By Lauren Mattera at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London

SOLT kids_week_launch_11-06-12June 11 - More than 1,000 school children attended the launch of Society of London Theatre's (SOLT) Kids Week ticket sales here today timed to coincide with the start of next month's Olympics as the event marked its 15th anniversary of giving youngsters the chance to go free to top shows in the summer.

Hosted by comedian and television star Richard Blackwood, today's event was the first time schools had been asked to attend the free launch performance, with the aim being to encourage more children to get into London's West End Theatres during London 2012.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow allowing children under the age of 16 to attend the theatre for free when accompanied by a full paying adult to shows running throughout August as part of the United Kingdom's biggest ever festival – the London 2012 Festival.

Today's event, which had an audience of 33 London schools, featured taster treats of four out of the total 38 participating shows, which encourage the school children to interact with the performances.

It began with a song from Shrek the Musical, followed by a scene from Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain, while an act from Spamalot featuring former EastEnders actor Todd Carty came next.

Children were then taught the choreography of the world-famous Thriller Live show based on music legend Michael Jackson and there was a lively sing-a-long performance led by musician Dominic Ferris.

Blackwood (pictured below, left), currently playing the Donkey in Shrek the Musical, explained how the Olympic and Paralympic Games is a great opportunity to get youngsters into the theatre.

"A lot of people will be coming to England with their children to see the Olympics and it's good for them to know that there are a great variety of shows on offer to them in that time," he told insidethegames.

SOLT's Emma De Souza told insidethegames she was "thrilled" with the interest generated by the launch.

"This is the best start we have ever had to Kids Week especially as we are able to have the launch in one of our fabulous theatres and what's been lovely is being able to have school children attend," she said.

"The launch was a unique one in its entirety.

"We have never targeted schools before, we have always targeted families so it's great to work with London 2012's Get Set Challenge and get kids who would probably never come to the theatre to come along, so I think from that point of view it is a very special way to mark 15 years."

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Meanwhile, one of the stars from one of London's most popular children's shows, EastEnders actor Neil McDermott (pictured above, second left), who plays Lord Farquaad in Shrek The Musical, said: "Shrek is a lovely, fun family show, and much like the film, the show has lots of great jokes not just for kids but for adults too.

"The set of the show is also amazing."

As an avid sports fan, McDermott also admitted that he will be "running off backstage in between performances to check up on the Olympics news".

Kids Week is also part of London 2012 Festival, which will run for 12 weeks all around the country and invites acts from the UK and all over the world to perform in celebration of the Olympics and Paralympics.

It will celebrate the huge range, quality and accessibility of the UK's world-class culture including dance, music, theatre, visual arts, fashion, film and digital innovation and will aim to inspire creativity across all forms of culture, especially among young people.

Ruth Mackenzie, director of the London 2012 Festival, said: "The Society of London Theatre is one of our most important partners in the London 2012 Festival and this brilliant free programme for kids in world leading theatres offers the perfect once in a lifetime experience for kids to try out their theatre skills with West End professionals in the Summer of 2012."

The Festival kicks off with Midsummer's Day on June 21 and will finish on September 9, the last day of the Paralympics.

Tickets go on sale Tuesday June 12 at and by telephone 0844 248 5151.

For more details on London 2012 Festival click here.

To keep up-to-date with all the news on London 2012 theatre click here

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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