Krokusfestival started in 1996 in an organisation by Hasselt Cultural Centre. The festival's strength was mainly regional and participatory: it encouraged parents from the region to get acquainted with the fascinating world of what was then still called 'youth theatre'.

Remarkably, the first edition (in 1996) did not yet bear the name Krokusfestival. It was simply an initiative to bundle performances and workshops during the holidays. It was only on the 1997 brochure that it read 'Second edition of the Krokus Festival'.


From 2003, the objectives of the Krokusfestival were tightened: internationalization, stimulation of creation and production, focus on dance and growth into a sectoral meeting place. In order to realize these objectives, the festival was organized biennially between 2004 and 2008 and, in the meantime, financial possibilities were sought to realize the ambitions. From 2008 the festival became annual and a double structure was set up: Krokus Dans and a multidisciplinary XL version.

Krokusfestival Dans 2009 was the first international festival in Flanders that focused exclusively on dance with/for a young audience. It hosted twelve companies, seven of which were international. In addition, there was work-in-progress by Busy Rocks, inti/Laika and Etienne Guilloteau. In collaboration with the V.T.I., the festival organized the international study day "De dans ontsprongen". From 2009 on, the provincial and euregional embedding was strongly intensified. Finally, it was chosen to focus extensively on education (performances, workshops, continuing education) during the first three festival days.

In 2010 there was the XL version with 68 performances, of which 18 were international (from five countries). Five co-productions premiered (Artforum, Nat Gras, lapzus, 't Arsenaal and Circ'ombelico) and our own production Als de deur gesloten is moogt ge niet binnenkomen (anders misschien wel), a location performance in children's bedrooms by/with Annelies Van Hullebusch, Sofie Palmers, Marjolijn Freiling and Katrien Pierlet, played 18 times. There were a total of eight premieres and eight Belgian premieres. The festival introduced young creators such as Busy Rocks, Alexandra Broeder, Tabea Martin, Jorieke Abbing, Andreia Rodrigues, Jan Martens, Iris Carta, Jef Naes, Inge Liefsoens, Rutger Remkes.

The Krokusfestival Dans 2011 presented thirty dance performances. There were co-productions with Ultima Vez, fABULEUS/Tuning People and Nat Gras, the premiere of Shouting Dance (Krokusfestival/Dans in Limburg, Jonathan Burrows & Matteo Fargion) and work-in-progress. Krokusfestival once again introduced new makers: Tuning People, Barbara Fuchs, Seppe Baeyens, Erik Kaiel, Aitano Cordero, Tabea Martin, Keren Levi. Furthermore, there was a study afternoon on art education in dance, a discussion with young dancers/choreographers (in collaboration with V.T.I.), special dance projects in education and we introduced the State of Youth Dance, kicked off by Joke Laureyns. Finally, FRESH TRACKS EUROPE was introduced, an international dance network in which we participate with partners from Austria, Sweden, Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany and Estonia. After these two dance editions, we believe we can say that Krokusfestival plays an important role in the development of dance for young audiences in Flanders.

From 2012, Krokusfestival earned its position in the international festival calendar for young audiences. The XL version of 2012 presented nine premieres, six Belgian premieres and three work-in-progress. It is good to note that Flemish companies found their way to foreign stages through contacts at and through Krokusfestival: fABULEUS, Nat Gras, Tuning People...

In addition, the festival once again gave opportunities to young creators: Manon Avermaete, Joris Van Oosterwijk, Shanti Straub, Arnaud Deflem.


From 2013, Krokusfestival received structural operating subsidies from the Flemish Government for the first time.

Naturally, the festival remained the biggest and most important moment of its operation. Around the holidays, it invited children and their (grand)parents to a captivating cocktail of children's arts. Besides focusing on international productions that were shown to a Belgian audience for the first time, the focus was also on dance and the presentation of new work, try-outs and show moments. Installations and performance were also introduced into the proceedings for the first time. More than ever, Krokusfestival became an adventurous festival of discovery that nevertheless reached a wide audience.

Therefore, the festival also developed in terms of talent development. Sometimes this happened through so-called 'commissioned' work where we asked artists to make a production in a particular context (e.g. a child's bedroom). Sometimes it happened through co-productional support of companies and/or makers. The dance company for young audiences, tout petit, is a clear example of this. Their first four creations were supported by CCHA and/or Krokusfestival and often premiered during the festival. The international operation the company was later able to develop is certainly partly (besides their good performances, of course!) due to Krokusfestival.

As an engine in the Flemish arts landscape young audiences, Krokusfestival also worked within three international projects from 2013 onwards. These included the Interreg Meuse/Rhine-supported cooperation project Regio-Theater-Dans with partners from Maastricht, Eupen, Liège and Aachen. Furthermore, the Creative Europe-supported collaboration Fresh Tracks Europe ended in 2014, after which Krokusfestival immediately took the initiative to start a new project. Together with Imaginate (Scotland), Aaben Dans (Denmark), Scenekunstbruket (Norway) and The Ark (Ireland), PUSH was created.

PUSH allowed Flemish makers to participate in three artistic labs (gender, overprotection, migration) together with twelve international makers. A PUSH lab was a research lab where inspiration and development were paramount, without clear or direct output in terms of creation.

Besides the creative process, Krokusfestival wanted to actively stimulate reflection on children's arts in Flanders from 2013 onwards. During 2013-2016, we focused on two themes: 'Notion of quality of the arts for young audiences' and 'Taboos and limits to the arts for young audiences'.

In this way, the festival explored the intrinsic value of arts for young audiences. Can we emphasize that quality? Promote it? Is quality culturally determined? If so, how? Or is it about subjective, non-measurable values? We also focused on the boundaries, as there are: the boundary with adult art, the taboo themes that reappeared (think death, physicality, violence) and the forms that were perceived as non-evident and thus difficult (non-verbalism, dance).

Between 2013 and 2016, Krokusfestival introduced quite a few international makers and productions to Flanders: (a.o. ) Teatro Distinto (Italy), Compagnia TPO (Italy), Bernard Sicat (France), Arch8(Netherlands), Curious Seed (Scotland), Don Gnu (Denmark), Adrien M & Claire B (France), Cas Public (Canada), Hege Haagenrud (Norway), FLOP (France), Barrowland Ballet (Scotland) The100Hands (Netherlands), Tanzfuchs Produktion (Germany), El Patio Teatro (Spain), Akram Khan Company (UK), Tabea Martin Co. (Switzerland), Dschungel Wien (Austria), Shonen / Eric Minh Cuong Castain (France), Aaben Dans (Denmark), Schippers&VanGucht (Netherlands), Xirriquiteula teatre (Spain), Dansstationen Turnekompani (Sweden), etc.


The application for structural operating funds (2017-2021) for Krokusfestival was honoured for the second time. First draft of the new dossier was an in-depth reflection on international work. Until now, Krokusfestival had mainly presented European performances in Belgian premieres. A few concrete conversations at international festivals about 'exporting' European performances and workshops to other continents triggered the festival's artistic leadership. Why and also how to show performances from other continents, with other qualities, with other aesthetic choices? Beyond the practical and financial challenges, the greatest added value lay in the openness to exactly those other cultures and artistic-aesthetic choices. Introducing the strange, the different, thereby questioning its own frames of 'excellence' and 'quality', that became the challenge. Moreover, by introducing these productions from other continents, the festival hoped to reach other audiences.

What was immediately clear was that just presenting performances from other continents was both insufficient and ecologically irresponsible. A deeper reflection became necessary. From this, THINK LOCAL CREATE GLOBAL was born. Initially (2017-2021), a five-year research project into the possibilities of developing a 'mutual artistic approach'. This resulted in a series of keynotes, symposia, discussions among professional programmers and festival directors, but above all in a 3-day 'artistic exchange' laboratory. In it, a Latin American company collaborated with Flemish artists in an inspiring lab that focused on exchange of ideas, techniques, on process rather than product. In 2019, the festival invited the Chilean company Silencio Blanco, in 2020 La llave maestra, also from Chile. After stalling in 2021 (see below), in 2022 Akram Khan Company was invited for an exchange lab.

Meanwhile, intercontinental programming was enriched with performances from Taiwan, Canada, Australia, Brazil and Chile. Always this was accompanied by a workshop, master class or on-site project by the company's artists.

In 2021, because of the covid-19 pandemic, it was impossible to organise a 'normal' festival edition. The choice was made to rename Krokusfestival as Sunflower Festival at the end of August and make it a limited and mainly on-site (outdoor) summer edition. The programming was mainly Belgian (and a little Dutch), other foreign countries being unfeasible at the time. This choice gave the makers and companies the opportunity to play and the audience to discover another aspect of the festival.

A second approach was to develop new technologies in the performing arts. Between 2018 and 2021, a limited impetus was given to this, including cooperation with Théâtre de Liège and KIKK Festival Namur. Furthermore, the festival developed into an international reference point for professional visitors. Many premieres, try-outs and networking moments generated a lot of international interest, with up to 174 delegates in 2020.


Since 2018, CCHA / cultural center Hasselt also organizes a residential workplace for young audiences: HET LAB. A place where companies and creators can do research, participate in labs in an international context, rehearse and develop. Between 2018 and 2021, this was realised with the support of the City of Hasselt and with a three-year project subsidy from the Flemish Community, extended by one year in 2022. From 2023 (see below) HET LAB and Krokusfestival merged into one structural operating entity, KROKUS.

We cannot ignore the fact that after graduation, creators of stage performances (certainly also for young audiences) are dropped into an inexorable production mill. Almost naturally, they want to be on stage as quickly and as much as possible in front of an audience of big people and big critics. Quite a few (too many) drama students consider playing for young audiences of secondary importance. 

Another observation, at least as strong, is that makers/players are constantly jumping from production to production in their careers. Of course we realize the importance of creating and playing, but at this point the urge has really become compulsion, if only to survive financially. Time to be inspired, to get input, to do research is either unpaid or non-existent. That something we would love to change with our new vision of HET LAB. 

In the arts landscape for young audiences, there are neither arts centers nor workplaces. To fill this gap, HET LAB has been taking that stimulating place since 2018, because although the quality of creation for adults and young audiences should be of the same level, there are clear differences in form and audience orientation, and the arts landscape young audiences also has a specific individuality in terms of content. 

Starting in 2019, this workplace presented a special project in the Krokus Festival: THE LAB@Krokus. In it, three/four groups/makers had the opportunity to show a work-in-progress to professional delegates and to the public, with a follow-up discussion by the delegates. In this way, Krokus Festival developed a new platform for talent development within its operation.



25 editions of Krokus Festival, that was celebrated in 2022. In the brochure, we wrote it this way:

"Never thought nor expected, but the 2022 edition of the Krokusfestival is still one in corona times. So unfortunately we can't go all out for this special edition. But we will still do what the festival does best: present spicy, engaging, beautiful performances and projects to children and their (grand)parents."

We invited three companies and performances to the festival again because they were memorable on their first passage:

  • Invisible lands - Livsmedlet Theatre
  • Real women jogging in rain suits - Theater Artemis
  • Under the table - Les Zerkiens

We opened with a very special performance - Chotto Xenos by world-renowned choreographer Akram Khan (Belgian premiere). Together with Cie Woest and eleven young people we made a special festival performance: THE POPOPPERS! And last but not least after two years, we made a line-up as if corona never existed: 19 locations, 200 activities, 29 stage productions, 4 exhibitions, 7 premieres, 12 Belgian premieres, 2 professional symposia, 1 artistic exchange lab.


For the period 2023-2027 we will receive structural operating subsidies for the third time, but from now on HET LAB and Krokusfestival will form a unit, namely KROKUS. We consider them as co-housing under the wings of cultural center Hasselt. Krokusfestival emphasizes presentation, HET LAB focuses on talent development. Both work independently and autonomously, but of course connections can be made, such as HET LAB@KROKUS.