Festival while children are among the dead and injured in this barbaric act of terrorism. My heart is with those who lost loved ones, the injured and the people of Manchester.)