Our model is based on a collaborative process culminating in a final performance and includes ensembles, workshops, full group, host housing, out and about (artistic/cultural experience in the host city) and social activities.


I think the festival experience really goes to show how when you are in a group and you put your mind to it, you can create something. In fact, when we first staged our performance I was surprised we had it so fast. It was almost unrealistically fast.

Student at Beijing MS festival, March 2014



High School Festivals (Ages 14-18)

Aimed at the top age range of our young people, helping them develop high end theatre skills as well as leaving the festival experience more internationally minded, confident, collaborative and culturally literate. Empowered to engage with and change the world responsibly.

Every high school festival brings together young people, artists and teachers from different countries in different settings to experience, create and learn about theatre. All passionately valuing diversity and collaboration, celebration and play, friendship and collegiality.

And as ISTA is a not for profit, registered charity, every penny made goes back into the work. An organisation born out of a love of theatre, education and young people. Young people getting to learn from top theatre professionals and artists from all over the globe, many of whom have been with us for a long, long time and who keep coming back. Every event seeing a carefully chosen team of extraordinary practitioners flown in to teach our young people a huge range of skills.

Skills honed by working at the very top of their game in professional theatres as actors, directors, designers, stage managers, choreographers, fight directors… the list goes on and continues to expand with every passing year as more and more amazing artists hear about the work we are doing.

Meeting up with member schools, some of whom have been with us since the beginning and seeing teachers who re- join as members time and time again with every school they work in.

The goal being that every ISTA festival be better than the last. That every ISTA festival should be one of the highlights of every single one of our young people’s formative years. And that they remember it forever. Luckily we know they do because they keep telling us so.

Middle School Festivals (Ages 10-14)

Aimed at all middle schoolers where the only entry criteria is that they have a love of theatre. This being hugely important because, since day one, ISTA has operated on a very clear policy. That there should be no lead role at an ISTA event. That every young person should have equal weight in both performance and the devising process and that they should work together in ensembles. The term having been wisely chosen at the first festival and the same one we still use nearly 40 years later.

These ensembles to be made up of a group of young people who have never met before and who have to learn to work together quickly. Understanding that while there may be natural leaders and followers, everyone has something of value to contribute. Learning to nurture and encourage those who may not want to be at the forefront. Understanding how to have ideas and then how to articulate them. Knowing how to listen to others. And finally performing together, aware that their strength lies in working as an ensemble and not simply as a group of individuals.

ISTA has been organising international, educational theatre events for nearly 40 years and has seen tens of thousands of young people come back time and time again. All saying they had the most memorable few days of their life. Many of them, now adults, are still in contact with us and tell us what a huge impact it had on them as children. Put quite simply – we know what we are doing and we do it very, very well.

Every single young person who attends an ISTA festival will have grown, matured and will undoubtedly leave more confident and feeling extremely proud of a new found ability to stand up in public and face any fears they may once have had. They will also have learned a great many theatre skills and know what it is like to take risks and be rewarded for it.

ISTA is an organisation filled with top educational experts and amazing teachers. So not only will our young people be working with globally renowned theatre practitioners, they will also be learning a great deal. Every ISTA middle school festival follows a clearly laid down model, designed to get the most out of every participant. Based on a carefully thought out and heavily researched pedagogy that sees each festival explore an enquiry question.

Lower Primary School and Primary School Festivals (Ages 7-8 & 9-10)

Aimed at the youngest of our fantastic young people, these amazing events are available as two models:

In-house – Where we send a team of top theatre practitioners and educators to work across an entire year group(s). Ideal for without walls weeks and with an already proven success rate.

The local festival – Where your school hosts a festival and invites local children, from the same year groups in to work with your students. Still led by the same amazing artists and with the same drive and ethos and already proving hugely popular.

Primary festivals generally take place over a three-day period involving students mixed across schools (if following the local model) or tutor groups (if in house.)

This way, they get to work collaboratively with a mixture of young people they have never met before or peers they do not know well. Building new friendships and relationships, something that is an integral part of the ISTA festival experience. Each ensemble working with an ISTA artist following the normal structure of the school day. Then after three days of theatre skills and devising, along with dynamic full group and workshops, all the children come together to share their explorations in a spirit of collaboration and celebration.

And not only do we see these extraordinary young people grow in confidence and learn so many important life skills through the carefully thought through pedagogy, there is also much to be gained by accompanying teachers who can observe the process by sitting in on the ensemble sessions.

Teachers can:

  • Take part in a reflection session each day in order to explore the process that their students have undertaken and to understand the value of the artistic experience within this framework. This has a proven track record, acting as invaluable PD for the teachers with regard to up-skilling.
  • Go on to use theatre strategies in their classroom post the festival, as well as more generally to begin to understand the value of theatre experiences for children of this age group.
  • Gain transferable skills to regular classroom work within a PYP context.
  • Take the opportunity to also take part in a series of bespoke PD sessions on using drama across the curriculum as well as specific theatre sessions focusing on areas such as puppetry, movement, music, storytelling etc.