The Scottish International Children’s Festival

May 29th 1990: The first ever Scottish International Children’s Festival opens its doors (well, tent flaps) in Edinburgh’s Inverleith park! A village of white tents hosted a bounty of treasures, from world-class puppeteers to gritty, coming-of-age dramas. Records show that some 20,476 children and their accompanying adults watched 75 performances of 12 main-stage shows, with theatre companies travelling from Zimbabwe, Canada and the Netherlands.

As founder Duncan Low explains in the video below, he was inspired by a visit to the Vancouver International Children’s Festival – then the largest of its kind. When he returned to Edinburgh, he registered the Scottish International Children’s Festival as a business in January 1989. It took a year and a half, and lots of talented people, to bring to life his vision for a Scottish festival that celebrates the very best performing arts for children and young people.

Festival founder Duncan Low shares his memories

Did you know… ?

  • HRH Princess Margaret attended the gala performance, but there’s a rumour that she fell asleep in the front row…
  • There were dozens of free, artist-run workshops in addition to the main-stage shows. These turned out to be far too popular! One artist even remembers needing a loud-speaker to finish his session.
  • Local coach companies offered special discounts to help groups from outside central Edinburgh afford to visit the festival. Read about how our access initiatives have grown by jumping to 2014.

The critics’ verdict:

“Lots of smiling children made lots of noise.” (Johanna, age 12).

“Wherever I walk I can hear either music making or people playing games. The festival isn’t just fun it teaches you everything.” (Anna-Louise, age 11).

“Night Light was great fun and might even help mums and dads lose their fear of monsters!” (Lindsay, age 9).

 “There are a few problems to sort out for next year but let’s hope we have another festival – thank you!” (Duncan, age 9).

The Festival on Inverleith Park
Clown Jewels
1990 Gala Programme
Creative Arts Team - The Divider
Dundee Rep Dance Company - The Magic Doors
Princess Margaret at the Festival
The Festival News - a one-off publication reporting from the 1990 Festival
Princess Margaret, Duncan Low and local school child Claire Dickie
Theatre de la Guimbarde - Lazarillo, this year's gala performance