Organisers of Bradford Festival have promised a major new children's programme at Bradford Mela following criticism that there was too little for youngsters this year.

Bradford International Festival company said today it had agreed programming and scheduling with Bradford Council in preparation for the event next summer.

Festival director Neil Butler said he had also attended the first meeting in Marseilles of an organisation bringing together directors and producers from Britain, Spain, Austria, Belgium and France.

He said the organisation, In Situ, would build up a fund for commissioning artistes.

"We will ensure that Bradford artistes benefit from this fund and that Bradford builds a place for itself in European culture,' he added.

Mr Butler said other events next year would include:

l the creation of a new community play involving hundreds of local peformers led by Theatre in the Mill director Andrew Loretto

l the broadening of the existing Secret Bradford programme where members of the public created tours along places of interest including the canals and UFO sites

l the expansion of the Open Studios initiative where local artists open their homes to the public as galleries.Mr Butler said: "Bradford International Festival belongs to the people of Bradford. We will work throughout the year developing the programme strands that feature the work of local artistes and performers."

Sharmila Gandhi, Chief Executive of Bradford Vision which is made up of the district's leading organisations said the festival provided an excellent opportunity for all agencies and the community to work together.

"Through creative and innovative work like this the district can really start tackling the issues around community cohesion, bringing people from different backgrounds, ages and cultures together," she said.

The announcement follows an examination of this year's festival- produced for the first time by the company since it won the contract last year.

The event and the contract awarded by the Council have been studied by the regeneration and culture scrutiny committee which will publish a report on it shortly.

There have been complaints about the event, including lack of community involvement and timing.

A Reclaim Bradford Festival Campaign, comprised of many members who believe the contract should not have been taken from the former non-profit making Bradford Festival Company, has also strongly criticised it.

Scrutiny committee chairman Councillor Andy Mudd welcomed the early start in planning the events.

"I assume it is not set in concrete and is a starting point," he said. "We want them to develop the programme in consultation with ourselves and other groups."