7 best English literary festivals for kids this autumn

As the days shorten, autumn is a great time for kids meet their literary heroes. These festivals boast the biggest names, plus the chance to uncover new creative skills

5 mins

1: Bath Children’s Literature Festival, Bath

Author reading to children (Globalmouse.com)

Author reading to children (Globalmouse.com)

Billed as Europe’s largest dedicated children’s literature festival, this event is growing bigger every year. It always boasts an enviable roster of household names from children’s literature, this year including Julia Donaldson, Jacqueline Wilson, David Baddiel and Miranda Hart. 

There are over 80 events, ranging from large talks and shows to craft activities, quizzes and games. Events are tailored for all age groups, from toddlers to young adults, and include everything from Mr Men book readings to classes on how to write for TV or draw your favourite Star Wars characters. Nadiya from The Great British Bake Off will be on hand too, demonstrating recipes from her new cookbook for kids.


2: Unputdownable: the Bristol Festival of Literature, Bristol

Off to the festival in Bristol (Dreamstime)

Off to the festival in Bristol (Dreamstime)

Bristol never fails to put on a good show when it comes to the arts and Unputdownable is no exception. This Festival of Literature celebrates creative writing and is packed with internationally renowned authors. There are performances too designed to inspire audiences and engage communities.

One of the unique features of the Bristol Festival of Literature is the unusual places events are held, including caves and graveyards. It's definitely a festival aimed more at Young Adults than toddlers.


3: The Times and the Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, Cheltenham

Kids reading on deckchairs (Globalmouse.com)

Kids reading on deckchairs (Globalmouse.com)

With over 500 talks, performances and workshops, this is a hard-to-beat gathering for the literary world. Cheltenham is transformed by the festival every autumn with over 600 of the world’s finest writers, politicians and actors all descending on what is now one of the UK’s oldest and most distinguished literary festivals.

The festival has close to 100 events specifically for children and young adults. As well as talks from big name authors like Miranda Hart, there are a host of workshops designed to hone your child’s creative talents. There’s a comic art masterclass, a musical theatre workshop, rhyming competitions and a Bake Off story contest with Nadiya Hussein, who looks to be doing the rounds.


4: Guildford Book Festival, Surrey

The River Wey in Guildford (Dreamstime)

The River Wey in Guildford (Dreamstime)

This week-long festival is a great destination for literary inspiration and stimulation. With more than its fair share of starry household names from the world of children's literature, including Simon Cooper and Emma Dodd, there’s plenty to entertain and promote thought about books for young and old.

The programme includes a number of fun events in Hatchlands Park, including a nature-themed talk and tour by Andy Seed, author of Nutty Nature Facts and Jokes,  and an atmospheric reading from Rowan Oakwing by its author, E. J. Clarke. Other family-themed events will be held at Guildford Library and the local branch of Waterstones.


5: Blenheim Palace Festival of Literature Film & Music, Oxfordshire

Blenheim Palace (Dreamstime)

Blenheim Palace (Dreamstime)

Where else could you find a literary festival in such incredibly beautiful surroundings? The Blenheim Palace Festival blends books, music and film with the most amazing backdrop of the palace and many of its key locations, including the Orangery, the Marlborough Room and the Indian Room.

While most of the events are tailored towards more adult readers, there is the odd event or two older that children will find interesting. However, it the chance to wander the grounds and halls of this magnificent estate that will appeal to young people most.


6: Humber Mouth Literature Festival, Hull

Hull Fair (Dreamstime)

Hull Fair (Dreamstime)

As Hull celebrates its status as the UK City of Culture 2017, the Humber Mouth Literature Festival is also marking its 25th anniversary. The adventurous programme of events includes poets, authors and musicians, discussions, and brilliant children’s events. There’s always a wealth of differing topics up for discussion, so you’re bound to find something to suit your taste.

Highlights for families include events by picture book artists Jarvis and Leigh Hodgkinson and a young adult writing workshop hosted by Alex Wheatle. There’s also a ‘Hands On’ event at the Central Library where scientists from the University of Hull drop in for an afternoon filled with fun activities and surprising science experiments.


7: Hastings Storytelling Festival, Hastings

Hastings waterfront (Dreamstime)

Hastings waterfront (Dreamstime)

This brilliant festival cleverly mixes the spoken word, with shows featuring puppetry, theatre, talks and the latest in digital media to celebrate the best of the world of storytelling. There are a number of events aimed specifically at children alongside both an artist in residence and a storyteller in residence too.

The festival’s patron is Sir Quentin Blake, famous for illustrating Roald Dahl’s book, and a highlight this year is an event with Lauren Child at the White Rock Theatre. The festival’s them is ‘Reemerging India’, so expect the Children’s Storytelling Festival Day and Carnival at the State to be particularly colourful.


Nichola West is Editor of UK family travel blogGlobalmouse Travels

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