7th July 2000 at 01:00
This week is rich in cultural diversity and international fusion, proof that travel broadens the mind. For the four early 20th-century artists known as the Scottish Colourists, the French connection was crucial to their art. Born in or near Edinburgh, the artists Peploe, Fergusson, Hunter and Cadell (usually referred to by their surnames alone) were not a formal artistic group, but all four were influenced by the colourful canvasses of the French Cubists and Fauves.

Beginning with a room of small still lifes and landscapes, the Royal Academy of Arts's Scottish Colourists 1900-30 exhibition (until September 24) soon erupts into a blaze of colour. Highlights include Cadell's impressionistic scenes of genteel society, which culminate in a series of bold portraits of women in black hats; Hunter's remixes of French avant-garde painting, which clearly show the influence of Cezanne and Van Gogh; and Peploe's fresh, Matisse-style still lifes.

But most striking of all is Ferguson's "Les Eus" (the healthy ones), a huge canvas crammed with prancing nudes, bursting with exuberant life. A visual version of the Rite of Spring, it is slightly naive and ridiculous, but represents a welcome blast of modernity into the British art scene at the start of the 20th century. The Royal Academy hosts public lectures and offers a free guide for 14 to 18-year-olds. Details: 020 7300 8000.

Equally colourful is the ArtWorks permanent exhibition at The Lowry, Salford, which combines hi-tech wizardry with creative playfulness. Created by Reich+Petch, a Canadian design team, the exhibits are bright and amazingly child-friendly. Visitors are encouraged to finger-paint with light and sound, and to handle some of the exhibits. Especially good fun are the Kid's Crazy Room and the padded cell. Schools bookings: 0161 876 2003.

A crop of midsummer award winners includes James Wood of St Bede's school, Redhill, Surrey, and Diana Mortlock of Ashby Hill Top primary, Leicestershire, who won Classic FM Music Teachers of the Year awards, and artist Victoria Russell, who won this year's BP Portrait Award with "Two Women in White".

The National Portrait Gallery's Travel Award - an annual prize which allows a young artist to expand his or her horizons - was won by Si Sapsford, who plans to travel to Iceland to paint lifeboat crews. Russell and Sapsford's paintings, together with other contestants' work, which brilliantly reflects the many faces of today's Britain, can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery (until October 1). Details: 020 7306 0055.

International contacts are also evident in The Place's Step 2 (SaburoTeshigawara Education Project), an ambitious dance event involving about 30 young British and Finnish dancers - none of whom had any previous training - under the inspiring guidance of Japanese dance guru Teshigawara.

Drawing on 16 to 24-year-olds from London's East End and further afield (one visually impaired woman commutes from York), the project culminates in the production of Flower Eyes, a piece that owes much to the untrained performers' hard work and commitment. As Teshigawara says: "Unlike technically proficient dancers, who rely only on their skills, young people have the ability to discover something new."

Flower Eyes is at Sadler's Wells from July 20 to 22, and visits Helsinki from August 4 to 5. Box office: 020 7863 8000.

This weekend sees the culmination of six days of Music for Youth, the 30th national festival which - sponsored by, among others, The TES - involves 9,000 young musicians performing every kind of music, including their own compositions, in Europe's biggest youth music fest. London's South Bank is echoing with every conceivable sound (from full symphony orchestras to hand-bell ringers, steel bands to gospel choirs, marching bands to primary percussionists) from all parts of Britain. In November, 30 of the best will perform at the Music for Youth Schools Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Details: 020 8870 9624.

In Birmingham, Fast Forward, the city's year-long celebration of the arts, has already attracted audiences in excess of 40,000, and now begins its midsummer festival (until July 16). Called SWAP (Shared World Arts Programme), it features several dance, music, drama and writing events that celebrate the cultural diversity and ethnic mix of the area. Five youth arts groups are developing literacy projects, and watch out for music - from bhangra to jazz, including Mambo Taxi, a Latin jazz sensation (July 9). Details of SWAP: 0121 444 3848; While the cities pound out the music, Hijink Theatre continues its nationwide tour of smaller towns with Out of Fear, a powerful 50-minute play about bullying. In it, three girls - Gemma, Fay and Rachel - work together in a lush garden centre, but fall out as Rachel bullies Gemma so she can befriend Fay. Director Gaynor Lougher says: "While we don't claim that the play has all the answers, we hope audiences will be able to empathise with its characters."

Although Hijink focuses on adults with learning disabilities, its work - which tours every year in spring and summer - may be of interest to all teachers. Resource packs available. Tour details: 029 20 300 331.

Aleks Sierz

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