Yes, you read that correctly – the Edinburgh Children’s Festival returns to the city for 2021, and we are delighted! The wonderful team at Imaginate have worked incredibly hard to bring us a very Covid-compliant festival this year, consisting of a digital programme, as well as mostly outdoor experiences at different venues around Edinburgh. We were lucky enough to be invited to attend the ‘Family Encounters’ part of the programme at the Botanics. 

Quite frankly, a visit to the Botanics will never be the same again – these unique and innovative performances just slotted into the beauty of the Botanics so seamlessly, making it all so much more magical! We really don’t want to spoil any surprises so won’t say too much, but we managed to follow our usual walking route, and stumbled into all sorts of exciting and wonderfully weird things.

Firstly, ‘Peekaboo Poncho,’ which is aimed at babies and toddlers, made the perfect introduction to the festival for our little girl. So quirky and unexpected, the combination of visuals and sounds made the audience laugh, as well as keeping so many little ones focused for the full eight minutes! Magic indeed!

‘Small Small Rainbows,’ had to be the highlight of our day. Again we don’t want to say too much but it really is something all little ones need to experience. The Children’s Festival must be the only place in the World to hear a special story from a watering can?! We enjoyed it so much that we ended up coming back for different stories multiple times. 

As we continued to wander around the gorgeous pathways of the gardens in the sun, our little girl suddenly gasped as she spotted something in the trees. She couldn’t believe it when it turned out it was the performance, ‘The Good, The Bad and The Poultry,’ which brought back so many nostalgic memories of the Edinburgh Fringe – a bit of old fashioned comedy!

The other performances we were lucky to experience (The Unicorn, Little by Little Field, and The Swings) made for perfect ‘pit stops’ in the day. They were set up in such a way that the family could enjoy lunch or a wee treat while watching the shows. They saved our day by preventing several toddler tantrums(!) and instead, our little girl happily sat and enjoyed the spectacles with us, mesmerised by the performers.

What is extra special about the Festival this year are the digital shows – an example of how performers have brilliantly adapted and embraced the unique situation that the World is in. It really proves that nothing can get in the way of celebrating the arts and creativity! We particularly recommend the shows, ‘Removed,’ and, ‘The Super Special Disability Roadshow,’ which can be watched any time during the run of the festival once you have booked a family ticket online.

Facilities & Safety Provisions

With the event taking place at the Botanics, all of their facilities were available to use as usual, including the different food and drink options. With the added spectacles of the festival, it was so lovely to see the Botanics busy with very happy families!

In terms of Covid safety, the team did a fantastic job of keeping everyone safe without it overtaking the experience. Each area was well managed with friendly staff members, and the use of orange discs ensured physical distancing at each performance. We really liked that queuing wasn’t an issue, as the set up meant people organically flowed from show to show. Some events did have a very small capacity – these being the shows requiring booking a slot in advance on the day. 

Top Tips

  1. There are a few performances as part of the Family Encounters that require booking on site on the day. These were booked up very quickly, so we would recommend having a quick glance over the programme before you arrive, and booking an earlier entry time slot if one of those shows are on your itinerary. 
  2. There is no need to save a copy of the programme information from home, as there are very helpful staff members at each entrance who have QR codes for maps, as well as hard copies of the festival information, with times and brief descriptions. 
  3. Although our coats did the job, we were jealous of all the families who had packed a handy picnic blanket to sit on! Therefore, we’d recommend bringing something to sit on as you will be sitting/crouching on the grass.

Ticket Information

Family Encounters at the Botanics is running again on the weekend of 5th and 6th of June 2021 from 10:00am-5:00pm, with free tickets still available on both days (at time of writing!). Family Encounters across Edinburgh, including the brilliant show, ‘Lovey and Boy,’ a celebration of the Caribbean Carnival, are also still available to book. 

All information, for both the digital festival and in person events, is available at imaginate.org.uk and @edchildrensfest over on Instagram. The full festival programme includes more detailed descriptions of each performance, as well as age guides and a time slots.

We were invited to the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival for the purposes of this review – but all thoughts, words and images are our own. A big thank you to the team for organising entry.

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