Imagine festival, London
There is a Scandinavian theme at the Royal Festival Hall this year’s Imagination, with the wider South Bank Center a year-long look at the art and culture of the region, the Scandinavian is very important. Hevisaurus will have performances of the Finnish Children’s Dinosaur Heavy Metal Band, and the Swedish Oddjob Jazz Group is also targeted at young people. Sweden has a baby roar, an immersive Moominland exhibition, a free foot-operated screening of the Little Mermaid, the Baby and Finnish Circus. Nordic Julian sage celebrations include readings by Chris Hoy and other children’s authors, and more drama, dance, music and installation.
Jorvik Viking festival, York
Every February half-term, York holds a city-wide celebration of its Viking heritage and its last Viking king, Eric Bloodaxe. This year, kids can play with Viking toys and games, have a go at sword-fighting and archery, and make wire jewellery and clay pots. There is an encampment showing how the Norse settlers lived, a market and an animal area, plus storytelling, performances, singing and a drumming workshop. Sadly, the Viking banquet is sold out, but there are plenty of spaces for a special poo day (21 Feb): “Have a go at making your very own replica historic poo and discover how poo is used to solve ancient mysteries.” Saturday’s finale features a march to Coppergate, competitions for the strongest Viking and the best beard, and a live re-enactment of Bloodaxe’s last battle.
WayWord family festival, Chester
Arts producer Storyhouse has created a family festival in Chester town hall and libraries across Cheshire, with a diverse lineup of artists, scientists, coders and comedians. As well as readings, storytelling and shows – including a staging of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch – there are plenty of hands-on activities. Children can try puppet making and bag printing, put on a play in a day, have a go at standup, write a theme tune, dance hip-hop-style, play the drums or try yoga. There is also a day dedicated to building dens. As well as these ticketed events, there are many free craft activities and workshops, including digital storytelling and lightbox animation.
Blackpool’s circus four-day festival, magic and performance this year ushered in its 10-year-old birthday. The festival center Showzam! Is in the middle of the winter garden, where it is entertained by the magic carpet theater for free, including Yvette Headless Lady, a girl in a goldfish tank, jujitsu actor Pixie Legends and Fire King, plus free circus Mission Seminar. Elsewhere, there are street performers, Blackpool, and behind-the-scenes travel Long live the magic show Blackpool Pleasure Beach, plus kids for dancing, magic and ice dancing.
Dark Skies festival, various
The second Dark Skies festival, this time taking place in three national parks – North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales and the South Downs – is celebrating not just stars and space but the entire nocturnal world. This means that as well as stargazing safaris, rocket making and moon-buggy races, there are events such as night running, mountain biking, caving, and nocturnal photography sessions. Kids will love the guided walks with a forest ranger, learning to navigate by the stars and looking for deer and owls through night-vision goggles.
This family-friendly event festival of play and games has relocated to Dreamland, Margate, this year. Highlights include a bumper-car tournament to mark the 25th anniversary of Mario Kart, and a 250-player game of Renga. There is an exhibition of covers and artwork for the 40th anniversary of Judge Dread’s 2000AD comic book, and workshops including robot-making and codingGames range from Cosplay and Larp (live action role play) to board games and traditional pub games, via eSports and a Minecraft cave.
The Eden Project is celebrating children’s books this half-term. Storyfest’s highlight is daily shows by the Imagination Seekers, who perform interactive theatre inspired by Roald Dahl. There are Dare to Write workshops by Paper Nations for budding authors, plus stories, craft workshops and games. Guests include illustrators Rebecca Cobb and Martin Brown, and author John Dougherty.
NI Science festival, various
This festival devoted to science, technology, engineering and maths has more than 100 events in 25 venues across Northern Ireland. During the day, there are workshops, talks and activities for children, while the evening is devoted to scientific debate for adults. Numerous kid-friendly sessions range from a sensory space adventure for babies to an app boot camp for teens, plus an ugly animals roadshow, an experiment in the Marble Arch caves in County Fermanagh, and a tutorial on surviving a zombie outbreak.
Brilliant Light, Winchester
Tate Britain’s two-day festivals will see the artist gallery lively performance, music and dance. Kids can join a huge game, chat with DJs from outer space, make sculptures and participate in a talk show host for 12 years. Unfortunately last month the Turner Prize exhibition ended, so Anthea Hamilton’s huge golden hips no longer show up.