“Your time may be limited, but your imagination is not” Anon

This year the Imaginate Festival, Scotland’s international festival of performing arts for children and young people, celebrated its twenty-fifth birthday. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the festival, it is a fantastic chance to catch some of the best hand-picked international work for children at multiple venues across Edinburgh.
We Filskit ladies made the long journey up to the Scottish capital to see what cultural delights were on offer this year – and we weren’t disappointed. Imaginate is renowned for bringing over work from diverse locations across the globe and this always means there are some really interesting (and sometimes quite eccentric) pieces along the way. One quite unexpected gen was the Norwegian one-woman piece, If Only Rosa Could Do Magic. Greeted by a Princess wearing a clown nose and offensively pink “princess” wear , we were concerned that this would be one of those cringe-worthy shows where you watch an adult pretending to be a child. But within minutes Katja Brita Lindeberg had won us all over. With real bravery she delved into the audience getting them to help unknot her hair, provide some ear wax and, at one point, even fart in a container. It was great physical comedy with a bittersweet under taste and showed that even princesses don’t have it all.

One of the main reasons we travelled up to the festival this year was to catch TPO’s Saltbush. Since we’ve been using our new interactive projection software, people have quoted the dance company as the ‘go to’ company for this. It was interesting to see, despite using similar software, how different the work can be. As dancers, they covered the floor with great agility, however we missed the emotional engagement and this may be partly due to the performers’ faces often being in shadow – and with the floor projection there is a lot of looking down at the ground. However the singing and Aboriginal soundtrack were both beautiful – it throws up the issue of how technology can sometimes feel quite separate to the performance. In some cases, do you need it there in the first place?

Another piece which featured projection, but in a completely different way, was A True Tall Tale from Denmark. This came courtesy of old school overhead projectors where bubbles and foliage created gorgeous scenes on a giant canopy above us. But along with the fine storytelling, the show was made especially memorable as each audience member could lie back in their own hammock for the entirety of the performance. This was such a great novelty and created a gorgeously lulled environment that kept children (and adults) very happy throughout.

Other delights included the fantastically quirky Manxmouse from Holland and The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer, all the way from Australia. The latter blended endearing puppetry with cartoon-like animation and proved to be a very moving tale (we can confirm that tissues were used by several in the audience).

For delegates at Imaginate there are extra events to sweeten the package – all culminating in a fantastic ceilidh on the Saturday night. After busting out our dancing shoes us Filskit ladies are back home (nursing the odd ceilidh-induced bruise) but well and truly inspired after another great festival. Already looking forward to the next one…

Next year’s Imaginate Festival will run from 11-18 May 2015. Photo by Havard L Johansen.