Why host an ISTA festival? Because I can’t get enough of it

15 May 2022

by Keriann O’Rourke

A fresh new festival season is upon us – it’s been a long time coming after a loooooong hiatus from being able to even consider face to face festivals again. But baby… they are back!

I have great admiration for festivals – it was, after all, the reason I fell in love with the ISTA.

Rewind to 2012…

My first ever ISTA experience – and crazily enough I was hosting it! I had never heard of ISTA let alone knew what hosting would entail, but it sounded fun so I said yes (and never looked back). I loved that it was an inclusive experience – a complete break from the competitiveness that can be found in other facets of children’s lives. No grades. No judgement. Just a group of enthusiastic students, teachers and artists coming together to do what they love. The passion was palpable.

I was in my element. Festival hosting was undoubtedly my “thang” (and it also eventually led me on an entirely new career path away from the classroom and into event management). I loved organising, creating, getting students excited about it, talking to parents and getting them involved, decorating the spaces, and choosing a cultural experience for our guests. All of this I loved and the event hadn’t even started yet.

My first festival was captured beautifully by festival parent (and filmmaker) Greg Dixon.

The event was magic and I was gutted it was over when it came to a close. But from that one single experience – I met new friends in the wider international theatre teacher community, was inspired by the artists and their work and most importantly I knew I had been part of something truly memorable (and life-changing) for the students involved. All this from a 3 day festival.

Audrey thoroughly enjoyed her ISTA weekend!  I know she would do it again in a heartbeat, and has told some of her classmates how much they would enjoy it as well.  My perception of the event was that it was terrifically organised and managed.  You did a tremendous job and I hope your efforts were recognised.  And I was also impressed with the quality of participant.  With the very few exception, I would say the students there were positive in nature, mature and very on-task with what was before them.  

Thank you again, Keriann, for your passion for the theatre arts and for providing such wonderful opportunities to the students at CIS, and for allowing Audrey to have that experience!

Parent feedback – who doesn’t love getting an email like this?!?

Now fast forward to 2014, 2015 & 2016

Yes indeed, I loved it so much I wanted to do it again and again and again. My admin was behind me 100% with the success of our first event and the supportive feedback from parents. Then I changed schools and was lucky enough to continue hosting there too.

Thank you so very much for bringing ISTA to CIS and all your amazing hard work making it so successful and well-organized. My daughter Cordelia enjoyed it so much and so did all her friends.  It was only one weekend, but driving her home Sunday night, it was like she had just come home from sleep-away summer camp, the three days were so packed with new experiences. She made lots of new friends and is already in daily contact by email with some of her ensemble mates from other schools.  It was a very special weekend.

We hope CIS will be attending or hosting future festivals.  Cordelia and her friends are already looking forward to next year.

More parent feedback 🥰

Maybe I am a festival junkie – but hosting is certainly my happy place. I miss being on the ground hosting my very own event sometimes, but lucky for me it’s now become my job to help others reach their festival goals.

If you are on the fence about hosting I say GO FOR IT! It really is festival fabulousness.