Here, on the flagstones of the oldest city built by the Croats, the cultural history of Croatia and Europe was built over centuries. The paintings of Juraj Čulinović, the multidisciplinary geniuses of Antun and Faust Vrančić, the architectural mastery of Juraj of Dalmatia, the author of the St. James cathedral’s stone poetry just to mention the most distinguished give Šibenik a safe anchorage in the cultural sea of Croatia and Europe. Šibenik has always had leanings towards music, song and the performing arts.
The theatre tradition in Šibenik started 130 years ago, on January 29, 1870, when the theatre building was inaugurated. It makes the theatre, after the one in the town of Hvar on the island of the same name, the oldest theatre in Croatia. That’s where the Croatian language was spoken and defended from those who wanted not only to conquer but to subjugate Šibenik and Dalmatia. Nevertheless, the most distinctive trait of the cultural scene in Šibenik, and its trademark of a kind, is the International Children’s Festival — internationally recognised Croatian cultural event, unique in the world for four decades. The first festival was held in 1958, the result of the initiative and efforts of several children arts enthusiasts, but it quickly turned into a big, complex, internationally important festival and stage mechanism, founded on three elements — children, the festival and the city. It is certainly a multidisciplinary multimedial cultural event, which not only displays but invites participation actively. It is a review of the best works for children as well as of the best works by children. The basic cultural and pedagogical justification of the festival is that it promotes aesthetical education of children and young adults, and develops all artistic forms of children’s creativity. The festival not only initiates, but also stimulates many ideas in art forms for children and by children: dramatic and music arts, puppetry, film, literature and visual arts.
The festival has been accomplishing this through three aspects: through an annual review of carefully selected Croatian and foreign performing companies (works for children) through workshops as a form of involving children in the act of creation (works by children and education) through organising symposiums on creativity and art, and on other topics important for the aesthetic education of children (the scientific aspect) During the forty years, the best drama companies from Croatia and abroad succeded each other on the open-air stage in front of the old City Hall and in the theatre, presenting the best plays imagined by writers, shaped by directors and played by actors with the magic of their singular skills. The music is in us and around us. Particularly in the city of music and musicians, Šibenik. The music, vocal or instrumental, artistic or folk, local or foreign, but always a unique celebration of rhythm, sound and harmony, has a permanent place among the festival events. An old festival chronicler claimed that the puppets acquired the citizenship of Šibenik and turned the city into a big playground, full of imagination, magic, merry play. The city, that used to have a professional puppet theatre, has been visited by all Croatian puppet theatres, as well as many of those from abroad. They all left gifts under the pillows of all those who saw them; images of a memorable childhood, regardless of the viewers’ age.
There is a special quality in the festival’s visual arts programmes, not only the ones created by masterly, though awkward, children’s little fingers, but also those created by the most distinguished names of visual arts in Croatia and the whole world: painters, graphic designers, photographers, architects and other artists who, in their works, succeeded in preserving the precious ties to the childhood. During the festival, Šibenik is the place where poets and children meet, where the open-air cinema on the stairs of the old town shows films for children, where there are workshops for journalism, sculpture, comics, film and video, architecture and building, poetry, painting, graphic design, information technologies, puppetry, music and dance. Various artistic forms bring together, in the streets and squares of Šibenik, representatives of the cultures of all continents, who have been contributing in creating a nobler, culturally enlightened person of today’s global community. In the forty years of the festival’s existence, there have been numerous discussions held about various areas of education and the influence of arts on children: children and books, children and films, children and television, children and visual arts, children and puppets, directing for children, dramatic arts for children, acting in plays for children, stage settings for children’s plays, as well as about many other topics. For those discussions, the Šibenik Children’s Festival has been bringing together the most eminent names from particular fields, who talked about aesthetic, artistic, educational and social aspects of the work with children. The festival programme receives support not only in Šibenik, but in the whole of Croatia, too, as well as throughout the world.
The concept and humanitarian aims of the festival have the full support of the UNICEF and UNESCO, as well as the permanent sponsorship of the President of Croatia. The festival used to be a member of the International Festival Association – F.I.D.O.F. During its forty years, the festival has been able to face doubts, self-doubting, challenges, criticism and numerous questions and difficulties. Even during the War in Croatia, when the warring pushed children’s games into background, the festival kept its continuity, offering joy, play, hope. Today, relying on its experience and respectable associates, relying on the understanding and support of the city, county, ministry, media and all those who participate in the organisation, the festival is looking for fresh, unexplored paths to the new millennium, wishing to initiate, stimulate and promote the relationship between arts and children.
Looking forward to the end of the restoration of the theatre building, we hope that the stage of one of the oldest and most beautiful theatres in Croatia will come alive again in time for new festival plays.The city and its children are awaiting you. Both big and small children. The play, imagination and reality are awaiting you. The festival is awaiting you.