Top 20 Family Friendly Festivals in London and Beyond (2015)
Festival season is well and truly underway. Newcomers on the festival scene this year included Geronimo Festival in Tatton Park and the Urban Village Fete in Greenwich both in May. They’ve rounded up Hay Festival of Literature and Wychwood Festival and I had a lovely time with the babes at Brighton Fringe.
My guide to Top 20 Family Friendly Festivals in London and Beyond is out later than usual this year — and sorry folks, hot fave Deer Shed Festival is SOLD OUT.
But there are still some fabulous family friendly festivals to add to your calendar. Make it a great summer of outdoor dancing, live music and feasting in the sunshine!
Festival of Love at Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XX (Waterloo/Embankment tube)
The Southbank Centre’s ode to all types of human love returns for another brilliant summer. New highlights such as dance spectacular Baila Brazil and riverside pavilion Arcadia, join familiar favourites like the urban beach and beach huts, Jeppe Hein’s Appearing Rooms fountains, Urban Weekend, Big Wedding Weekend. Plus there are tons of acts and activities in Udderbelly and London Wonderground, site-wide installations, social dances and loads of free family fun. Check the website for full programme of events. All ages. From 10am-10pm daily, event times/dates and prices vary, many activities are FREE (Jun 6-Aug 31)
Greenwich + Docklands International Festival (pic), various sites around Greenwich (Cutty Sark DLR/Greenwich rail/Canary Wharf tube)
The annual 10 day extravaganza of ‘perception-changing’ outdoor art and performance gets bigger and bolder each year. Along with the action-packed Greenwich Fair that kicks the first weekend off, there promises to be an evocative work dedicated to artist Frida Kahlo, a vibrant opening night chorus and a colourful finale inspired by the Indian celebration of Holi. Plus loads of spectacle, pop-ups, street arts, dance and family friendly activities. See the full Greenwich + Docklands International Festival, various sites around Greenwich (Cutty Sark DLR/Greenwich rail/Canary Wharf tube). All ages. Dates and times vary, FREE (Jun 26-Jul 5)
British Summer Time Family Day Hyde Park, W2 (Hyde Park Corner tube)
The massive summer concert series is back for another year having kicked off last weekend with Kylie, Chic, Grace Jones and other major acts on the big stage. Coming up for the final weekend is Family Day, with boy band Union J, Britain’s Got Talent winners Collabro, Justin Fletcher, Dick & Dom, Shaun the Sheep, Horrible Histories, Swashbuckling Pirates, Spongebob Squarepants, Disney’s Frozen Singalong and many more special guests. There’s an Urban Sports area, gaming zone, YouTube vlog stars on the Summer Stage, along with the usual carnival fun and food outlets. Doors open 11.30am, tickets from £19.50/family of 4 £50 or £12.50 per head/under 16s must be accompanied by an adult/under 5s go FREE (Jun 28)
Larmer Tree Festival, Larmer Tree Gardens, near Salisbury, Wiltshire/Dorset border, SP5 5WA (Salisbury rail)
It proudly touts its status as the ‘happiest, friendliest, quirkiest in the land’ and 2015 sees hte return of Tom Jones headlining along with Jimmy Cliff, Levellers, Bill Bailey, Ibibio Sound Machine, Femi Kuti and the Positive Force, comedian Russell Kane and many more. For the wee ones, Shlomo’s Beatbox Adventure for Kids joins Michael Rosen, puppetry with Nobody Rides the Unicorn and interactive show Gorillas Gardening. Plus parent-free YouthZone, proper loos and hot showers. Adult camping 3-days to holiday (7 days) £174-£260/youth £113-£164/child (age 5-10) £63-£104/under 5s FREE but require a ticket (Jul 14-19)
Disco Loco in the Park, Springfield Park, Upper Clapton Rd, E5 9EF (Clapton overground/Stoke Newington rail/Manor House tube)
It’s usually one of our favourite ways to wind down the summer, but Disco Loco are bringing their summer festival much earlier this year. The pop-up festival from the East London rave for folks with kids is back for another session in gorgeous Springfield Park. The full line-up is still to be announced but you can expect eclectic live music, funky DJ sets, children’s theatre and installations, a laidback vibe and some tasty street food and treats. 11am-6pm, FREE (July 26)
Latitude Festival, Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk (National Express coaches from central London direct to festival)
It’s the 10th birthday celebration for Latitude Festival and they’re showing out in style with another massive line-up of acts including alt-J, Portishead and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Catfish and The Bottlemen, Years & Years, Gareth Malone and the Latitude Choir. This year, they’ve introduced outdoor swimming in the picturesque lakes (for ages 8+), adding to their mix of theatre and dance from Sadler’s Wells and RSC, live poetry and literature, comedy performances and more. The Kids’ Area boasts rides, shows, cookery and other workshops. Winner of Best Family Festival 2012. Weekend adult ticket £195.50/accompanied teen ticket ages 13-15 £132.50/child 5-12 £8/adult day ticket £77.50/child day ticket £5/under 4s FREE (all prices subject to booking fees) (Jul 16-19)
Lovebox Weekender, Victoria Park, Crown Gate, Victoria Park, Grove Road, Bow, London E3 5TB (Mile End tube)
One of the biggest line-ups on the music calendar featuring Snoop Dogg, Mark Ronson, Rudimental, Cypress Hill, Hot Chip, MK, Annie Mac, Groove Armada, Little Dragon and many more. Families are always welcome, check out the kid friendly Lovebox Playbox with magicians, puppets and sandpit for minis, Ping London ping pong, hula hooping with Charlene the Hoola Queen, and Bump Roller Disco all weekend. Don’t forget your noise-reducing headphones for the tots! No camping, day tickets from £49.75/weekend tickets from £82.50/under 12s FREE (Jul 17-18)
Walthamstow Garden Party, Lloyd Park, Forest Road, Walthamstow E17 5JW (Walthamstow tube).
Last year saw 34,000 people converge in Lloyd Park for two days of live music, culture and family fun. This year they hope to build on that success with live music from Femi Kuti, The Skatalites, Ghost Post and others, Boy Blue Entertainment street dance, Fevered Sleep circus theatre, Skate Park jam, Real Food Festival street food, Barbican Pop-Up Cinema, mini garden party for under 5s and loads extra. Oh and did I mention it’s all absolutely free? 12-9.30pm (Sat) & 12-8pm (Sun); FREE (Jul 18-19)
Citadel Festival, Victoria Park, Crown Gate, Victoria Park, Grove Road, Bow, London E3 5TB (Mile End tube)
Read more at http://citadelfestival.com/info/category/travel/#vmH5bxhrbxbk6MtL.99
Brand new on the festival circuit comes Citadel, from the brains behind Lovebox and Wilderness. Kids are very welcome with lots laid on to entertain them: hula hooping, arts and crafts tables, ping pong, slacklining, giant jenga, Kid’s Disco in the Rock n Roller Disco, Kids Sports Day with sack races, egg & spoon etc. Also enjoy feasts with Richard Turner (Hawksmoor, Meatopia, Pitt Cue), fashion boutiques and talks from Sunday Papers Live. But of course it’s mostly about the bands including Bombay Bicycle Club and Ben Howard headlining at this one-day event. Festival ticket adult £49.95/child £5; feast tickets £28.50 for ages 10+ (under 10s may accompany parents but won’t be served food) (Jul 19)
Somersault Festival, The Castle Hill Estate
Devon, England, EX32 0RH (Tiverton rail)
This is a lovely sounding festival that’s new to our annual guide, created by the team behind Wilderness Festival. It offers a very promising mix of entertainment including Laura Marling, Bombay Bicycle Club, Passenger and Crystal Fighters plus Imelda May, Benjamin Clementine, Jimmy Cliff and others. There are campfire feasts and forest parties, plus outdoor sports like mountain biking, rock climbing, falconry and surfing, dudes! Little ones don’t miss Rhubarb Theatre, giant water slide, circus skills, the Storystock Story Tent and for weary mamas and papas Mortimer Nannies Babysitting service to give you an evening off. Adult long weekend camping £135/young person 11-17 £75/child 0-10 £5 (Jul 23-27)
Camp Bestival (pic and top pic), Lulworth Castle, Dorset, BH20 5SQ (Wareham or Wool rail/Big Green Coach from London Victoria station direct to Festival)
Probably the biggest and possibly the best of the family festivals (and our personal favourite), Camp Bestival is the little sister to Bestival and always puts on a giant party/festi-holiday to remember. This year, Camp Bestival Goes Wild with a big outdoor fun theme, aimed especially at getting families up close with nature. Main stage acts include Underworld, Clean Bandit, Kaiser Chiefs, Wretch 32, Soul II Soul, Ella Henderson, Professor Green and the list goes on. For kids there’s Big Fish Little Fish family raves, the Cat in the Hat Live, Dick vs Dom, Mr Tumble, Insect Circus, Marawa the Amazing, Wall of Death, Insect Circus, Horrible Histories and Medieval Jousting, and baby chill zones. Don’t forget DJ sets from Rob da Bank and friends, live comedy, fairground rides, street food, and all the usual shenanigans. Winner of Best Family Festival 2013. Adult weekend camping £195/ages 15-17 £113/ages 11-14 £88/ages 5-10 £20/under 5s FREE but ticket required. Weekly payment plan available. (Jul 30-Aug 2)
Wilderness Festival, Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire (Charlbury rail/Big Green Coach direct to festival site from Victoria station)
Boy do we love this year’s line-up at the wonderful sounding Wilderness Festival: Bjork, George Clinton, Parliament & Funkadelic, Ben Howard, Roisin Murphy… just a taster of the acts turning out. For families there’s ping pong, storytelling fun with Storystock, V&A Museum and Anorak magazine workshops, croquet games and a cricket match, Squiggles and Wiggles body painting and more madcap entertainment. Book early for Mortimer Nannies boutique babysitting service! Weekend camping adult £177/young person 11-17 £165/child (0-10) £5 (all tickets subject to booking fees) (Aug 6-9)
Boomtown Fair, Matterley Estate, Alresford rd, Nr Winchester. Hampshire. SO21 1HW (Winchester rail)
The slightly wacky, psychedelic looking Boomtown Fair has upped its game for families this year and is new on our Top 20 list. You’ll find a dedicated KidzTown for younger ones with workshops, crafts, circus skills and a Sandcastle Stage loaded with child friendly performances. The main stages feature diverse talent like Stephen Marley and Barrington Levy, SquarePusher, Goldie and LTJ Bukem, Alice in Wasteland, Ibibio Sound Machine, Jungle Brothers and countless others. Weekend camping tickets adult £155/family £270/teen 13-17 £120/child 5-12 £20/under 5s FREE (Aug 13-16)
Green Man, near Crickhowell, Brecon Beacons, Wales (Abergavenny rail)
We’ve heard brilliant things about Green Man and they always pull off an eclectic collection of acts to please hipsters and hippies alike. This year it’s Hot Chip, Super Furry Animals, St Vincent, GOAT and others topping the bill. Against the magical backdrop of the Brecon Beacons, your kids can roam free in the cordoned off children’s area where there’s live acts, storytelling, crafty workshops and more to keep them occupied. NB: Weekend camping tickets are SOLD OUT but you can get Resident Day passes from £55 + booking fee. (Aug 20-23)
Just So Festival (pic), Rode Hall Estate, Stoke-on-Trent, ST7 3QP (Kidsgrove rail)
Just So Festival is an absolutely wonderful experience that the babes are still talking about since our outing in 2013. It has a lovely, intimate feel and is great for younger ones so do bring your babies and toddlers for an enchanting time. We love the Silver Screen outdoor cinema, Away with the Fairies forest installation, romping in the Spellbound Forest, Peekaboo baby tent, Pillow Fight, Midnight Feast and Tribal Tournament fancy dress finale. There are loads of live, folksy acts like Cut a Shine barndance, John Hegley, Seas of Mirth and Electric Swing Circus. Other highlights include posh showers and some of the cleanest loos we’ve experienced at a festival! Adult weekend camping £110/day £50; child (3-15) weekend £50/day £20; campervan/caravan pass £40 under 3s FREE (all tickets subject to booking fees) (Aug 21-23)
Big Feastival, Alex James’ farm near Kingham, Oxfordshire, OX7 6UJ (Kingham rail)
The ultimate camping festival for serious foodies, run by Jamie Oliver on his mate Alex James’ farm. Every year hundreds of families turn up for chefs’ demos, masterclasses, food tastings, stalls, cookery workshops and more. There’s a Little Dudes’ den where the minis can have messy fun, Big Top tent, vintage funfair and don’t forget music from the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Paloma Faith, Groove Armada, Norman Jay MBE, Grandmaster Flash, Sophie Ellis Bextor and the Cuban Brothers. Adult camping ticket £154.50/weekend ticket non-camping £129.50/day ticket £47.25-£64.50; teen 13-17 camping ticket £79.50/weekend ticket non-camping £69.50/day ticket £21.15-£42.25; under 12s camping ticket £21.15; under 12 weekend ticket non-camping and day ticket FREE (but ticket still required) (Aug 28-30)
Notting Hill Carnival, Notting Hill and surrounding areas (Westbourne Park exit only, see TFL web site closer to date for transport advice)
Carnival in 2014 was a bit of a washout but that didn’t stop the party faithful from taking it to the streets for another big outdoor bash. Notting Hill Carnival is always on the last August bank holiday weekend and creates an amazing festival atmosphere throughout the streets of West London. Described as Europe’s biggest street party, come out for floats, sound systems, steel pans, costumed dancers and delicious street food. Sunday is traditionally Children’s Day, a bit less hectic and it’s always adorable to see the little ones strut their stuff. Around 9am-7pm, FREE (Aug 30-31)
Totally Thames, multiple venues and spaces
The annual Mayor’s Thames Festival has morphed into this month-long spectacular of arts and cultural events to celebrate the river. The full programme will be released in July, last year’s highlights included The Great River Race; Handel’s Fireworks Music and Illuminations; The Big Thames Tidy and dozens of river events in Richmond, Kew, Brentford, Hammersmith, Imperial Wharf, Wandsworth, Vauxhall, South Bank, More London, St Katharine Docks and the Isle of Dogs. Dates, times, prices vary, many events FREE (Sep 1-30)
End of the Road Festival, Larmer Tree Gardens, Blandford, Dorset, SP7 0PP(Salisbury rail/Big Green Coach direct from Victoria)
The small but critically acclaimed festival features Laura Marling, Sufjan Stevens, Saint Etienne, Django Django, Tame Impala and other musicians on the main stages this year. The Children’s Area has lots of space to roam about in, with games area (table tennis, bowling and more) located between the Garden Stage and the fairy lights wood. Adult weekend camping £195/young person 13-17 £150/child 6-12 £75/child 3-5 £45/under 3s FREE (Sep 4-6)
On Blackheath Festival (pic), Blackheath Common, SE3 0UA (Lewisham, Blackheath, Greenwich rail/North Greenwich tube)
We loved On Blackheath last year (who can forget Grace Jones hooping on stage?) and this year the festival is just as juicy with headline acts Elbow, Madness, Manic Street Preachers, Kelis, Anna Calvi, Jack Savoretti, and Laura Mvula. There’s additional music stages curated by Heavenly Recordings (Saturday), and Gilles Peterson, plus the first ever festival performance by mind-bending magician Dynamo. They’re also bringing back the hugely popular Food Village for stalls, demos and supper club; and a kids area The Playground with bubble making, dance floor, hula hooping, workshops and more family fun. Adult day ticket £54.50, weekend £89 (disabled adult tickets same price but includes 1 adult carer)/child 13-16 day ticket £35, weekend £54.50/under 12s FREE but ticket required (Sep 12-13)
More Family Friendly Festivals in London and UK
Glastonbury (Jun 26-28)
The biggest and the best in terms of festival experiences, lots on for families if you’re up for crowds of 100,000+. Tickets sell out faster than you can say Glasto… so register early and keep those fingers crossed for 2016 and beyond!
Blissfields (Jul 3-4)
Simian Mobile Disco and Grandmaster Flash on stage, plus Angel Gardens for families at this highly rated festival in Hampshire.
Cornbury Festival (Jul 10-12)
A truly mixed musical bag from Tom Jones to Razorlight to Billy Ocean, and a Kids Zone with Bollywood dancing, circus skills, puppet making and more in a picturesque Oxfordshire setting.
Secret Garden Party (Jul 23-26)
The Secret Garden festival attracts big acts and is aimed at an adventurous crowd. Family camping pass entitles 3 adults and unlimited kids wristbands to the family camping site.
Womad (Jul 24-26)
An oldie but a goodie for some big world music names and a relaxed, earthy-crunchy vibe. Lots on for families in the World of Kids zone and under 13s go FREE.
Kendal Calling (Jul 30-Aug 2)
Intimate festival in the beautiful Lake District, lots on for kids and families and top acts including Elbow, Snoop Dogg, Kaiser Chiefs, James and The Vaccines.
Chilled in a Field (Jul 31-Aug 2)
Recently awarded a Festival Kidz Gold award for its family friendly appeal, this small but perfectly formed festival offers great DJs and a warm and buzzy vibe. And tickets are just £74.50 for 3 days/kids £1!
Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Aug 7-31)
The world’s largest arts festival features loads of activities for families, from circus and dance, to puppet theatre and the ever popular Baby Loves Disco.
LolliBop Festival (usually in Aug)
The big bash for little people is taking a big break this year, but do keep an eye on the website for what’s happening in 2016.
Bounce Festival (usually in Aug)
The action-packed family festival in Richmond’s Old Deer Park has been bounced off the 2015 schedule by Rugby World Cup, but they promise to return in 2016.
Beautiful Days (Aug 21-23)
The Levellers’ family music festival is massively popular for kids and carers with enormous Children’s Area. 2015 has SOLD OUT, stay tuned for details for 2016.
Shambala Festival (Aug 27-30)
Some fab music acts, a magical feeling and carnival atmosphere in Northamptonshire with an action-packed Kids Field and Bees creche for ages 2-7!
Family Friendly Festivals in Europe!
Meadows in the Mountain, Bulgaria (Jun 12-15)
Inspired by the Burning Man in Nevada, this family and eco-friendly festival boasts a stunning backdrop, top DJs and live acts, and sports ranging from horse riding and ziplining. Plus festival finale pool party! Tickets £150 for 3 days (separate fee for pool party). Keep your eyes on the website for 2016 info.
Sunsplash Festival (pic), Turkey (Jun 21-28)
We’ve got this on our Festival Bucket List, a gorgeous sounding event on Aspat Beach in Bodrum with resident DJ Gilles Peterson and guest DJs. Child friendly, laidback clubbing vibe, beach, mountains, yoga zones, outdoor sports, what’s not to love? Week pass £130 /Weekend pass £80/Day pass £20-£30 + accom & fights.
Weekend Au Bord De L’Eau, Lake Geronde in Sierre (City of Sun), Switzerland (Jun 26-28)
Crazily affordable and wonderful sounding festival on the edge of the lake, with eclectic DJ line-up and live performances. Also beach volleyball, water sports, film screenings and a special children’s area. £27 weekend/kids go FREE.
Worldwide Festival, Sete, France (Jul 6-12)
Co-created by Gilles Peterson and inspired by his Worldwide show, the line-up is diverse with some massive DJ names from around the globe. Tickets from £129 for final weekend, many areas including beach stage FREE.
Beglika Festival, Bulgaria (Aug 27-30)
Another cheap but charming experience in the mountains and forests of Bulgaria, with day care and arts and crafts for little ones, DJs, live music and an eco-friendly attitude. Tickets £28 for 4 days.
Photos courtesy: Camp Bestival, Greenwich + Docklands Festival, Just So Festival, Camp Bestival, On Blackheath Festival, Sunsplash Festival