The Festival Blog

With the summer comes festivals. Festivals of all shapes and sizes form a magnificent backdrop to the Summer in the UK - and likely in other places, too. Anyone with a love of anything - from camping to music to reading and even running - will find there is a festival or event for them to attend.


This week the Hay Festival has been in full swing in Wales and there is more to come. Just three of the most family-friendly festivals that we are aware of are featured in this Blog. We bring you details of Henley (which we attended last year and absolutely loved), the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival and the Essex Book Festival, all of which take place across the month of June.


My very first festival was in Cheltenham. Along I went with my little pop-up tent, my rucksack and absolutely no idea what a festival was all about. At Wychwood Festival, the family part was packed full of books, authors reading, crafts and so much more. It was the perfect introduction. Last year’s Henley festival, family Sunday, was shorter but kept me equally busy with a play to watch, a choir to listen to, an art installation to enjoy and much more besides.


So, what do June and July 2022 have in store for us?

The Essex Book Festival begins the celebrations, with, in its words, a “celebration of nature, place and metamorphoses.” Whilst there is plenty for adults to attend and enjoy, the children are also in for a real treat. There will be family festivities at their Midsummer Madness Day where both magic and mayhem will be in attendance, plus a free family fun day on June 18th hosted by the Chelmsford Library. Here you will be treated to rhyme-time entertainment and plenty of crafting delights. Add to this more fun for all the family with the Young Essex Programme, a series of special events including Dr Sarah Pyle and her puppet Pongo who will teach you how to build an orangutan nest in the gardens of Hylands House.


Free family fun events include an alphabetical adventure with Sadie Fadpie, learning what makes a hero with Emily Kenny and tips for budding writers at storyteller Catherine Emmett’s Once Upon a Story session. Add to this theatrical fun and an interactive session around bugs and bees and the chance to make your own hero… well, you see that the Essex Book Festival offers hours of entertainment for the whole family and promises to turn children into budding book enthusiasts.

Moving on up to London, the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival enjoys a beautiful setting by the river Thames for the UK’s largest children’s literature festival. With events taking place from June 9th to June 26th, with a family weekend from 25th to 26 June, this festival is packed. PLUS there is a free 12 day school programme…the UK’s largest children’s literature festival. With events taking place from June 9th to June 26th, with a family weekend from 25th to 26 June, this festival is packed. PLUS there is a free 12 day school programme…


With too many events and authors to mention here, I have picked out some highlights. If drawing and illustration are your thing, then you will be delighted to know that Rob Biddulph - who kept us all busy during lockdown with #DrawWithRob - designed the artwork for the festival and will be very much in attendance. As will David Baddiel and Axel Scheffler, some of our favourite children’s book authors and illustrators. Events are planned for readers of all ages with a stellar line up of famous book world names. There will be entertainment from Terry Deary, the author of Horrible Histories, so lots of laughter is guaranteed. From the smallest to the biggest, no child is forgotten and there will be storytelling plus interactive events for all to join in with. PLUS Paddington Bear’s first concert and some theatre workshops and performances, this is a weekend not to be missed!

Having had so much fun in June, we are not yet finished for July - 10th July to be exact - brings us Henley Festival Family Sunday. This year is the festival’s 40th anniversary. To coincide with this momentous achievement, this music and arts festival set up to benefit the local community is launching a new charity, RISE, to help nurture the next generation of talent. This talent will be featuring across the festival, including Family Sunday which is our focus here.


Family Sunday is a day of activities and performances for the whole family, for children of all ages, even big ones - and this big one had a thoroughly wonderful time last year! There will be magic that will wow you, and that is accompanied by laugh-out-loud comedy from Gizmo’s Marvellous Magic Show. A man who can transform from being a six foot human into a balloon is a mystery to behold, whilst MC Grammar is on hand to tackle everything from football to volcanoes in his Wonder Raps.


Fans of comedy are in for a treat with a Variety Spectacular Show which will include juggling and Cookie the clown will make sure everyone gets balloon models. The silent clown Mr Pineapple Head will captivate all audiences. Brave children can try out a performance of their own with the Comedy Club 4 Kids and the Theatre Club 4 Kids. More workshops include the Henley Youth Choir, opportunities for budding artists, face painting, storytelling and magic bubbles! Another unmissable event for the whole family.


Wow, what a summer of fun we have ahead of us!


Louise Ellis-Barrett

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