The world's largest children's music festival hits Birmingham next week. Terry Grimley sets the scene...
More than 10,000 young musicians aged between four and 21 will descend on Birmingham next week for the biggest celebration of youth and music in the calendar.
The 35th National Festival of Music for Youth has been dislodged from its usual home on London's South Bank by the major redevelopment here, and London's loss is Birmingham's gain. The event is being staged here ss part of the city's Urban Fusion programme.
Every kind of musical activity from classical orchestras to jazz, brass bands to bhangra, choral music to rock, will be represented over six days of performance in three venues: Symphony Hall, the Adrian Boult Hall and the CBSO Centre, with performances spilling outside as well, weather permitting.
Each group performing at the festival receives a certificate, as well as feedback on its performance. The adjudicators can also present awards for outstanding performance in most categories, and 30 groups will be invited to perform at the Schools Proms in the Royal Albert Hall in November.
"We're really looking forward to coming up there and keeping our fingers crossed that it's all going to work," says Larry Westland, founder and director of the independent charity Music for Youth.
"Our only slight fear is that it's not as big as the facilities we've been used to before - in fact, all the capacities in the three buildings are far below what we have in London.
"We generally have between 10,000 and 12,000 children in London, so we haven't cut it down that much. I'm hoping we can get through it in time and and not have too many overruns, which are absolute poison with young children. When you're putting through a lot of performances in a day every second of applause counts."
The element of uncertainty is increased by the fact that the organisers are working with new technical crews.
"When we do it on the South Bank everyone is pretty used to us, and we have people who have done it before. So when everyone is new it's quite a challenge.
"But the Symphony Hall people are great. We do the Lollipop Proms there and I love working with them."
The range of musical categories is much as before, with different themes to each day, and performers and their supporters coming and going on a daily basis. However, the Birmingham public is also invited to enjoy the performances, subject availability of seats.
"There will be teachers and quite a lot of mums and dads coming to see them. These young people are not ordinary by any means, but they are musicians whose first role in life is not playing music. It's people who just make music in schools or out of school in the community. It's a fantasic platform for them and it's something for them to remember."
There was some concern that for some schools a day out in Birmingham rather than London might seem a less compelling prospect, but that does not seem to have proved a problem in attracting participants.
"We have had no real diminution of entries," says Larry Westland. "Last year it was 1,582 and this time it's 1,485. That kind of variation happens from year to year, so you can't say it's because it's in Birmingham.
"If the festival wasn't happening in London I couldn't imagine doing it anywhere else. In 1998 because of the numbers of people taking part we did three events in Manchester, Birmingham and London. I would say Manchester was all right, but Birminham was wildly successful.
"We feel very positive, we really do. Quite honestly, there's someting lurking in my mind that says if it's a great success up there, why come back to London?"