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For mini bookworms – best summer book festivals for creative kids

Roald Dahl's Matilda has the right idea... Pic © Quentin Blake; used with permission. Now that the excitement of April Fool’s Day has calmed down somewhat (teehee), we thought we’d turn our attention to another landmark event of this week – say a huge huzzah for International Children's Book Day and another excuse to stockpile (kids’) books for the summer.

If you don’t yet have a storyteller in the family, cultivate one sharpish, as their tales of boy wizards or implausible love affairs between elusive vampires and colourless teenage girls could be the very thing that makes them, and by extension you, extremely rich. (We’d certainly pay a fortune for another Harry Potter.)

Once cultivated, take your mini bestselling writer to one of the many bookish and creative events around the country – see our Fantabulous volumes – a children’s bookworm trail for Roald Dahl Day and our Literary travel – a bookworm’s trail of Britain blogs for an overview of children’s books and their places from Beatrix to Harry Potter. (Detours via The Wind in the Willows’ and Alice in Wonderland’s Oxfordshire, Tarka the Otter’s Devon and the Famous Five’s Dorset.)

Our top five events for creative kids this summer:

Reading Children’s Festival , 10 May – 1 June, Berkshire

It even says ‘Reading’ in the title. (Yes, yes, we know they’re pronounced differently, but your six year old mightn’t, which should lead to general hilarity all round.) 2014 is the 25th incarnation of the Reading Children’s Festival, based by the Thames at Christchurch Meadows and including events organised by local libraries; many free. Expect music, workshops, games and general mayhem – then nip across the border for a visit to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre and Roald Dahl Children's Gallery.

Contemplative kids at Hurley Riverside Park Stay :

Your littlies will love a stay at Maidenhead’s Hurley Riverside Park if you’re going to the festival: not only is it less than nine miles from Christchurch Meadows, it’s also 11 miles from Legoland Windsor and has discounted tickets at reception for Legoland and other local attractions including the aforementioned Roald Dahl museum and gallery, Beale Park Wildlife Park and Gardens, and the Coral Reef Waterworld.

Tent, tourer and motorhome pitches with electric hook-up are available throughout most of May (not 21 – 25) from £15, sleeping up to six.

The Spark Festival , 19 May – 1 June, Leicestershire

The Spark is billed as ‘the largest children's arts festival in England and Wales’ and visits theatres, schools, libraries, parks and community venues throughout Leicester with storytelling, books, theatre and music events for children aged up to 13. This year’s programme has anarchy from Horrible Histories, antics from the Gruffalo, a re-imagining of Twelfth Night, bedtime stories, DJ workshops, puppetry, dance and animation.

Lakeside pods at Springwood Fisheries Stay:

We haven’t met a kid yet who doesn’t go crackers for a stay in a camping pod, so a stay at Springwood Fisheries just over the border in Derbyshire should have them happily on board as well as make sure that grownup concerns are also covered.

Springwood is on the edge of the National Forest and has coarse fishing on site for all abilities; if this is too sedate for quick-fire kids, the many racing events of Donington Park are less than five miles away. Pods sleeping two adults and two children are available throughout the festival from £48 a night.

Manchester Children’s Book Festival , 26 June – 6 July, Lancashire

We’ve been bouncing about this biennial festival since its inaugural event in 2010 and we are still rather sickened about missing 2012…The Manchester Children’s Book Festival was devised by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy soon after her 2009 appointment as a celebration of reading and a way to encourage children to read; famous names at the festival in 2010 included Phillip Pullman, Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Rosen. This year’s programme has vintage afternoon tea with Cathy Cassidy, a family fun day on 28 June, a children’s party at Waterstones Deangate and talks with Liz Kessler, Ali Sparkes, Steve Cole and Andrew Cope among others.

Monkeying around at the Manchester Children's Book Festival. Pic courtesy of MCBF. Stay:

Another litfest camping pod is up for grabs at Moorlands Caravan Park in nearby Oldham, with views of the Pennines and activities of all sorts nearby: the Eureka! National Children's Museum and the Halifax Ski and Snowboard Centre are both within 12 miles, and Liverpool, York, Leeds, Bradford and Hull are all within an hour’s drive. Moorlands’s standard pod sleeps up to four from £30 a night throughout most of the festival and the family pod sleeping up to five starts from £42.40.

Festival at the Edge , 18 – 20 July, Shropshire

One of the previous faves in our Fantabulous Volumes blog, Festival at the Edge is an international storytelling festival with a hefty emphasis on the juniors. The kids’ part of the festival runs alongside the adults’ for the full weekend and includes specially commissioned kids’ performers alongside ones from the main events: storytellers of all sizes can take part in music, comedy and arts events, workshops, story rounds and – best of all – evening bonfire sessions. Who has a spooky campsite tale to tell…?

Stay:

Gorgeous The Green Caravan Park at Bishop’s Castle is decidedly child-friendly, with a family inn on site, nature and play areas, and the River East Onny running through it for paddling and pond dipping (pick up a net at the site shop). Pitches are for tents, tourers and motorhomes, with or without electric, and all types are available from 18 – 20 July from £15 – 17 a night.

Inside the tent at Feather Down Acton Scott Or treat the family to a fab glamping time at nearby Feather Down Country Retreats (Acton Scott) , in a private woodland clearing on the ancient Acton Scott estate ten minutes’ walk from Acton Scott’s Historic Working Farm of the BBC’s Victorian Farm fame.

A massive three-bedroom fully-furnished bell tent – they even provide a coffee grinder, praise be – is £755 for three nights from 18 – 21 July, sleeping six. Each tent has a private shower tent, hot tub and hammock. Yup, we said private hot tub and hammock - think of the books you could read in both.

Also in Shropshire

Get in quick for tix at the Shrewsbury Children’s BookFest Festival from 3 – 5 May, with events such as celebrating Kipper the dog’s birthday and ‘ Go Adventuring with the Famous Five’ (wizard!).

Edinburgh International Book Festival , 9 – 25 August, Lothian

Part of the Edinburgh festival programme which prompts us every summer to decide to move north forthwith, the Edinburgh International Book Festival is another favourite for young readers and is spiffingly packed with kids’ events via the Baillie Gifford Children's Programme. The full programme – boo – won’t be out until July, but as always, expect hundreds of events (many free) for sprogs from babies to teenagers, including ideas for bedtime stories, discussions on the latest playground big hits, storytelling sessions and graphic novel events for teenagers.

Edinburgh International Book Festival. Pic by edfest. To get kids in reading mood before the festival, Education Scotland’s website has a ‘ Scottish Stories ’ section where you can enthral your kids/future writers with filmed and recorded tales about selkies, saints and kings.

Stay

Both Adventure in the Meadow and Harvieston Huts are less than nine miles from Edinburgh and are available in August from £40 a night per pod, sleeping two. Ideal if it’s just you and one sproglet, or if you want to book a couple of pods to set up your own mini camp: either way you’re a short drive from other Edinburgh creative kids’ attractions like Our Dynamic Earth and the free Museum of Childhood.

If you prefer to bring your own accommodation/combine a festival trip with one to the Scottish countryside, book a tent, tourer or motorhome pitch at Rosetta Holiday Park 20 miles away at Peebles from £126 – 189 for a week in August. Up to two dogs can stay free and the park has a walled garden with new playground, TV room, kids’ club and games room.

See also:

Cardiff Children's Literature Festival , 8 – 13 April

Book events for children

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