Children & Youngsters As Creators

Getting the genuine voice of the children and youngsters in contemporary theatre. Where culture is not inherited from the past, but borrowed from the next generations.


In this lecture, we explore the strength and self-ownership of children and young people, within culture and the arts. We ask:

How children can be architects of their own future. Self-thinking, self-critic, self-creating, open and tolerant to the other.

How children and young people can find strength from apparent vulnerability to tell their own story, of the world they are living in now.


Examples are given of how children and young people can create (contemporary) theatre themselves, even about the most challenging themes in life. Providing both practical tools and substantive frameworks.


After the lecture, there will be a 15-20 min overview of the specific situation for TYA in 3-lingual Belgium; done by Johan, Yannick Boudeau (President, ASSITEJ Belgium) & Caroline Cornélis (Artistic Director, Nuyash) and a generous offer of the Belgian Embassy for a reception.

About the Artists

Johan De Smet  (artistic director KOPERGIETERY)


Johan participated as a child and as a teenager in the first theatre workshops of Speelteater Gent (now: KOPERGIETERY), founded by Eva Bal, 'grandmother' of European Youth Theatre.


After his eduction as theatre-director, he established ‘the Laboratory’ within the first years of KOPERGIETERY. This experimental incubator was a breeding ground for new young creators.


Following the success of his first music-theater production "Komosha" (which toured in more than 12 countries), he established a connection with a (new) large international audience through his working method, which involved integrating the unique authenticity of the performers in a musical/visual and non-classical narrative way of creating. 


More than 35 creations followed, whether with partners from Belgium or abroad; some of them: “Lie Sweatheart Lie”, “Broken Dreams”, “Twist”, First Snow”, “Panama”, The legend of Woesterdam”, “Beuysband”, “The history of the world”, “Beaucoup trop de trop”, “Solar Ciry”, “Shakira & Chikara” and  recently the family-opera “Crusade”; many of these productions found their way to an international (young) audience around the world.


The succession of achievements led to a series of workshops, projects, masterclasses, lectures by Johan in various international cities such as: Bremen, Berlin, Seoul, Philadelphia, Nuremberg, Apt, Paris, Amsterdam, Toronto, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Poznan, Saint Petersburg, Copenhagen, Linz, Frankfurt, Glasgow, Prague, Oslo.


In 2004, Eva Bal passed the torch to Johan as artistic director of KOPERGIETERY.


With a diverse team of collaborators, he further develops a context where the vision and mission of the institution grows together with the new needs of a rapidly changing society, in relation to a constant artistic practice for/with three generations; with topics as digitalization, superdiversity, gender issues and sustainability.

He was co-founder of the international dance-network for young audiences (Fresh Tracks Europe) and ASSITEJ Belgium. 

In 2017 he got the 3-yearly international ASSITEJ Award of Artistic Excellence / Honorary President’s Award. 

His meta-goal remains the inclusion of EVERY child or young person in art and culture; where a child, a young person, and an artist inspire each other mutually, from an absolute equality.


About The Company:

KOPERGIETERY is a creative venue for young people, focusing on drama, dance and music.

A house where children and young adults are confronted with art. A house where artists and children create together and inspire one another. A house that puts on performances, invites guest performers and organises drama workshops.

A brief history:

In 1978 Speelteater Gent (the first dramatic arts centre for children and young adults in Belgium) is founded in Ghent by Eva Bal. She puts on shows with professional actors and children/young adults and runs a first series of workshops. In 1980 the company receives its first government subsidies. In 1993 the company pairs up with a private partner and finds its very own home in an old copper foundry. This marks the start of activity pillar number three: that of hosting guest performances.

In 2001 Speelteater Gent/de Kopergietery changes names and becomes KOPERGIETERY.
In 2004 Eva Bal passes the artistic-director baton to Johan De Smet. In 2009 KG RABOT, a second creative/performance platform, opens its doors in the multicultural Rabot neighbourhood.
Artistic director Johan De Smet and the entire team resolutely chose to follow the line of interaction between continuity and innovation. Idiosyncratic makers of all ages create and present productions, which results in a special artistic dynamics. The quest for authenticity and a true affinity with/interest in children and young adult is the glue that holds this mix of makers together. Children are viewed as the source, the driving force, the ground beneath all artistry. Children are taken/accepted as they are but also for what they can be. Children are urged into becoming creative, tolerant human beings who learn how to think for themselves through art. KOPERGIETERY’s overall approach has made it into a creative, ‘touring’ house that is profoundly embedded in its own city, continuously invests in new makers and has an extensive international network.



Each season KOPERGIETERY creates 3 to 5 new performances for various ages with a cast of professional actors and/or dancers; often also with children and young adults from its own Drama workshops. KOPERGIETERY’s creations are truly genuine. Its makers hardly ever start from existing text material; they draw from their own experience, look for their own words, own images, own vernacular. KOPERGIETERY also invests in young makers, who are given a platform to create their first performance. They often set up their own theatre structures or join existing ones after that. KOPERGIETERY also regularly embarks on co-productions with (inter)national companies and creative houses.


KOPERGIETERY tours.                                                                  


KOPERGIETERY’s creations tour all over Flanders and abroad.
KOPERGIETERY strongly believes in the importance of international collaboration and forms an integral part of an extensive network of festivals and cultural centres. Since its foundation KOPERGIETERY has travelled to France, Germany, Austria, Italy,  Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Poland, Turkey,  Scotland, Latvia, Russia, the  USA (New York, Seattle, Alabama, Washington), Curaçao, Finland, Greece, Canada ( Montreal and Toronto),  Croatia, Singapore, South-Korea, Japan, Norway, New Zealand and Australia (Sydney).




Every year KOPERGIETERY invites several guest companies to its Ghent platforms KG Blekerij and KG Rabot. A vast array of art forms offer a selection of challenging, contemporary creations by experienced  makers as well as new-comers. KOPERGIETERY regularly picks out one international company or maker with whom it feels a particular artistic affinity; the so-called ’residencies’. KOPERGIETERY also organizes annual ‘specials’: ‘mini-festivals’ around specific art forms or themes, showcasing both in-house creations and guest productions.


KOPERGIETERY drama workshops.                                                      


The workshops are the heart and soul of KOPERGIETERY. Each season about 150 children between the ages of 8 and 18 meet up with a professional coach/artist on a weekly basis. It is a process of mutual inspiration, of perfecting skills and individual talents but also of acquiring insights. Insights into what drama and theatre can be. Insights into what happens in the world. The creation of a Medialab includes new technologies in this process.

    • Aimed Towards Adults
    • Professional Content
Primary Language
Accessibility Information
  • Highly Visual
Event Format
All Contributors ‘On the Ground’