Hasselt’s performance festival for children is not what you expect

Summary

The week-long Krokusfestival is celebrating 20 years with a long list of activities for children – and a birthday cake

For all ages

Over the past 20 years, Hasselt’s Krokusfestival has established a reputation as the premier arts festival for young audiences in Flanders, attracting well over 10,000 visitors last year. For the 20th anniversary this spring, the week-long festival is celebrating with special commemorative activities and, of course, a birthday cake.

The festival opens on Friday night with an original retelling of the story of Helen of Troy, based on Homer and Euripides but with actors, puppets, video screens and live music. Theatre Froe Froe, from Antwerp, is an award-winning company that specialises in “theatre as rock-n-roll for young and old” and has been a long-standing festival favourite.

The programme features dozens of performances geared at children as young as two, ranging from theatre to dance and music, but often with an interdisciplinary and interactive component. Each listing includes the age group of the intended audience, and many are geared at all ages. Families are encouraged to attend and participate together.

The hallmark of the festival is its original and surprising content: a wordless dialogue between a juggler and a drummer; an acrobatic dance tour through the open spaces of the city; a pop-up soup restaurant for toddlers; an interactive make-believe session about fear and death. You’ll see things that you might not expect to find at a children’s festival.

Leave a note

That’s because Krokusfestival isn’t just a platform for children’s entertainment but an on-going project aimed at encouraging new talent and developing artistic strategies for working with children. Throughout the year, the festival organises master classes for local and international artists and commissions original works that are presented during the festival.

The festival is part of the Push project, along with theatre and dance companies from Scotland, Ireland, Denmark and Norway. The participating artists are investigating three themes in relation to arts programming for children: gender/identity, migration/borders, and safety/protection. Eilidh MacAskill of Scotland will present the results of the Push Lab on Gender and lead a master class for other artists.

A new addition to the festival this year, as part of the anniversary celebrations, is the Museum of Us. Children are invited to bring a special object, something that has a story attached to it, and leave it with a note explaining why it’s important to them. The objects will be displayed in the museum during the festival and returned to their owners afterwards.

There are free activities happening alongside the programme, too, including a family of life-size giraffes wandering through the city centre; a giant that you help build, and then make dance; an open creative lab with challenges and games; and a world made out of clay that everyone can help shape.

The festival takes place all over Hasselt, with its headquarters and ticket office at the city’s Cultural Centre. Some performances require ticket purchase, while others are free.

24 February to 2 March, across Hasselt

Photo courtesy Krokusfestival

More krokus holiday fun

If you can’t make it to the Krokusfestival, don’t fret. Flanders has plenty on offer when it comes to celebrating the spring holidays.

Youth Film Festival
The best international films for children will be screened in Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent and Kortrijk. Workshops in filmmaking, stunt work and special effects offered, too. Until 5 March, across Flanders

Spinrag
This children’s arts festival in Kortrijk includes theatre, dance, storytelling, films and creative workshops for kids aged three and up. 24 February to 5 March, across Kortrijk 

Underground Treasure Hunt
Little Charles V has lost the secret code to his treasure chest and needs your help! Kids get a backpack with tools to help them solve the puzzle. Suitable for ages five to eight. Reservations required. 25 February to 5 March; 7 Paleizenplein, Brussels; €4