The International Festival of Children’s Theatres in Subotica has from the very beginning imposed itself on the widest theatre public – thanks, first and foremost, to the wisely and thoroughly designed basic programme concepts and principles – as one of the most prominent European and world festivals, thus taking the leading position in the west Balkans region. In 1994, when it was being constituted and established, the hesitant and faint-hearted considered that act an adventure. Fortunately, for a long time now we know that the Festival is not only reality but also the fact.
Based on the high achievements of contemporary theatre aesthetics, directed and turned towards the being and perception of the young spectator, with the offered repertoire it has largely contributed to affirmation of the entire European and worldwide creative thought in this field, to a different notion of semiotics, and by it of semantics of this type of representation. In a word, it has been able to observe, recognize and present to judgement of the widest public all that creators in children’s theatres care about today. Thus, its past twenty-four years and participation of more than five hundred dramatic ensembles from almost fifty countries are actually not a review but a contribution to the history and anthology of the world’s puppetry and theatre for children, which clearly and undoubtedly names and characterizes it as one of the most significant cultural events of the Republic of Serbia – far beyond its borders.
With such programme orientation the International Festival has best demonstrated and proved that it is possible to meritoriously and superiorly judge but also to influence the movements and development of the contemporary theatre for children as a whole from such a cultural centre as Subotica.
Because of that, and not without reason, it has become the hub and one of the few oases of the noble encounters of contemporary literary-theatrical and theoretically scientific accomplishments, but also the one of the unavoidable factors of European and world integration processes in the field of culture.
For its exceptional contribution to the development of theatre arts for children and culture in general, the Festival was awarded Vuk’s Prize, the greatest cultural acknowledgement in the Republic of Serbia in 2005, while in 2009 it was granted Pro Urbe Award for its significant contribution to the development and respectability of the city of Subotica through elevation of its material and spiritual values. The Festival also won the special International award for contribution to the development of drama education Grozdanin kikot (Grozdana’s Giggle) for 2009, which was given by the Centre for Drama Education from Mostar (IDEA centre Bosnia and Herzegovina (International drama/theatre and education association)). The explanation says that the award is given to the Festival “for realization of the magnificent repertoire of theatre arts for children, especially of the puppet theatre art, within all genres, and for creation of indispensable source of international co-operation and presentation of the theatre for children and young people which has become the spring of drama culture and the aesthetics of the theatre for children, theatrical upbringing and education, in a word, of drama education with great reputation both in the country and abroad.”
The International Festival of Children’s Theatres was one of the initiators of the establishment of the Serbian national centre of UNIMA (Union Internationale de la Marionnette, the main aim of which is to promote and develop puppetry arts) in 2000 and has been its regular member ever since.
In 2010 the Festival was among the founders of the Serbian Festivals Association – SEFA, which became a member of European Festivals Association – EFA in April 2011. The founders of SEFA are the most eminent artistic festivals in Serbia which differ from other festivals in their concept, contents and the modes of presentation, primarily when it comes to quality, originality and innovativeness, the creative way of realization. In a word, those are the festivals which reach far beyond the borders of a city or a country, which communicate in the universal language of art and gain followers all around the world.
The International Festival of Children’s Theatres was founded in 1994, upon decision of the Assembly of the City of Subotica, as a permanent event of an international character with the official selection consisting of home and foreign productions for children up to eighteen years of age. The Festival is held each year in the last week of the month of September, during six days.
The aims set at the time of its establishment became the framework of its further development, and those were:
Besides the core activity, the Festival as a cultural and business association includes also the following within its scope:
Financial means for realisation of the International Festival of Children’s Theatres are provided by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia, AP Vojvodina Provincial Secretariat of Culture and the Assembly of the City of Subotica, while substantial support is also given by the embassies, foreign cultural centres, sponsors and donors.
International Festival of Children’s Theatres is not a separate legal entity, and the production of the Festival is entrusted to the Open University Subotica.
The Festival is managed by the Festival Council and director. The Council is composed of nine members, three being appointed by the founder, three by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia, two by the Provincial Secretariat of Culture while one post within the Council is reserved for the representative of the strategic partner of the Festival. The Council members’ mandate is four years, with the right to be re-elected and re-appointed for more mandates.
The Festival Council elects the Council president and vice-president from among its members at its constitutive session. The Festival director and selector are appointed by the Council according to the executive producer’s proposal to a four-year term.
Festival programmes are held at various city venues, in theatres, cinemas, schools, galleries, in the open air, but also out of the city, in many places throughout Serbia and beyond its borders, in neighbouring Hungary.