LAST year her pupils read poems about love, reminisced head of English at German-Swiss International school, Liz Whiteside. 'It was so lovely, so romantic, that it made us all feel quite sick, so this year we decided to do something really disgusting,' said Ms Whiteside, who had taken time off from warming up for a charity soccer match to talk about the school's participation in the 1994 Hong Kong Youth Arts Festival. 'We've got poems on everything from death to snot,' she said matter-of-factly. The selection - which will be read at the Fringe Studio on Tuesday and Wednesday night - includes an extract from a Vernon Scannon poem about a murderer as well as part one of a feminist alternative history of the world, in which Eve tells Adam exactly what she thinks of him and the snake appears only as a footnote. The choice of material by the German-Swiss pupils is symptomatic of the choice of shows and exhibits in the Youth Arts festival as a whole: not that they are all as black-humoured, but most of the festival's items promise to be as original and diverting. The festival, which kicks off this weekend with all-day entertainment in Victoria Park, is no endless programme of school play chestnuts like The Browning Version or The Importance of Being Ernest. 'About 80 per cent of the material has been written or adapted specially for the festival,' promised Lindsey McAlister, who thought up the whole thing 18 months ago, and who has spent months putting Hong Kong's second Youth Arts Festival together. The festival, in which more than 100 schools and youth groups are participating, cuts across all boundaries, Ms McAlister said. 'All kinds of people are taking part, from five to 25, and ranging from dancers to artists to people who paint scenery,' she said. There are plenty of local groups, as well as the international schools, putting on everything from art installations, to hand-bell music, to classical Indian dance everywhere from Tuen Mun to City Hall. Business for Art - the group that helps artists with the business side of finding publicity and sponsorship - has worked with the project from the beginning, making sure that the Chinese community is as involved as the expatriates. However, according to the group's executive director, Maggie Fung, there has been some difficulty attracting corporate sponsors. 'We got a small grant from the Arts Development Council, but, since we're just establishing ourselves, it's hard to get companies interested. I don't think they realise how wide-ranging this festival is.' Some of the highlights include a huge art show and series of workshops at Art Metro in Kowloon Tong, Piper at the Gates of Hell performed by the Canberra Youth Theatre who have come over to Hong Kong for the festival, and the workshop Dance for All, which is exactly what it sounds like, in Sha Tin and Tuen Mun. The So Uk Drama Group from Shamshuipo is performing a new play in Cantonese called Peach Blossom. Eyes written for the festival by 23-year-old advertising executive Tsui Wai-lung, while on the English language side, Lottie Ross, the brain behind ATV's Scatterbrains, has written the script for a pantomime. 'Not a serious pantomime like the Hong Kong Players do every year, but a very silly one,' she pledged. Jack and the Mutant Mung Bean Stalk, performed by Ms Ross' All for One Theatre group (ages nine to 25 plus), is the story of Jack, who runs a pizza parlour with his mum, Ma Zhong, and finds himself battling against the conglomerate giant who wants to turn the whole city to concrete. After the radiation from nearby Daya Bay causes Jack's mung beans to turn into the mutant ninja variety, he climbs the bean stalk and meets the Zone Miners (who have already excavated zones A to N and are just starting on O). 'It's a lot of fun - plenty of booing and 'look behind you Jack', with a message about the environment as well' Ms Ross said. The dance group from Chinese International School have put together an adventurous programme for the festival, including a piece called Headlines in Humidity, in which the dancers 'let their bodies go floppy while their heads take on a life of their own,' according to Mary Griffiths, a Royal Ballet School graduate turned head of the maths department and out-of-hours dance teacher. The senior group - consisting of 19 girls and a boy - have been rehearsing for weeks to prepare for the show at the City Hall Theatre next Friday in which they will perform with Beacon Hill School and Yew Chung School in a dance triple bill. For some, participating in the festival is a family thing. While her 10-year-old brother plays the part of a mutant mung bean, Suzy Wilkins, a 17-year-old songwriter, has taken time off from preparing for her A' levels at Island School to put together a special music programme for the festival. She will be joining up with the rock-blues band Anon in Victoria Park this afternoon, and playing at Portico later in the week. 'It's a great opportunity for young people, who might not otherwise get the chance to show what they can do,' she said.