Seven of the best virtual festivals for families

Best virtual festivals for families
Leave the tent in its bag: with many of this summer’s festivals cancelled, we’ve rounded up the best online events for families.
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Festival season is upon us, but due to Covid-19, most of this spring and early summer’s family festivals have been cancelled: a big disappointment if you’d already bought tickets.
 
But while we may not need our wellies and sunscreen this year, several popular festivals have moved online so we can enjoy performances from top children’s authors, TV personalities, bands and theatre groups at home.
 
Here’s our guide to seven great virtual family festivals that you can catch on screen in the weeks and months ahead: no wellies required!

Hay Festival Digital #imaginetheworld

Hay Festival Digital
Hay Festival is probably the UK’s best-known literary festival, drawing in thousands of book-lovers every year with its author talks, performances and workshops. This year, you can catch it online, with an exciting digital children’s programme.
 
Hosted by writer and former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq and novelist Jenny Valentine, the festival has a full programme of author talks for KS2 children (although younger bookworms may like to join in), and for KS3 and KS4 students. 

The line-up includes talks from much-loved children’s and young adult authors, such as Cressida Cowell, the current Children’s Laureate and author of the How to Train your Dragon books, and Tom Gates creator Liz Pichon, who’ll be sharing quizzes, readings and doodles from the hugely popular graphic novel series.
 
You can watch the talks on Hay Player, and there are also free teaching materials for each talk: perfect for supporting your child’s home learning.

Puffin Festival of Big Dreams

Puffin Festival of Big Dreams
Whether your child has a head full of stories or is a reluctant writer, Puffin is aiming to encourage their creativity in lockdown with its virtual festival, the Puffin Festival of Big Dreams, taking place from June 8-14.
 
Hosted by former Blue Peter presenter Radzi, the festival has a packed programme of authors, illustrators and special guests, including Sam Copeland (Charlie Changes into a Chicken), Nadia Shireen (Bumblebear) and the legendary Jacqueline Wilson, author of the Tracy Beaker series, among many others.
 
Nic Sharratt is the festival’s illustrator in residence, and children can submit their own ‘big dreams’ online using #PuffinDreamer for Nic to illustrate, forming a collage of children’s dreams to celebrate the power of imagination.
 
With two new broadcasts each day on YouTube and Facebook Live, you can expect writing masterclasses, draw-alongs and creative challenges, culminating in a live, interactive extravaganza over the weekend of June 13-14.
 
Kids aged 6-18 can also write their own 300-word story on the subject of big dreams and enter the National Book Tokens and Puffin Big Dreamers Writing Competition, with over £3,000 of National Book Tokens to be won.

Play At Home Fest

Play At Home Fest
If you’re finding it hard to keep your child occupied at home during lockdown, tune into the Play At Home Fest: a virtual festival aimed at children aged 2-8, although older members of the family can join in the fun, too.
 
The festival is headlined by hit children’s band Andy and the Odd Socks, CBeebies presenter Nigel Clarke and his daughter Sisi from Sisi’s World, and social media sensation TheDadLab.
 
There are also lots more activities and appearances, including model-making with Aardman’s Merlin Crossingham, Lucas Jet’s Stay at Home Circus, quirky cupcake decorating with Magick O’Daly, and music sessions from Jo Jingles and Hartbeeps.

You can join the festival on Play At Home Fest's YouTube channel: perfect for those days when you need some creative play inspiration.

Girlguiding presents: Adventures at Home Festival

Girlguiding presents: Adventures at Home Festival
Many kids should have been taking part in a Girlguiding or Scouts camp this summer, and may be feeling the disappointment of having their outdoor adventure cancelled because of coronavirus.
 
That’s why Girlguiding is hosting a jam-packed Adventures at Home Festival, giving kids a taste of what they’d experience on a summer camp from the safety of home, encouraging them to have fun, try something new and challenge themselves.
 
You can tune into a huge free programme of acts and events on YouTube, including comedy and magic shows, science and drawing workshops, football training and animation activities.
 
Highlights include a chemistry workshop with the Royal Society of Chemistry (make a list of the ingredients you’ll need), Plastic Patrol founder Lizzie Carr, and adventure storytime with former Guide and record-breaking ocean rower Sally Kettle. And of course, there are campfire sing-alongs to end your day.
 
Each activity has an age recommendation so you can choose the right ones for your child's age and stage.

Steam Co #UKArtTakeOver

Steam Co #UKArtTakeOver
This pop-up festival, which was supposed to be touring schools across the country in May 2020, has a focus on creativity and the arts, and inspiring children and families to get making and creating.
 
The festival may not be on the road this year, but it’s moved online instead, with activities filmed against the location backdrops that it was due to visit, from London to Londonderry.
 
Activities include rocket making, DJing, and even loo roll art to watch online.
 
You can also join in the #HeyKidsBookFest, which should have taken place at Hay Festival: a celebration of children’s books and literature.

Captain Fantastic’s Christmas Lockdown

A Christmas party in spring? It might sound bonkers, but with lockdown isolation sending us all stir-crazy, Captain Fantastic is spreading some festive cheer with his online Christmas festival.
 
Taking place on YouTube, the Christmas Lockdown has a packed programme with Christmas songs, games, baking workshops, crafts and quizzes.
 
You’ll also get up close and personal (through your screen) with real reindeer and penguins from Paradise Wildlife Park, and there’s a visit from Santa Claus himself.

Cheltenham Science Festival @ Home

How long is a piece of string? What makes the world turn? And why does chocolate taste so good? These are just some of the questions that scientists, writers, comedians and thinkers will attempt to answer at this virtual science festival.
 
Cheltenham Science Festival @ Home promises a six-day programme packed with family shows, interactive workshops and live Q&As, beginning on June 2. The line-up includes broadcasts from top scientists and entertainers including Brian Cox and Stefan Gates, covering everything from astronomy to the senses.
 
You’ll also be able to explore the Virtual Discover Zone on the festival’s YouTube channel, with challenges including games design and code-breaking, and take part in drawing and making workshops (these are free of charge but must be booked in advance: click the activities you want to join to register).