Family festival season officially opens this Bank Holiday weekend in London with Streetfest, a celebration of urban culture; the Chorus Festival of song in Southbank Centre (see Festival of Neighbourhood below); and the wacky and wondrous-sounding Land of Kids in Dalston (listed below).
Check out our round-up of Top 20 Child-Friendly Festivals in London and beyond, with a heavy emphasis on what’s hot in the capital or most cool for kids (and their hangers-on).
Here’s to a summer of parties!
(by date order)
1. Festival of Neighbourhood at Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, SE1 (Waterloo/Embankment tube)
This summer-long festival groups together a series of events transforming the South Bank into the perfect neighbourhood. Chorus singing festival (May 4-6); London Wonderground of cabaret, family and circus shows (May 6-29); London Literature Festival with tons on for kids (May 20-Jun 5); & Meltdown festival of music and arts (Jun 14-23) — non-stop entertainment for all ages at one of our favourite parts of town. Hot on stage are Monski Mouse’s Baby Disco (May 26-Sep 15) and Shlomo’s Beatbox for Kids (May 27-Aug 30). Prices, dates and times vary, many events are FREE (May 4-Sep 15)
2. Land of Kids, various locations in Dalston, E8 (Dalston Kingsland overground)
From the wild spirits behind Land of Kings, this one-day indoor/outdoor celebration of culture and curiosities features some of our faves e.g. Disco Loco family groove and Street Feast food market. Come and pimp your mani/pedi with Wah Nails, hear Reggae Nursery Rhymes, join an Unbirthday Party with Momma Loves, see Kigu’s Pop-Up Zoo, dress-up for a vintage photo-booth, dance in House of Hot Breath’s mini video parties and try a Scooter Paint Party to create works of art with your wheels! Unmissable fun for kids of all shapes and sizes. 12-7pm, £19.50/family of 4 £60/under 2s FREE (May 6)
3. Norfolk and Norwich Festival, Norwich NR3 1HF (Norwich rail station, 30 mins from Liverpool St via Greater Anglia trains)
Mozart with Puppets, big painting for small artists and a playful Little Universe performance are on the menu for kids at this innovative and inspiring arts festival. Two weeks of family fun. Tickets £5-£55, some events are FREE. Ticket hotline +44 1603 766400 (May 10-26)
4. Hay Fever (Hay Festival for Kids), Dairy Meadows, Brecon Road, Hay on Wye, HR3 5PJ
The essential festival stop for bookworms hosts a 10-day event aimed strictly at the little ones. The Hay Fever site hosts make and take workshops, book signings, plus Julia Donaldson and New York Times bestselling author Jon Klassen (This is Not my Hat) on stage amongst other literary performances. Main entry no fee, ticketed events £3-£19, many events are FREE (May 23-Jun 2)
5. Wychwood Festival, Cheltenham Racecourse, GL50 4SH (National Rail from Paddington to Cheltenham Spa)
Nominated for awards every year, activities for kids include their own Children’s Literature Festival, Roald Dahl museum tent, walkabout circus and street theatre, toddler zone and baby-feeding yurt. Live acts Bill Bailey, Soul II Soul, Human League, Kate Nash, Toploader and hundreds more keep all ages dancing throughout the weekend. From 9am (Fri), 10am (Sat-Sun). Adult weekend £120 + camping £20-£35/child ages 10-15 £55/under 10s FREE. Day passes adult £35-£53/child £20/under 10s FREE (May 31-Jun 2)
6. Holloway Arts Festival, in and around Old Fire Station, Mayton St, N7 (Arsenal/Holloway Rd tube)
Since 2003, the festival has seen national and international acts to North Islington for a week of cultural events. Highlights include the lively Mayton Street Party (Jun 1), Kids Drama and Dance Workshop (Jun 6), Under 5s Picnic in Royal Northern Gardens (Jun 7) and Big Day Out in Whittington Park (Jun 8) with live stage, ping pong, circus skills, children’s arts and crafts. Dates and times vary, FREE (Jun 1-8)
7. Greenwich + Docklands International Festival, various sites around Greenwich (Cutty Sark DLR/Greenwich/Canary Wharf tube)
Highlights of this wonderful 10-day annual event already released include As the World Tipped, billed as ‘epic outdoor storytelling’, the street grooving extravaganza Dance City and Greenwich Fair — a weekend of unusual staging involving street arts, circus, dance, theatre and installations. Full line-up announced from May 11. Dates and times vary, FREE (Jun 21-29)
8. The Coronation Festival at Buckingham Palace, SW1 (St James’ Park tube)
Celebrate the Queen’s official Coronation anniversary in royal style at this 4-day event. Explore the Palace gardens, see National Youth Ballet performances, sample fine food & drink, explore more than 200 exhibitors and stick around for the fabulous evening gala. 9.30am-4pm (daytime festival); 6-10pm (gala) day ticket £30/evening gala £90/under 3s FREE (Jul 11-14)
9. Larmer Tree Festival, Larmer Tree Gardens, near Salisbury, Wiltshire/Dorset border, SP5 5WA (Salisbury rail)
Hugely popular with families, there’s peace, love and good vibes in abundance. Van Morrison, Imelda May, Bellowhead, KT Tunstall, Alistair McGowan, Comedy Club for Kids, and special Children’s Shows including Gobbledegook Theatre’s performances inspired by the kids and gardens. Adult camping 3-days to holiday (7 days) £140-£215/youth £90-£150/child (age 5-10) £45-£75/under 4s FREE (Jul 17-21)
10. Latitude Festival, Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk (National Express coaches from central London direct to festival)
Bloc Party, Kraftwerk, Hot Chip, Alt J, Maccabees are just some of the big names on the programme, along with Russell Kane (comedy), Sadlers Wells (theatre and dance), Carol Ann Duffy (spoken word), David Shrigley (artists) and more. Plus a Children’s Arena packed with fun and a special Family Campsite. Winner of Best Family Festival 2012. Weekend ticket £190.50/accompanied teen ticket £140.50/day ticket £80/child 5-15 £6.50/under 4s FREE (Jul 18-21)
11. Lovebox Weekender in Victoria Park, E9 (Mile End tube)
A flamboyant clash of music, art installations and creative fun with top acts Azealia Banks, D’Angelo, Rudimental, Annie Mac, Disclosure and Jurassic 5 amongst the massive bill. Not aimed at kids, but there’s a family-friendly vibe including Lovebox Playbox with magicians, puppets and sandpit for minis, plus outdoor bowling from All Star Lanes planned. Pack some noise-reducing headphones! No camping, day tickets from £32.50/combined 2-day £75.35/3-day weekend tickets £108.90/under 12s FREE (Jul 19-21)
12. Deer Shed Festival, Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, North Yorkshire, Y07 3PH (Grand Central trains direct from Kings Cross to Thirsk rail station)
Run by parents, this friendly event has soft play, 8 tons of play sand, playground sports field, birds of prey displays, cardboard city and more to tempt the minis. Also plenty of left-field music acts, arts across the board from cinema to cabaret and graffiti artists, and a Machines tent for serious tech geeks! Adult full weekend £89-£99/child £25/child ages 0-5 £1, all + booking fee (Jul 19-21)
13. Womad, Charlton Park,Malmesbury, Wiltshire SN16 9DG (see web site for public transport updates)
An oldie but a goodie, the diverse programme of world music (including Toots & the Maytals, Seun Kuti, Flavia Coelho) complements a relaxed, boho atmosphere that’s extremely welcoming to the little people. World of Kids is where to head for a wide range of workshops, from music to theatre. Adult weekend £145/teen ages 14-17 £75/child ages 13 and under FREE (Jul 25-28)
14. Kendal Calling, Lowther Deer Park, Hackthorpe, Cumbria Lake District (National Rail to Penrith station)
A gorgeous setting for this innovative indie fest featuring a host of top acts across all stages. Special guests Public Enemy join The Charlatans, Basement Jaxx, Primal Scream on main stage, while Glow Dance tent serves up Roni Size, Grooverider and other massive DJs. There’s a movies theme for fancy dress and Ladybird Children’s Area with storytelling, crafts, music workshops etc. Emperors Fields is best for families with free compost toilets and hot showers. adult weekend £122.50/child £65/child 10 and under FREE (Jul 26-28)
15. Camp Bestival at Lulworth Castle, Dorset (Big Green Coach from London Victoria station direct to Festival)
The multi-award winning Family Festival run by hip parents Rob and Josie da Bank returns with another jurassic line-up. Live acts include DJ Fresh, Levellers, Heaven 17, The Proclaimers, Toots & Maytals, Kid Creole, Ash, Billy Bragg and more. DJ sets from Grandmaster Flash to Dick & Dom, Erth’s Dinosaur Petting Zoo, comedy with Alan Davies, Horrible Histories, Insect Circus, Mr Tumble, medieval jousting, baby chill out. Oh, the mind boggles! We LOVED our first experience of going to Camp Bestival in 2012. Don’t miss it. Adult weekend camping £190/ages 15-17 £113/ages 11-14 £98/under 10s FREE. Weekly payment plan available. (Aug 1-4)
16. Just So Festival, Rode Hall Estate, Stoke-on-Trent, ST7 3QP
Designed for families with young kids, and ultra fab for babies, this boutique, multi-arts festival keeps growing in popularity. Their amazing line-up for 2013 includes everything from Bollywood Dance sessions to eclectic bands to on-site beach, flower mazes and lantern parades in the magical woodland setting. Adult weekend camping £95/day £30; child (3-15) weekend £40/day £15; under 3s FREE (Aug 16-18)
17. LolliBop Festival at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, E20 (Stratford tube/overground)
The big bash for little people relocates to Olympic Park this summer, for another outstanding weekend of family fun for kids 0-10. The festival will feature its usual areas including Enchanted Forest, Lollipaladium and 3ft and Under tent in a larger space. Full programme announced soon, early bird tickets on sale NOW! Early bird tickets single £20/family of 4 £78/group of 10+ £18 per person; standard tickets single £28/family of 4 £110/group of 10+ £23 per person (Aug 16-18)
18. Beautiful Days, Escot Park, Devon, EX11 1LU (National Rail to Feniton station)
Shortlisted for Best Family Festival 2012 (and winner in 2011), this well-loved event offers Primal Scream, Sinead O’Conner, Arrested Development, Levellers, Ocean Colour Scene on main stage. There’s family camping and a huge Children’s Area with storytelling, circus, dress-up, crafts, music and more. Adult weekend camping £120/child ages 10-15, £90/child ages 5-9, £30/under 5s £5 (Aug 16-18)
19. Notting Hill Carnival, Notting Hill and surrounding areas (Westbourne Park exit only, see TFL web site closer to date for transport advice)
Millions of Londoners and tourists flock to Notting Hill for the largest street party in Europe. Giant floats, costumed parades, sound systems and food stalls keep the party going all through Bank Holiday. Sunday is traditionally Children’s Day, with minis on show and a calmer atmosphere. Around 9am-7pm, FREE (Aug 25-26)
20. Thames Festival, along South Bank, Tate Museum, Southwark Bridge and Tower Bridge (see TFL for travel advice)
Billed as London’s biggest party, the Thames Festival closes summer with a bang as spectacular fireworks burst over the Thames. The unmissable event typically features live stages, local celebrations, a Kids Area and a Night Carnival. This year, the festival will be extended into a 10-day season of bespoke events, watch the web site for details. From around 11am daily, FREE (Sep, dates tbc)
10 More Family Friendly Festivals
1. Kaya Festival (May 25-26)
Open-spirited, multicultural and affordable festival in Bangor, North Wales with African market, roots music and under 13s go free.
2. Apple Cart (June, tbc)
Crammed with music, comedy and culture, plus loads on for little ones, the sister festival to Field Day has yet to be scheduled for 2013.
3. Glastonbury (Jun 26-30)
Tickets are already SOLD OUT for this uber festival in Pilton, back after a pause in 2012.
4. City of London Festival (Jun 23-Jul 26)
A month-long celebration of arts and culture, reviving the heart of London every year.
5. Ben and Jerry Sundae on the Common (Jul, tbc)
Cancelled last year because of the Olympics, it hasn’t been confirmed for 2013 but this is a chilled-out, family loving fest with top bands and free ice cream!
6. Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Aug 2-26)
Scotland is home to the world’s largest arts festival, with loads of family-friendly shows amidst the packed schedule over 3 weeks.
7. Shambala Festival (Aug 22-25)
Bringing the freshest music to Northamptonshire as well as magic and mayhem with vibrant Kids Field and a new creche for ages 2-6!
8. End of the Road Festival (Aug 30-Sep 1)
Intimate and family-friendly in Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset with its own dedicated children’s area and woodlands to explore.
9. Blissfields (Jul 5-7)
Angel Gardens, home to dreadlock workshops, wand making, welly blinging and bedtime chum Oliver Bear is the main draw for families at this highly rated festival in Winchester.
10. Cornbury Festival (Jul 5-7)
Squeeze, Keane and Van Morrison headlining, and for little ones a Kids Zone with Bhangra dancing, circus skills, pirate pantomime and more shenanigans in a picturesque Oxfordshire setting.
The Big Chill Festival 2013
Sadly missing on the festival circuit for the 2nd year in the row.
London Green Fair 2013
Postponed from June until further notice.
Photo via Just So Festival web site