The Galle Literary Festival has grabbed the spotlight ever since it was launched five years ago and gone from strength to strength attracting an international audience to the country. Now its founder Geoffrey Dobbs has taken on a fresh challenge – organising a Galle Children’s Festival. Set to take place on October 22 and 23, the Children’s Festival will allow students to explore not only a world of books but the arts in many forms.
“We thought perhaps it would be a good idea to have a festival exclusively for children which would not be a literary festival but one that covers art, music, drama, sport and again would be completely free for local schools,” shares Geoffrey. “What we’re going to do is a festival for schools in the Southern Province.” They hope to have about 1000 schoolchildren participating, he says. “We hope the festival sparks an interest in drama, art, literature and music in children.”
Workshops will be held in photography, creative writing, art, drum-making and drumming, puppetry, Tamil folk dancing, book illustration, screen printing, disc jockeying and drama. Side by side will be competitions in art, visual art, sand sculpting and even an interschool debate tournament.
Designed to be both fun and educative, the many sessions and activities will hopefully help to bring out the best in the children, he says. The children aged between 8 to 16 years, will be selected by the Ministry of Education and teachers to take part in the festival.
So why did the man responsible for the successful Galle Literary Festival decide to organise the Galle Children’s Festival? “I think it’s rewarding to work with children,” he says. “The literary festival is also very successful but it’s a very different sort of festival. Yes, it is educational but it’s quite grown up. I think the children’s festival is a lot more educational and hopefully we’ll be able to interact with other children’s festivals across the world.”
Packing workshops, competitions, exhibitions, a cultural heritage walk, screening of short-films by the participants, a book fair and more, over a span of only two days; Geoffrey admits the programme is ambitious. To ensure smooth running, he says “We have six different locations and the children will be taken in turns to where these workshops are going on” adding, “we hope it won’t be too chaotic.”
Geoffrey says this may be the first time a children’s festival has been organised in Sri Lanka on such a large scale. If it is successful, they hope to make it an annual event and take it to other parts of the country as well. “So it’s experimental and we don’t know how it will pan out. We will learn a lot from this festival so next year it might take a longer period of time. We might include other things. It’s very much an experiment.”
The organisers have received much support from the Department of Education and sponsorship by the British Council has been of great help. With the help of all those assisting the festival organisers, Geoffrey’s hope is that the festival will be truly interactive with children discovering their talents and true calling.