Aislinn Ó hEocha, Executive Artistic Director of Baboró International Arts Festival for Children, introduces about the 25th Baboró bash, which takes place in Galway from 4th -17th October.

I'm so looking forward to welcoming audiences of children back to help us celebrate Baboró’s 25th annual festival. Baboró is all about encouraging as many children as possible to have transformative creative arts experiences and we’ve all missed that opportunity to share magical collective moments in the past 18 months.

Baboró celebrates its 25th festival this year. It's remarkable to think that a quarter of a century ago a group of Galwegians planted a flag in the sand in the West to say that children's right to a rich creative life is so important to us that we will dedicate an international festival exclusively to them. And the festival has flourished and grown ever since, bringing world class Irish and international work for children to every corner of Galway city and county.

'One of my favourite moments of the annual festival is seeing school groups walking
hand in hand through Galway going to a theatre, many for the first time...'

There’s no denying that the past year and a half have been incredibly challenging but this period has also emphasised how important stories and art are in all our lives and we’re now ready to embrace the festival experience in person again. Children have been incredibly resilient and adaptable to the situation forced upon them by the global pandemic. They have missed so much - you’re only ever five or eight years old once! Baboró is a chance for children to be transported into another world by theatre, dance, stories, music and art and to celebrate their own creative expression.

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Of course, this year's festival is somewhat curtailed by the current restrictions, but we are determined to meet as many children as possible, with their families and teachers, whilst keeping safety a priority. We have curated a programme of in person shows and exhibitions in Galway venues and galleries, asked Little John Nee to perform around the county in a Festival in a Van, and commissioned Moonfish Theatre to create a radio drama to delight little ears and fire imaginations. We also have an exciting digital programme that can be accessed from anywhere in the country via the Baboró website.

Children attending a Galway Community Circus session in 2020

The arts sector has been severely affected during the past 18 months. We have been mindful of supporting artists and creatives as much as possible during this time. We have worked with four artists in residence and have commissioned 7 new pieces of work for children as part of this year’s festival. We’ve been blown away by Irish artists – by their brilliant ideas, innovative approaches to making work and sheer determination to make beautiful art, despite all of the challenges thrown their way. While we look forward to welcoming international artists back to the festival next year, this period has highlighted to us just what incredible talent is right here on our doorstep.

Aislinn O hEocha with Aobhlin Flynn (age 9) and Micheal Barcelo (age 12)
flying the flag for Baboro at 25 (Pic: Andrew Downes)

One of my favourite moments of the annual festival is seeing school groups walking hand in hand through Galway going to a theatre, many for the first time, bubbling with excitement at what lies ahead. I will cherish that sight with glee this year after such a long hiatus. And look forward to Baboró continuing to flourish in its next 25 years.

Baboró International Arts Festival for Children takes place in Galway from 4th -17th October 2021 - find out more here.