Glasgow hosts a great gathering of small wonders; Arts in Scotland;Theatre

23rd May 1997 at 01:00
Glasgow International Children's Festival, Tramway, May 26-31

You always know when you've got a good idea, because everybody copies it. The thought that primary schools might like to go to the theatre in June as well as December was a marketing notion Cumbernauld dreamed up nine years ago, with such success that it was taken up in theatre after theatre until it became what it is now - a nationwide summer activity, supported by a national organisation.

Now the Scottish International Children's Festival committee trawls the world of children's art and entertainment, signing up likely groups and offering them to organisers of children's festivals around Scotland. The range of choice allows every venue to shape its own profile, whether it is the macro Edinburgh International Children's Festival, finishing this weekend, or the more micro Cumbernauld Just Kidding festival (May 25 - June 6).

Next week's Glasgow International Children's Festival, for example, is the only taker for Stepping Stones, a new play from the Leeds-based Interplay company, which specialises in work for mixed mainstream and disability groups. As the title hints, the story is about a precarious journey towards individual independence. Each stage is marked with a haiku, the Japanese verse form that shelters meaning in its simplicity - very useful for a company working across the ability range.

A performance ticket for the play is a "sweetie" for the teachers and practitioners attending the Scottish Arts Council "Bridgebuilders" conference during the festival. Part of the SAC rolling programme of teacherartist colloquies, this one is given over to the challenge of using the arts in special needs education, and features workshops, speakers and presentations.

The workshops will be for those who can get to the Tramway before 4pm, while the school parties are there. No doubt there will be queues to join the Gamelan orchestra, the ancient percussion instruments which are to Indonesia what steel drums are to the West Indies. Glasgow is the proud, if slightly uncertain, possessor of a full set, thought to be one of only two in Britain.

Others may prefer to walk in the Musical Garden, where the planks of a bridge play a tune when stepped on in the right sequence. This is part of Giant Productions' installation, where children are encouraged to make music by turning handles, rolling balls, and other "natural" activities.

Live music is promised for those who can slip their shoes off and join in the persuasive Maggie Singleton's Dance Workshops. "Suitable for four years and upwards" is her promise, and the same starting age is given for the Storytelling Workshops, brought back by the city's libraries department, after their success last year.

Teachers who only go to the conference will have to miss the other two performances, both of which have been at Edinburgh's ICF. The reputedly hilarious Radio-Men (Beumer amp; Drost) lays bare the daily life of the people who live inside your radio, and have to make all the sounds that come from it. This Dutch company loses little or nothing in translation.

Another crowd-puller will be Henry and the Seahorse, by the Marieh?nen Theatre Company, "especially for all who ever thought that their parents didn't understand them". Small wonder schools have been booking heavily.

Brian Hayward Tickets for all performances pound;2.50, tel: 0141 287 5511. Information about school days events: tel: 0141 287 5850.

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