Saturdays in the park - it’s not all rock’n’roll, you know

It’s festival fever, but will you go for opera, vintage style or a children’s day out? Kate Hilpern dons her wellies

Search “festivals 2011” online and you’ll find hundreds of music festivals ranging from small folk events through to Glastonbury and everything in between. But festivals are not just about watching bands in the mud. People with a passion for anything from food to theatre to children’s entertainment can also revel in the outdoor season, and this year the offerings have never been better.

Best for foodies - Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival

This is the largest festival of its kind in the south of England, running throughout September. With local producers, growers, restaurants, bars and food retailers firmly at its heart, this festival has oodles of mini one-off festivals of wine, coffee, seafood, chillies and more. You can take a vintage bus tour of Sussex producers, compete in a cake bakeoff and discuss topical food issues at the debates. There’s even a bartenders’ cocktail shake-off.

Date: 1 September–4 October

Cost: Mixture of free and ticketed events.

Contact: brightonfoodfestival.com

Best for children - Lollibop Festival, London

Following a sell-out success in London’s Clissold Park last summer, the magical LolliBop Festival moves to its new home in Regent’s Park for 2011. From the world of TV, there’ll be the Zany ZingZillas, who will be monkeying around on the main stage, joined by Charlie & Lola’s Best Bestest play. Kids can also get scared by Horrible Histories or see their favourite CBeebies presenters Cerrie Burnell, Alex Winters and Sid Stone introducing some fabulous acts. Other highlights include facepainting, arts and crafts, comedy, Babyoke, football factory, DJ workshops and pizza-making workshops.

Date: 5–7 August

Cost: Family ticket (four people) per day £80 (plus booking fee); at the gate £108. Single tickets also available.

Contact: lollibopfestival.com

Best for theatre buffs - Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world, and has helped launch the careers of stars including Eddie Izzard, Stephen Fry, Billy Connolly, Jude Law and many more. One of several festivals taking place in Scotland’s capital every August, the Fringe has everything from big name acts to street performances and includes theatre, children’s shows, exhibitions, comedy, musicals and more.

Don’t miss the other Edinburgh festivals that take over the city’s historic Royal Mile and arthouse venues, with showcase events aplenty.

Date: 5–29 August Cost: Free and ticketed events.

Contact: edfringe.com; thisismyedinburgh.com; edinburghfestivals.co.uk

Best for nostalgia - Goodwood Revival, West Sussex

This festival is devoted entirely to a period theme, with every detail faithful to that golden age of style, grace and glamour: 1948-1966. No other vintage fashion event anywhere takes place on such a vast scale and this year’s festival is expecting around 134,000 visitors, the overwhelming majority of whom are suited, booted and groomed from the tips of their “femme fatale” red fingernails to their stilettoed toes, proving that the Revival is far more than a series of races for old cars.

Date: 16–18 September

Cost: Tickets start from £36 per day per adult. Concessions available.

Contact: goodwood.com

Best for opera lovers - The Glyndebourne Festival, East Sussex

The Glyndebourne Opera Festival has been held annually at an English country house near Lewes since 1934. The renovated theatre, which seats 1,200, opened in 1994. The Festival has been particularly celebrated for its productions of Mozart operas. A long interval allows operagoers the opportunity for picnic dinners on the extensive lawns or in one of the restaurants in the grounds.

The 2011 Festival opened with a new production of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Other productions include a new production of Handel’s Rinaldo and revivals of Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Britten’s The Turn Of The Screw.

Date: 21 May–28 August

Cost: Tickets from £10 (standing) to £250

Contact: glyndebourne.com

Best literary festival for music lovers - The BBC Proms, London

The BBC Proms comes alive not only through music, but also through words. Key historians, novelists, poets and writers explore cultural themes behind this year’s music at pre-concert events, through subjects ranging from Scandinavian crime writing to humour in literature. This year’s highlights include Kate Mosse discussing French literary classics (18 July); Peggy Reynolds on the role of the cello in literature (20 July); Mark Ravenhill on the Faust myth that has inspired so many composers (26 July); and Sir Ronald Harwood and Neil Brand on music in film (12 August). New for 2011 is the Proms Poetry competition, inviting verse from children and adults that takes inspiration from a piece of music performed during the season.

Date: 15 July–10 September

Cost: Free

Contact: bbc.co.uk/proms

Best for budding historians - England’s Medieval Festival at Herstmonceux Castle, near Hailsham, East Sussex

This event has become an August bank holiday favourite with visitors from across England and the rest of Europe. A spectacular medieval artillery display and a grand parade featuring knights, ladies, mounted horses and performers all clad in authentic regalia will mark the opening of three days of medieval fun. Sieges are then mounted twice daily at 11am at the front of the castle and 3pm on the battlefield. You can have a go at archery, see displays of falconry, visit Europe’s largest medieval traders’ market and eat hog roasts.

Date: 27–29 August

Cost: Adult tickets (in advance) £15 for one day; £29 for two days; £42 for three days. Concessions and family tickets available.

Contact: englandsmedievalfestival.com

Best for arts and crafts - Art In Action, Oxfordshire

In 1977, 51 artists took part in this annual arts festival and 14,000 visitors arrived. Today Art In Action welcomes around 25,000 people over four days, who come to learn, buy and enjoy. There are demonstrations, exhibitions, classes and performances from designer makers, teachers, musicians and performers, with disciplines including painting, sculpture, glass, woodwork, textiles, ceramics, metalwork and jewellery. Visitors can listen to lectures, learn to create their own work of art, watch performances from different cultures and much more – all in a buzzing, family-friendly atmosphere.

Date: 21–24 July

Cost: Adult tickets £14 for one day, £20 for two days; £25 for three days; £30 for four days if you book online. Concessions available.

Contact: artinaction.org.uk

Best for beer lovers - CAMRA Great British Beer Festival, London

This year, the Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court, Britain’s biggest beer festival, will offer more than 700 real ales, ciders, perries and international beers. Play traditional pub games, enjoy live music, sample food, including traditional pub snacks, and attend tutored beer tastings. The nation’s most prestigious beer awards – the Champion Beer of Britain Finals – will also take place at the festival on Tuesday 2 August.

Date: 2–6 August Cost: Advance tickets from £6 (Camra members) and £8 (non-members).

Contact: gbbf.camra.org.uk

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