Late nights, mud, grungy music and camping in the chaos alongside hundreds of people; once upon a time these were the staple factors which made up the festival scene in the UK but over the past few years this has begun to rapidly change. Not only are the country’s biggest music festivals gradually getting facelifts but a number of other festivals have begun to crop up; ones which are geared towards a more vibrant and family friendly experience.
Elaborate themes and dressings, well known faces and plenty of family activities are the name of the game at these festivals and if that sounds like the kind of thing you would love to spend a few days of your summer exploring then read on for the most family friendly festivals in London:-
A relative newcomer to the festival scene, Citadel first arrived in Victoria Park in 2015 but has already proven itself to be a strong contender. Held on a Sunday, the vibe here is incredibly laidback with a mix of live music, debates and talks and even a sporting arena where some classic children’s games are re-explored including tug of war, musical sack races, relay running and sticky limbo. Citadel was conceived by the creators of two of America’s most prestigious festivals (Wilderness Festival and Superfly) and its aim is to provide a summer’s day celebration featuring fine food, music and entertainment. It’s East London location means the M by Montcalm London Shoreditch Tech City would be the ideal place to stay either the night before or the night after. This is very definitely a festival which is aimed at families and Citadel’s website goes out of its way to stress that this is not an event for those aged 18+ so families need not worry.
Somewhere along the way this 5 day festival which takes place in the lovely town of Henley on Thames developed a reputation for being a festival for the older generation, perhaps because of its high brow dress code, but this is most definitely not the case. Located at the River & Rowing Museum, Henley Festival’s programme usually closes with a family day complete with children’s entertainers, family friendly activities, live music, street performers, craft and art sessions and more. In the 2016 festival the headline act on this particular day was Will Young; which would certainly have appealed to those both of the younger generation and older. Although Henley is set a little further out from Central London, there is plenty to see and do in the town itself if you wanted to spend the entire day here before returning to your accommodation.
Hampton Court Palace Festival
Although this is more of a concert than a festival, the rich and royal surroundings more than make up for the loose description. This midsummer evening of musical delights would be perfect combined with one of The Montcalm Club Packages for a truly spectacular weekend in the city. Previous line-ups have included performances by Tom Jones, Katherine Jenkins, Jools Holland, Westlife and Bryan Adams. The performances take place in the Palace’s main courtyard; and with there only be 3,000 tickets available this provides a very magical and intimate experience. Alongside this you can head to the East Front Gardens where you will find open-air bars and street food stalls; you can purchase food here, pre-order a Festival Picnic or bring your own food to be enjoyed in the gardens before heading back to the courtyard for the main show. It’s a wonderful way to spend a hazy summer evening, listening to some internationally acclaimed artists perform with the Palace providing the most stunning backdrop to boot.
Animated! Family Film Festival
Taking a slight step away from festivals which mainly focus around music, the Animated! Family Film Festival takes place at the V&A Museum of Childhood and celebrates the best of animated movies from the world’s oldest surviving feature film to more recent creations. There will be craft activities, a fun trail to follow relating to the films being shown and the film rooms themselves will all have been kitted out for summer complete with inflatables. Children can have a go at making their own flipbook for a short film, design their own shadow puppet or craft playdoh figures and characters as inspired by Wallace and Gromit.
The BBC Proms are definitely one of the highlights of the musical calendar in London and the CBeebies Prom is a wonderful way of including and introducing children to the wonder of classical music as well. Taking place at the Royal Albert Hall, the performance is aimed at children under the age of 5 and features many of CBeebies much loved characters including Andy, Gemma and Chris. Go on an adventure through space and time, discover dinosaurs, try treasure hunting or simply gaze at the stars; all accompanied by brilliant orchestra classics of course.
Imagine Children’s Festival
Each February children are invited to take over the Southbank Centre when their two week children’s festival returns. Each year there is a different theme which is then interpreted through theatre, dance, music, film and comedy, readings from famous authors, arts and craft activities and much more. In 2016 the theme was Roald Dahl to coincide with the author’s 100th birthday and activities included the Giant Storytelling Bed, a live illustration from one of Roald Dahl’s books, clay sculpturing and music by the London Schools Symphony Orchestra. The programme also featured names such as Judith Kerr, Cressida Cowell and David Baddiel. 2017 promises to be as exciting as previous years and tickets do sell out fast so be sure to book yours soon to avoid disappointment closer to the time.