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July 2-9th was an incredible week, if you were with us, thank you for helping make On The Edge, the ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering for 2016 such a success. The festival was testimony to the fact that bringing people together for the purpose of theatre for young audiences can be a very special thing.

On The Edge took place in Birmingham (the UK’s 2nd largest city), at Birmingham Repertory Theatre and at the City University as well as a number of other venues across the city. It included; 16 productions, 9 works in progress presentations, 91 performances to over 9,500 audience members, 56 symposium events with 100 speakers. It was attended by 400 delegates from 51 countries including 160 artists from 25 companies.

Something profound happens when you are able to immerse yourself in a week’s worth of artistic experiences which acknowledge and value the position of children and young people. The impact of the work and sense of community the festival created was perhaps more heightened because of recent events in the UK surrounding BREXIT and the negative, divisive campaign which may now see the UK leaving the European Union. This is something that has shocked and appalled arts communities across the UK and also Ireland and we now grapple with whatever this new reality means.

The loss of funding streams is potentially damaging for arts and culture in particular, but it is the idea that our collective identity as outward looking, diverse and international has been diminished which hurts the most. As well as the prospect of real, physical borders.

Festivals not only act as a platform to showcase great work which ignites the senses, but they also also bring people together over shared values. This never felt more important the week of the aptly named; On The Edge.

This was the first time that an ASSITEJ Festival has taken place in either Ireland or the UK and the first time an ASSITEJ Artistic Gathering has been the rationale for a special, one-off event. Festivals such as Kijimuna (Japan) Schaxpìr (Austria) and Augenblick-mal (Germany) have all hosted the ASSITEJ Gathering as part of a festival which is already happening.

On The Edge brought TYA UK and TYA Ireland together for something new and many many people generously contributed to the festival’s planning, development and delivery. It became a collectively owned celebration of good work and shared values. The festival and symposium did that thing of creating the conditions for meaningful discussion and international exchange, which is at the heart of ASSITEJ.

Our festival, like many others, bought people together to witness what someone else has described as ‘the best of humanity’. However, like Facebook which acts like a mirror for all our own beliefs and values (also pointed out by someone else) it is a welcome cocoon but now we have to gather strength and face the ongoing challenges presented by the outside world.

Nina Hajiyianni

Chair of TYA UK

Artistic Director ATT

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