Children to be the critics at Norfolk and Norwich Festival

Forget the professional arts critics, it will be the children's choice that matters at this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

Year Seven students from City Academy Norwich will deliver their considered views about the festival programme at a special awards ceremony at the end of the two-week event.

The Evening News-sponsored Children's Choice Awards Ceremony, which will be held on May 21, is the inspired idea of Mammalian Diving Reflex, which organised children to do haircuts at last year's festival.

The Toronto-based research and performance art company is returning to the festival this year to run the awards event, which has been held at festivals around the world.

The initiative has been carried out a number of times and started in Toronto with a small art show.

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Darren O'Donnell, artistic director, said: 'We spent a day checking out the stuff. We then spent about an hour deliberating and we spent the week before creating this award.'

He said that he had been to second-hand shops to buy materials so the children could make the awards.

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'It has expanded really rapidly.'

It has been done in Melbourne and Brisbane. It is also going to be done at festivals in Cork and Brussels this year.

Mr O'Donnell added: 'It works really well at festivals because there is a collection of things all happening. Festivals are always looking for interesting ways to reach out and to develop their audiences.

'The first thing we do is talk about what they are interested in and what they would like to evaluate. They come up with the review categories.

'We want them to understand they are not just the jury. They are participating in this thing. They are an art project themselves.'

He said that they were given a form similar to that used by the Canada Council – the equivalent of our Arts Council.

'It is a simple, but comprehensive form.'

He said that he found the children really did rise to the occasion.

'When young people are given opportunities to participate and reach higher than they are normally expected to reach, they step up and appreciate the work. Often the more strange the work is, the more the kids appreciate it.

'We find they do award things that we would expect them to.'

He said that the show worked best with children aged between 10 and 12 years old.

Mammalian Diving Relex, The Children's Choice Awards Ceremony will be held at the Norwich Playhouse on May 21 at 3.30pm. The event is free but tickets must be booked in advance.

• NNF11 runs from May 6 to 21. You can book online at, by phone on 01603 766400 or at the Norwich Theatre Royal box office

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