AN annual children's theatre festival took place in Durham for the first time this year.

The Take Off 2002 festival, billed as England's only professional theatre festival for young people, brings together leading theatre companies, which produce innovative work for youngsters of all ages.

It also attracts education and theatre professionals from all over the world, who watch productions and attend seminars and workshops.

Started by Darlington-based CTC Theatre in 1993, the festival is organised at a different location every year in partnership with arts agencies or local authorities.

This year's took place from Saturday until Wednesday and was run with the help of Durham City Arts.

The festival comprised different shows and related events aimed at specific age groups, covering a range of issues from friendship to teenage pregnancy.

Jan Doherty, director of Durham City Arts, said: "Having the festival in Durham was a great experience for the city, but the heart of it is the enjoyment it gives to young people and the opportunity for them to see a wide range of imaginative and thought-provoking work."

Workshops and performances took place at the Gala Theatre, Bearpark, Brandon and Bowburn Community Centres and local schools