From boutique music festivals to science and arts extravaganzas, there are plenty of family events this summer.
Get creative with workshops in music, dance, drama, science, literature, art and crafts, and circus skills. Or flake out in a field with your little ones and enjoy some fantastic live music at a festival.
Here’s our annual roundup of the most family-friendly festivals around the UK…
For 12 days every autumn, venues across the city play host to free festival events for all ages. These include inspirational talks from academics and celebrities, musical and theatrical performances, film screenings, exhibitions and art sessions. Thought-provoking sessions encourage visitors to question and explore the world around them. Prepare for extraordinary events and surprises along the way.
After the success of the first festival in 2013, organisers are planning another event this autumn. The aim is to celebrate brilliant children’s theatre and fire the imaginations of children aged 0 to 12 across 15 venues in the North West of England. Each show is created specifically for children but parents will enjoy the variety of productions too!
This amazing festival, just for children, runs for two weeks and encompasses literature, dance, art and music. There are plenty of trails, games, interactive performances and workshops so children can really have an immersive experience, and many events are free. The 2014 festival featured readings by Jacqueline Wilson, Guy Bass, Tracey Corderoy, Holly Webb, Philip Ardagh and Marianne Levy.
There are talks, films, interactive demonstrations, workshops, and hands-on activities for people of all ages. This inspiring event provides opportunities to explore and discuss issues of scientific interest, and encourage young people to consider careers in science, engineering, technology and maths. This family-friendly festival is organised by Cambridge University, and many events are free.
The 2014 festival featured big-name authors such as War Horse creator Michael Morpurgo, The Chocolate Box Girls author Cathy Cassidy, Murderous Maths writer Kjartan Poskitt, Barry Loser series creator Jim Smith, and Welsh children’s poet laureate Anaeirin Karadog. Families enjoyed a comic creation day, character walkabouts, and took up the challenge to find Wally across the city centre.
A fortnight of fun especially for children, Leicester’s Spark Festival takes place every year at the end of May. Youngsters up to the age of 13 can enjoy performances in spoken word, theatre, music, dance, film, digital arts, beatboxing and puppetry. For a truly hands-on experience, there are also workshops in drumming, DJ-ing, creating musical instruments and turntabling. Last year, 209 events were presented to more than 18,700 people.
There’s an abundance of fun for children and families at Sunrise Festival. The award-winning kids’ area is home to a theatre tent, a skate ramp, a bouncy castle, arts and crafts, bushcraft skills, treetop adventures, a fire temple, circus artists, art trails, a fairground and much more. Musical entertainment will be provided in 2014 by Reeps One, The Mouse Outfit feat. Dr Syntax & Sparks, The Correspondents, MC Xander, By The Rivers and Gypsy Hill among others.
Families remain at the heart of this festival, which boasts 'crafts, activities and general silliness', as well as live music from acts including Sleigh Bells and Hercules & Love Affair. This festival is largely about music discovery, and has previously played host to Mumford & Sons, Ben Howard, Jake Bugg and Laura Marling, so go along to see if you can spot the next big thing. As well as music, there are stalls, workshops, face painting, hair braiding, dance classes, storytelling, circus skills, fire shows, wand making, welly blinging, rock painting, garden games, chocolate making and even dreadlocking masterclasses.
Headline acts for 2014 include Hudson Taylor, The Feeling, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Jon Allen, Nina Nesbitt, Scouting for Girls, Simple Minds, Peatbog Faeries, Jools Holland – with special guests Melanie C and Marc Almond – and many more. And family-friendly festival fun comes in the shape of magic and ventriloquism shows, parachute games, cabaret, clay making, pirate pantomime, circus skills, Bollywood and Bhangra dancing, puppet making, music, movement, stories, yoga, drumming, a fun filled fairground and face painting.
Get down to this family festival for live music from Tom Jones, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, Tom Odell, Squeeze, Staff Benda Bilili and more, as well as comedy from some of the circuit’s biggest names. There’ll be playsongs, a children’s comedy club, puppet shows, fancy dress, face painting, circus skills, film making and drumming workshops, pitta-bread making and kids’ Zumba, as well as street theatre and plenty for the under-5s. Older offspring will love the parent-free Youth Zone.
This intimate, family-friendly, non-profit event, set in 45 acres of farm land, is in aid of the Devon Air Ambulance Trust and Water Aid. The biggest musical acts at this year’s festival are Lightning Seeds, The Waterboys, The Selecter and The Stanfields. And there’s plenty for the children – face painting, hair braiding, swingboats, bouncy castle, water-zorbing, puppet shows, live animals, hat making, felt making, dream-catcher workshops, bubblemania workshops, samba and ukulele workshops and more. The fancy dress theme for 2014 is ‘The Wild West’.
Head to Hill Farm for two days of live music, workshops, activities and camping. Hitting the stage this year are White Lies, The Cribs, Peace, Stornoway, Andrew W.K, Julie Bashmore, Dodgy, Los Campesinos! and many more. Get ready for reggae, jazz-funk, beatboxing and ‘Home Counties hip hop’. This fun, accessible family festival offers plenty to keep children entertained – typically involving arts and crafts, theatre, cabaret, sports activities, circus skills and tractor rides. At the end of the day, families can head to the dedicated quiet camping area.
A genuine family festival, with a firm focus on creativity, Deer Shed combines live music with film, theatre, art and an array of workshops. Headline acts for 2014 include Johnny Marr, British Sea Power, Stornoway, Steve Mason, and more. There’s cinema, PG-rated comedy, illustrators, graffiti artists, circus, cabaret, storytelling, and computer animators. Get creative with drumming, ukelele and circus workshops, clay modelling, and the chance to make loads of things – from robot masks and bottle rockets, to friendship bracelets and windmills. Add to this soft play, birds of prey, swingball, space hoppers, and eight tons of play sand, and you’ve the perfect recipe for a family festival.
This family-friendly festival adopts a 1990s dance theme on the Saturday, with Betty Boo, Robin S, Ce Ce Peniston, Dub Pistols, Baby D and Whigfield taking to the stage. Sunday sees the arrival of Buzzcocks, From The Jam, Hot Chocolate, Neville Staple from The Specials and more. There are free creative workshops for children, including circus skills, as well as street entertainers, stalls and more.
The World of Music, Arts and Dance is an international music festival, bringing together artists from all over the globe. This year’s acts include Alice Russell, Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba, Fat Freddy's Drop, Mari Boine, Bobby Womack and Mulatu Astatke. There are extensive playground areas, activity spots and workshops for children of all ages. Learn about music and arts from around the world , design and build hats, masks, costumes, instruments and more, and present your creations in the children’s parade.
Camp Bestival has grown into one of the biggest family festivals in the UK. The list of live music acts is immense. Four days of fun will see Basement Jaxx, De La Soul, James, Johnny Marr, Sinéad O'Connor, Laura Mvula, Steve Mason, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Charlotte Church, Peter Hook & the Light, D:Ream – and many more – take to the stage. DJs come in the shape of Boy George and Marc Vedo, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Rob Da Bank. Younger visitors can look forward to Horrible Histories, Mr Tumble, Ben and Holly, skateboarding, a insect circus, films, science, jousting, falconry, yoga, soft play, fireworks and – to mark the anniversary of Roald Dahl's book – a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 50th Birthday Takeover.
If you like the sound of chilling beside a swimming pool, in the grounds of a 16th-century manor house, with live bands to entertain you, then Standon Calling is the family festival for you. Florence and the Machine and Mumford & Sons have played previously, and highlights for 2014 includ Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, Public Enemy, Maximo Park, Clean Bandit, Peace, Grandmaster Flash, TOY, Shapeshifter, as well as folk, americana and local acoustic acts. There are also art and crafts, theatre, a kids’ photo booth, face-painting, badge-making, storytelling, yoga, Punch and Judy, and fancy dress competitions.
Get down on the farm, to the sounds of Fun Lovin' Criminals, Peter Hook and the Light, Courtney Pine, Dub Pistols and more. There are also DJs, comedians, cookery and cabaret to boot. This family-friendly festival is all about local arts, culture, agriculture and economy. And there’s plenty for all ages, including a kitchen theatre, Victorian funfair, cabaret circus, a games yard, messy play, shows and workshops and a children’s comedy club. There’s also a storytelling snug, NCT facilities and a day nursery.
Describing itself as 'small, fresh and loud', this fun family festival aims to be accessible and inclusive. Razorlight, Shed Seven, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, White Lies and Dizzee Rascal bring the noise for 2014, as well as new and established artists from almost every music genre. There are also countless workshops and activities, and the Peak District setting means panoramic views of the countryside. The fun includes mask and costume making, child-friendly cabaret, sports days, carnivals, hoola-hooping and circus skills. Come in fancy dress for a fun outdoors weekend, away from it all.
Music is key to this family festival, with 2014 welcoming London Grammar, Burt Bacharach, Metronomy, Jessie Ware and Sam Smith among others. But children are also treated to a ‘four-day fiefdom of fairytales and fables’. Highlights include den building, cricket, croquet, mask making, theatre workshops, musical-instrument making, giant Jenga, a fire show, basket weaving, bath-bomb making, pony rides and ping pong.
This ‘refreshingly independent’ family-friendly festival claims to have an unrivalled children’s area, with fancy dress, spin painting, hedgerow walks, storytelling, creative writing, inflatables, rides, board games, toy-making, flag-making, football and more. There are workshops in everything from puppet making to photography. And there’s a very cool adult-free adventure zone for those aged between 13 and 17. There’s plenty for grown-ups too – live music, DJs, comedy, poety, literature, art, and science. Acts this year include Beirur, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Waterboys, Bill Callahan, Caribou, First Aid Kit, The War on Drugs, Daughter and tons more.
This relaxed and friendly family festival was set up in 2003 by the Levellers and sells out every year. Headline acts for 2014 include Steve Earle & the Dukes, Seasick Steve, Levellers, Jimmy Cliff, Dead Kennedys, Seeed, The Undertones and Dreadzone. The children’s area of the festival boasts loads of activities, workshops and entertainment. The fun features dressing up, circus skills, rides, story telling, music and craft workshops, comedy, face painting, family-friendly theatre performances and more.
This family festival is described as a ‘magical weekend of creative adventures’ encompassing art, music, dance, nature, relaxation, stories and theatre. The fun includes pirate training, fairy houses, creative writing, journalism school, sea shanties, pillow fights, lantern making, lullabies, laughter competitions, samba drumming, sports, campfire stories, fire juggling, circus skills, baby yoga, music making, a lantern parade, the Gruffalo, and so much more.
Actually more of a children’s festival than a family one, little ones are put right at the heart of Lollibop. Instead of rock and pop, entertainment came from CBeebies’ Justin Fletcher, Rastamouse, Dick and Dom, Shaun the Sheep, Peppa Pig, Mr Men and the Little Misses, Postman Pat, Transformers and Titan the robot in 2013 – the line-up for this year will be announced soon. There are plenty of activities too – from theatre to science, cookery, sport and dance. Now in its fifth year, the event's focus is on interactive play designed to delight mini festival-goers.
Chesney Hawkes and Secret Affair provided the entertainment here in 2013, alongside local bands and wandering musicians. This family-friendly festival has plenty for children, including a miniature railway, funfair rides, inflatables, magic, Punch and Judy, Titan the robot, jugglers, water-zorbing, garlic games, Star Wars characters, a climbing wall, theatre and circus-skills workshops, face painting, and more besides.
This ‘small, family-friendly music and art festival with a twist’ is back for a fifth year. Combining live music, DJs, comedy, workshops, cinema, camping, poetry, crafts, food and drink – with lots more besides – Doune the Rabbit Hole offers a change to relax and have fun. Entry is free for the under-12s and there’s plenty for children – including Scottish ceilidh dancing, knitting and crochet, dressing up, face painting, tribal drumming and bike maintenance. Bands and entertainers include the Peatbog Faeries, Balkanarama, Acid Mother's Temple, Secret Chiefs 3, Jeffrey Lewis & the Jrams, and Ela Orleans.
This family-friendly music and arts festival will be back in 2015, as organisers take a rest following the 10th Solfest. Musical highlights for 2013 included The Undertones, Afro Celt Sound System, Maximo Park, Utah Saints, Krafty Kuts, DJ Yoda and more besides. And for younger festival-goers, there’s plenty to look forward to – from teddy parachuting and workshops to kite displays and artwork. There are also market stalls and a healing garden. Although the festival will be missed in 2014, families can look forward to its return next year.
See more than 50 acts across three live music stages at this intimate, family friendly festival, which boasts amazing views of the Somerset coastline. Enjoy free creative activities, storytelling and more. Headlining this year are Bellowhead, Toploader, Dunb Pistols and Boney M with more bands to be announced. There’s also a silent disco, workshops, drumming, zumba, dance lessons, open-mic, and a huge festival market.
Enjoy all the attractions of Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard as well as live music from the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Razorlight, Scouting for Girls, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Seasick Steve, Naughty Boy, Shed Seven and stacks more. For younger visitors, this family festival boasts Ben & Holly, Moshi Monsters, crafts, circus skills, balloon modelling, knife juggling, face painting, stilt walkers, kids’ karaoke, a bouncy castle, a jungle bus, Punch and Judy, a big wheel, storytelling, music-making workshops and more. There’s also a real-ale festival, a boutique garden, market stalls, chill-out area, cocktail bar and bandstand.
Head to the Salisbury area at the end of August for comedy, cinema, workshops and – of course – live music at this family-friendly festival. Headline acts for 2014 include The Flaming Lips, Wild Beasts, The Gene Clark No Other Band and John Grant. There’s a woodland library, a cinema, four music stages, a comedy stage and relaxation areas. The dedicated children and family area is set to offer more performances, workshops and activities than ever before.
The brainchild of Blur’s Alex James and Jamie Oliver combines brilliant live music with food, workshops, games, vintage funfair rides, facepainting, storytelling, dance lessons, a circus, and much more besides. The music line-up alone is enough reason to go – including for 2014, Guilty Pleasures, Bjorn Again, Fatboy Slim, Kelis, Molotoc Jukebox, Duke, Jamie Cullum and the Cuban Brothers. CBeebies star Justin Fletcher will also be appearing, and there’ll be cookery classes, craft workshops, farm animals to cuddle, vintage funfair and more.
Now ten years old, Galtres takes place in Helmsley over the August bank holiday weekend and guarantees fun for all ages. The festival comprises eight stages of music and cabaret – headliners for 2014 include The Human League, Tricky, Morcheeba, Levellers and Bellowhead – plus excellent local food and drink, and a host of activities. Children will enjoy this year’s seaside theme – complete with a galleon stage, beach and donkey rides. Plus, there’ll be dance and
film-making workshops, interactive shows,
puppet-making, magicians, poets and story-tellers, craft tents and a funfair.
This vibrant, free, family-friendly festival is a celebration inspired by South Asian culture. Enjoy nine zones packed with art, DJs, global food, markets, contemporary, classic and new music and a giant funfair. Performing on the main stage this year are AS Kang, Bally Sagoo, Falak, Nafees, Arjun, Raasmasters featuring Absolute Bollywood Dancers, and San2.
This is the largest dedicated children’s book festival in the UK, and this year award winning author David Almond returns as guest artistic director. As yet, contributors haven't been announced for 2014 however Michael Morpurgo, Neil Gaiman, Malorie Blackman, Terry Deary and Jacqueline Wilson have appeared at past festivals. Events include book readings and signings, craft activities, quizzes and games.
Larmer Tree Festival © The Little Photo Company
Truck Festival © Claire Williams Photography
WOMAD © Suzie Blake
Lounge on the Farm © Dylan Woolf
Beautiful Days © Russel Liley
Doune the Rabbit Hole © Michael Gallacher
The Big Feastival © George Powell
Imagine Children's Festival © Belinda Lawley
Cambridge Science Festival © Alex Wright
Updated April 2014