BRADFORD Festival has begun with a mass song and dance involving 1,000 pupils from local schools.

A Party in the Park featuring performances by local schools and youth groups helped kick off the festival weekend, with highlights including a “big sing” at lunchtime today.

Despite damp weather, the children got the event off to an energetic start, belting out songs like I Got A Feeling by Black Eyed Peas and I’m A Believer by The Monkees, accompanied by a full band on the main stage.

The schools’ programme ran from 11.30am to 3pm, and gave pupils from schools across the district the chance to experience the festival spirit.

Some schools gave individual performances, such as the Dixons Music Primary choir who sang the R Kelly classic World’s Greatest, and a noisy percussion session from Feversham School.

Other schools performing included St Cuthbert & The First Martyrs’ Catholic school, Chellow Heights special school and Trinity All Saints School, whose cheerleading squad gave a demonstration of their cheers.

Pupils from Appleton Academy mixed poetry, performance and rap when Year Four students and performance poet Andy Craven-Griffiths took part in “Poetry Slams” through the day.

As the day went on the main stage in Centenary Square opened up to the wider public for a run of performances that included a set by heavy metal group Fail the Enemy, who are students at Shipley College, the BradfordYouth Wind Orchestra, and a collaboration between Bradford Youth Brass Band and award-winning Hammonds Brass Band.

The first day of festivities will end with a set by local band Nervous Orse.

During the children’s performance Tony Johnson, the head of Bradford Council’s music and arts service, said: “It started off wet, it’s got a bit better now. The children have been dancing away and everyone has had a great time - everyone here is having a lot of fun.

“We’ve got plenty more for the general public later today.”

Felicity French, assistant head of the service, added: “Everyone’s enjoying themselves and performing here is a very good experience for the children.

“This youth day of the festival is a chance for the schools to come together, sing together and dance together. There are schools from across the district performing this afternoon. We have a lot of different styles of music being performed here today. It is a great chance for children to get involved in the festival.”

One of the schools attending today's evenrt was Barkerend Academy. Music tutor Julie Parker-Wade said: “We’ve brought our whole Year Four group here today. It’s been beautiful, all the children have been singing along. The acts have been great and they all enjoyed themselves.”

The Bradford Council-organised free festival runs until Sunday and there will be flamboyant street theatre, arts and crafts activities, music and dance, and poetry, storytelling and reading in the city centre over the weekend.

Other acts performing on the main stage as part of the festival include dance duo, Sam and the Womp, Asian pop sensations, Stereo Nation and Jay Kadn, energetic folk music by Eastern European band, Paprika and a set by local musicians from the Topic Folk Club in Bradford.

There will also be spoken word performers, beatboxers and DJs performing on the festival’s temporary gardens stage, a new addition to the festival this year, while highly acclaimed theatre company, Chicken Shop Shakespeare will bring the Bard’s work to life with several pop-up performances across City Park.

The colourful and entertaining programme of acts, ranging from local right through to international, include Todmorden-based creators, Spacecadets, who will parade their four metre tall, Indian elephant, which has a surprise up its trunk.

British theatre troupe, Ramshacklicious are to stage Mr & Mr Burn, an explosive, chaotic and offbeat double act mixing trombone, tuba, ukulele, and electronic drums with clowning, puppetry and pyrotechnics.

Innovative London troupe, Wet Picnic will perform The Lift where an audience member is invited to step inside and select one of nine different acts.

The Rat Race by outdoor puppet company Frolicked, will provide a darkly funny commentary on modern life told by puppets through the holes in a giant wedge of cheese.

Dance lovers will be treated to a quirky new piece by celebrated New Zealand choreographer, Corey Baker. Featuring an iconic vintage red telephone box, and an athletic solo performer, Phone Box promises to be vibrant, energetic and contemporary dance piece.

Fringe events will also be taking place in the temporary gardens next to City Park.