The WeeFestival’s mission is to inspire the very youngest of our community and their caregivers with artful, engaging, and exceptional theatre and performing arts from around the world created especially for very young children (0-5 years).
We promote the right of every child to engage with, and participate in, sophisticated, aesthetically-rich, intelligent, and stimulating arts experiences.
We know that the first 2000 days of a child’s life are the most important in their emotional, physical, social, and intellectual development and that regular exposure to the arts throughout these years has a positive and profound impact on their long-term health and well-being.
Whether for babies and toddlers, preschoolers, or kindergarteners, each show has been created with the emotional and social developmental needs and interests of young children and are presented in intimate venues to ensure every child is close to the action and fully immersed in the experience. In addition to engaging theatre productions, the festival offers a range of multi-disciplinary programming designed to engage little ones and their parents.
We believe our work will nurture in children a life-long love of the arts and therefore contributes to the continued viability and sustainability of the larger performing arts sector. Parents and caregivers who witness the impact of the arts on their young children will be more likely to advocate for increased arts programming in the schools.
The WeeFestival programming celebrates and promotes the power of arts in early childhood and the essential collaboration of artists, educators, and caring adults who believe in arts from the start!
- To offer a dynamic range of theatre, dance, music, puppetry, and multi-disciplinary that reflects a cultural, linguistic, and artistic diversity including works by Indigenous artists.
- To ensure works are well-researched and tested, and that are performed by professional artists.
- To offer programming that is tailored to the distinct developmental stages present in early childhood and the first 2000 days of a child’s life. (infant, toddler, preschool, and kindergarten).
- To offer work that is inclusive for neurotypical and neurodiverse audiences.
Through its conference and symposia activities, the festival also strives to increase awareness around the importance of arts in early childhood and enrich the dialogue among professional artists, programmers, educators, researchers, and policy makers.WeeFestival is further committed to advancing the theatre for young audience practice, both the form and the artists. We believe the festival can serve as a source of inspiration for our peers and imagine a growing and dynamic body of work created by Canadian artists for very young audiences. We are therefore committed to nurturing the creation and production of new theatre by Canadian artists for children under 6 years through mentorship, seed funding, and commissioning.
Festival HistoryThe WeeFestival of Arts and Culture was created by Lynda Hill in 2014 as a biennial event and project of Theatre Direct Canada, a leading innovator in the creation, production, and presentation of theatre for young audiences. With the support of The Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council, the inaugural WeeFestival was launched featuring performances from leading theatre companies from Europe and Quebec pioneering in the field of theatre for early years.
Subsequent editions in 2016 and 2018 reflected continued growth in audiences (from under 4000 in 2014 to nearing 6000 in 2018), venues, and partners from across the arts sector excited to support the festival mission and in 2019, the WeeFestival became an annual event. In 2020, the WeeFestival returns from May 4 -24 with an exciting international programme.
Since its first edition, the WeeFestival has presented 35 productions and as many events, workshops, and concerts. Four of these works were original commissions through Theatre Direct. In addition to the performances and events, the festival’s offers conference activity engaging educators and artists.
In 2016, the WeeFestival collaborated with the newly formed Kinderfest in Hamilton and supported the presentation of HUP from Scotland’s Starcatchers. Subsequent festivals have featured WeeFestival productions. In 2019, the festival announced its move to annual programming.
- Many of the performances do not rely on language to tell the story, instead they combine music, light, design and movement for a fully-accessible experience for all young children.
- The maximum audience size is extremely limited, as few as 16 spots in some cases and between 60 – 100 with other shows. This way every child can experience the magic of theatre up close!
- Most performances last between 30 and 45 minutes with time to explore and play afterwards.
- Every performance in the festival has played to young audiences around the world with great success. The performers are highly-trained and have extensive experience interacting with very young audiences.
- All participating venues in the festival are physically accessible. All festival staff are trained to ensure the most flexible, accommodating, and welcoming experience for every child, caregiver, and educator!
- Tickets are accessibly priced thanks to our funders and donors who like us, believe in equitable access to the arts for all children, schools and families.
We would like to acknowledge the lands and waterways we gather on during WeeFestival. We hope you will help us in acknowledging and thanking all of the nations who have lived and cared for these lands in the past, those that are here today like me and you, and those who will continue to support the land in the future. Miigwech to the Mississaugas of The Credit, the Wendat, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of Six Nations, and all other Nations recorded or unrecorded. Also thank you to the animals, the plants, the stars, moon, and sun, without all we would not be here today. We are grateful to everything in creation for supporting us along this journey. Miigwech, thank you.
Nous aimerions reconnaître que nous nous sommes actuellement rassemblés sur les terres ancestrales de plusieurs premières nations lors. Nous espérons que vous nous aiderez à remercier toutes les première nations qui ont occupé et pris soin de ce même territoire dans le passé, aujourd’hui, et, comme vous et moi, à l’avenir. Des Miigwech aux Mississaugas of the Credit, en passant par les Wendat, la Confédération Haudenosaunee des Six Nations et toutes les autres nations connues et inconnues, merci. Merci également aux animaux, aux plantes, aux étoiles, à la lune et au soleil. Sans tout cela, nous ne serions pas ici aujourd’hui et nous sommes reconnaissants envers tout ce qui provient de la création. Miigwech, merci.