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Curtain raiser on a world stage

The going is tough for children's theatre with a fight for credibility and for funds. But in spite of the odds, the Scottish International Children's Festival, now in its sixth year, has been a success story for Duncan Lowe, the festival's founder director.

This year Tony Reekie, formerly director of Visible Fictions, one of Scotland's leading children's theatre companies, is in charge. "Some of the best productions I have ever seen were made for children's audiences," Mr Reekie says.

A one-year course in technical theatre management at Telford College in Edinburgh launched him into a career in arts management. Subsequent career moves were governed "by accident". The young Reekie's parents had taken him to see productions such as 7:84's Cheviot the Stag and the Black, Black Oil. His brother Iain studied drama and is currently artistic director of 7:84.

"The rest of the world has a great history of children's theatre. The standards are very high indeed," he says. Such success comes from "people putting in a lot of time and effort into creating absolutely stunning productions".

Scotland, however, has had a different experience. "Historically it is fairly bleak," Mr Reekie, now aged 31, says. He recalls the annual Christmas panto and being taken to "something like a Shakespeare play that would improve your mind or which had a message that was good for you".

Visible Fictions itself, which brings The Adventures of Pinocchio to this year's festival, delivers "theatre in its rounded sense, in its attention to script, performances and design," he says. "It steers clear of issue-based work."

In all there will be 20 companies performing in "theatre" tents. He has introduced a "Happy Tent" with a rolling programme of performances. Specialist "studios" will house workshops in music, dance, storytelling and theatre and a "Media Education" tent will allow visitors to produce their own radio programme.

"If it only ever just comes down to money you will always be struggling, " he says. "What you need to do is to take that artistic leap to achieve more. "

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