A pinch and a punch, it's the fest of the month
Mayfest celebrates its 15th birthday this year when it opens on May 1. The organisers claim that up to 1.5 million people have attended Glasgow's annual cultural jamboree since 1983 and that more than 12,000 artists have taken part.
"Since it began in 1983, Mayfest has been strongly committed to education and social work projects," says Yvonne Gillespie, who is Mayfest's touring manager and education officer. "We meet regularly with advisers from both departments to discuss how best to involve schools and community groups in the programme and how to make events more accessible in general."
One major hurdle here is the festival's timing (May 1-24), which coincides with the cram-and-exam regime dominating the lives of senior pupils at that time of the year. The fact that theatre and gallery expeditions are not top of the educational agenda during May is a source of frustration to both schools and organisers. But Mayfest is, well, May, and unless one or other shifts dates, this clash of priorities won't disappear.
Nevertheless, Mayfest's press officer, Claire Maitland, says that the festival does aim to include young people and schools. "Mayfest is often the first time Glasgow pupils will attend a theatre outside panto time. We do want to turn them into regular theatre-goers and gallery visitors or, as the Americans say, 'event attenders'," she insists.
"It's like the Healthy Glasgow campaign - it's just a matter of getting out and doing it. We want to get art to them without patronising and we want them to be pro-active."
Among the pro-active strategies is the Mayfest Art Project which is marking 100 years of trade unions in Scotland - the STUC has been celebrating its centenary this week. The theme "Glasgow: 100 Years of Change" has drawn hundreds of entries from primary, secondary and special needs schools across the city with prize money from Pounds 25 to Pounds 200. The Lord Provost will award prizes on Sunday May 4, following the annual May Day Parade which leaves George Square at noon. Winning entries will be exhibited in the Gallery of Modern Art for the rest of the festival.
The parade will also feature sculptures, banners and costumes designed and made by schools and community groups in association with the community arts organisation Fablevision, and the Irish arts group Macnas. Macnas is appearing at the King's Theatre with Balor, a musical celebration of Celtic mythology (May 6-10).
Mayfest has also scheduled cheap school matinees for two selected shows: A Greater Tomorrow at the King's Theatre (May 1) and Song at Sunset at the Citizens' (May 22). A Greater Tomorrow is playwright Hector MacMillan's tribute to the Scots who fought and died with the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War, while Song at Sunset is Niall Buggy's enactment of the life and times of Irish playwright Sean O'Casey. School tickets for Pounds 1 each, are still available from the Mayfest office on 0141 552 8444.
Free tickets are also available to Glasgow schools for Mull Theatre's city-wide touring production of Not About Heroes, which examines the lives of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, though some performances are already sold out.
Topping the bill at the King's Theatre alongside Macnas is Slava Polunin's Snowshow, which claims to "put the id back in stupid" and has received rave reviews wherever it has appeared.
Exhibitions include Roman Signer's and David Shrigley's at the CCA in Sauchiehall Street (both May 3-June 3), Signer being noted for his dynamic, not to say explosive, photographs and videos.
Communicado is presenting Tales of the Arabian Nights at the Citizens' (May 6-10), while traditional storytellers like Scottish traveller Stanley Robertson and Trinidadian Grace Hallworth weave their tales in the Citizens' Stalls Studio.
Last, but definitely on the unmissable list, will be Les Ballets Africains (the 40-strong national dance company of the Republic of Guinea) with Heritage at the King's (May 19-24). This show traces the legendary history of the Balafon, precursor of the modern-day xylophone, and of the drum. Suitable for all ages, but there is semi-nudity in some scenes.