Family-friendly festivals

Fuel the fun factor with some festival fever

Just So festival

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…


London Mela

Gunnersbury Park, Hounslow

This vibrant, free, family-friendly festival is a celebration inspired by South Asian culture. Enjoy seven zones packed with art, DJs, global food, markets, contemporary, classic and new music and a giant funfair. Performing on the main stage his year are AS Kang, Bally Sagoo, Falak, Nafees, Arjun, Raasmasters featuring Absolute Bollywood Dancers, and San2.

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The Telegraph Bath Children’s Literature Festival

Bath, Somerset

This is the largest dedicated children’s book festival in the UK, and this year author and children’s laureate Malorie Blackman returns to talk about her new book. Other authors appearing this year include Judith Kerr, Michael Rosen, Cressida Cowell, and David Almond, who is also the festival’s guest artistic director. Events include book readings and signings, craft activities, quizzes and games.

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Cambridge Festival of Ideas


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.

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Big Imagination Children’s Festival

Various locations, North-west England

The first event of its kind will touch 15 venues across the North west this autumn. The diverse line-up includes performances from one-man wonder Tim Crouch, a messy celebration of yummy food through the medium of dance and a chance to see the word’s first ever projection-mapped pop-up book. The festival aims to celebrate brilliant children’s theatre and fire the imaginations of children aged 0 to 12.

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Photo credit: Belinda Lawley

Imagine Children’s Festival

South Bank, London

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 2013 festival featured readings by David Walliams, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Anthony Horowitz, Cressida Cowell, James Patterson, Simon Mayo, Cathy Cassidy, Laura Dockrill and Judith Kerr.

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Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival

Cardiff, Wales

The 2013 festival featured big-name authors such as How to Train your Dragon creator Cressida Cowell, comedian and Young Bond author Charlie Higson, the world expert Tintinologist and Hergé biographer Michael Farr, Horrible Histories illustrator Illustrator Martin Brown, and Welsh children’s poet laureate Eurig Salisbury. Families enjoyed treasure hunts around the city, a zombie walk, and took up the challenge to find Wally across the city centre.

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Photo credit: Alex Wright

Cambridge Science Festival


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.

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The Spark Festival

Various locations, Leicester

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 and turntabling. Last year, 147 events were presented to more than 13,600 people.

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Sunrise Festival

Near Bath, Somerset

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 was provided at the last event by Krafty Kuts, Gadjo, Dub Pistols, Utah Saints and The Freestylers, among others.

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Winchester, Hampshire

Families remain at the heart of this festival, which boasts 'crafts, activities and general silliness', as well as live music from acts including Bastille and Mystery Jets. 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 and even dreadlocking masterclasses.

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Cornbury Festival

Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

Headline acts for 2013 – its 10th anniversary – include Van Morrison, Keane, Imelda May, Squeeze, Beverley Knight, Echo and the Bunnymen, Amy MacDonald, The Proclaimers, Seth Lakeman and 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, and face painting.

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Magic Summer Live

Magic Summer Live

Guildford, Surrey

This is your only chance to catch Jamiroquai live in the UK this summer. But, if Jay Kay doesn’t float your boat, Bryan Adams, James Morrison, Ocean Colour Scene, Soul II Soul, Chic with Nile Rodgers, Level 42, Kim Wilde and Joss Stone will also be at this family festival. The array of fun family activities includes traditional fairground games, a giant inflatable mega-slide and bouncy castle, garden games, face painting, arts and crafts, interactive tablet art and a graffiti mural.

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Photo credit: The Little Photo Company

Larmer Tree Festival

Dorset-Wiltshire border

Get down to this family festival for live music from Van Morrison, KT Tunstall, Seasick Steve, Dexys, Imelda May and more, as well as comedy from some of the circuit’s biggest names. CBeebies presenter Katy Ashworth will be appearing, as well as beatbox expert Shlomo, and family folk duo Megson. There’ll be a Disney Jungle Book singalong, 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.

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Dartmoor, Devon

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 The Boomtown Rats, Billy Bragg and Mystery Jets. 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 2013 is ‘circus’.

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Photo credit: Claire Williams Photography

Truck Festival

Near Didcot, Oxfordshire

Head to Hill Farm for two days of live music, workshops, activities and camping. Hitting the stage this year are Spiritualized, The Horrors, Ash, Gaz Coombes from Supergrass, The Subways, Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip 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.

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Deer Shed Festival

Near Ripon, North Yorkshire

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 2013 include Edwyn Collins, House of Love, Gaz Coombes from Supergrass, 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.

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Penn Festival

Near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

This family-friendly festival adopts a 1990s dance theme on the Saturday, with Black Box, Baby D, SL2, D:Ream and Alison Limerick taking to the stage. Sunday sees the arrival of Nick Heyward, Space, The Blockheads, Doctor and the Medics and more. There are free creative workshops for children, including circus skills, as well as street entertainers, stalls and more.

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Photo credit: Suzie Blake


Swindon, Wiltshire

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 Arrested Development, David Rodigan, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Rokia Traoré and Gilberto Gil. 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.

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Photo credit: Dylan Woolf

Lounge on the Farm

Canterbury, Kent

Get down on the farm, to the sounds of Seasick Steve, Jessie Ware, Soul II Soul 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.

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Standon Calling

Standon, Hertfordshire

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 2013 included Digitalism, De La Soul, Band of Skulls, Public Service Broadcasting, the Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show, DJ Yoda, Simian Mobile Disco, Gilles Peterson, as well as folk, americana and local acoustic acts. There were also art and crafts, theatre, a kids’ photo booth, face-painting, badge-making, storytelling, yoga, Punch and Judy and fancy dress competitions. Accompanied under-13s enjoy free entry. Early-bird tickets are already on sale for 2014.

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Camp Bestival

Lulworth Castle, Dorset

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 Labrinth, Richard Hawley, Mark Owen, Heaven 17, DJ Fresh, Billy Bragg, Ash, The Proclaimers, Gabrielle Aplin, I Am Kloot, Nik Kershaw, The Polyphonic Spree, Kid Creole, Musical Youth, The Wurzels – and many more – take to the stage. DJs come in the shape of Fabio and Grooverider, Grandmaster Flash and David Rodigan. Younger visitors can look forward to Horrible Histories, Mr Tumble, Dick and Dom, circus tricks, skateboarding, a dinosaur zoo, films, science, jousting, falconry, yoga, soft play, and fireworks.

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Y Not Festival

Near Matlock, Derbyshire

Describing itself as 'small, fresh and loud', this fun family festival aims to be accessible and inclusive. The Darkness, The Horrors, and Ash bring the noise for 2013, 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.

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Wilderness Festival

Near Woodstock, Oxfordshire

Music is key to this family festival, with 2013 welcoming Rodriguez, Noah and the Whale, Empire of the Sun, Martha Wainwright, and Tom Odell, 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, and campfire storytelling – and your little offspring can even take part in an overnight Bushcraft camp expedition.

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Green Man

Black Mountains, Wales

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, 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 Band of Horses, Ben Howard, The Horrors, Edwyn Collins, Matt Berry, Andrew Weatherall, Patti Smith and Tony Shanahan, and tons more.

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Photo credit: Russel Liley

Beautiful Days

Near Honiton, Devon

This relaxed and friendly family festival was set up in 2003 by the Levellers and sells out every year. Headline acts for 2013 include Primal Scream, Ocean Colour Scene, Levellers, Sinead O’Connor, Arrested Development, Roy Harper, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Imelda May, The Wonder Stuff and Clannad. 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.

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Just So Festival

Near Congleton, Cheshire

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, sing-along Jungle Book, and so much more.

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Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London

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 comes 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. There are plenty of activities too – from theatre to science, cookery, sport and dance. Now in its fourth year, the event's focus is on interactive play designed to delight mini festival-goers.

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Garlic Festival

Newchurch, Isle of Wight

Chesney Hawkes and Secret Affair provide the entertainment here, 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.

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Photo credit: Michael Gallacher

Doune the Rabbit Hole

Cardross Estate, Arnprior, Stirlingshire

This ‘small, friendly music festival with a twist’ is back for a fourth year and – due to inclement weather in 2012 – all main stages are now undercover. This family-friendly festival combines live music, DJs, comedy, workshops, cinema, camping, poetry, crafts, food and drink, with lots more besides. 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. There’s also a Rabbit Hole to explore – a space where young visitors can ‘engage with the sights, smells and sounds of the land and be free to play creatively in a safe environment’.

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Near Aspatria, Cumbria

This family-friendly music and arts festival is in its 10th year. Musical highlights this year include 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. So, don your fancy dress and head to the Lake District!

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Watchet Festival

Near Minehead, Somerset

See more than 50 acts across three live music stages at this intimate, family friendly festival, which boasts a hugely expanded kids’ area for 2013. Enjoy free creative activities, storytelling and more. Headlining this year are The Hoosiers, Showaddywaddy, Dreadzone, The Wurzels, and Doctor and the Medics. There’s also a silent disco, workshops, drumming, zumba, dance lessons, open-mic, and a huge festival market.

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Victorious Festival

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Hampshire

Enjoy all the attractions of Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard as well as live music from the likes of The Feeling, Brand New Heavies, Level 42, Maximo Park, Katy B, Charlotte Church, Reef, Starsailor, DJ Yoda and stacks more. For younger visitors, this family festival boasts Peppa Pig and George, 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.

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End of the Road Festival

Near Blandford Forum, Dorset

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 2013 include Sigur Ros, Belle and Sebastian, David Byrne and St Vincent, Eels, Warpaint and Dinosaur Junior. 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.

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Photo credit: George Powell

The Big Feastival

Near Chipping Norton, The Cotswolds

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 2013, Basement Jaxx, Rizzle Kicks, Lianne La Havas, Norman Jay, Dodgy, The Feeling, KT Tunstall, Mark Owen, The Milk, Laurence Fox and The Cuban Brothers. CBeebies star Justin Fletcher will also be appearing, and there’ll be cookery classes, craft workshops and more.

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Image credits:

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 August 2013