Children And Family Highlights: Beloved children’s authors, innovative theatre and interactive outdoor art brings fun and magic to Brighton this May

Family, Announcements, Family

This year’s Brighton Festival is packed with hopeful, wonder-filled events from acclaimed children’s writers, plus children’s theatre, dance and interactive outdoor shows to inspire a sense of fun and play for all ages

From Page To Stage

In The Wonder Panel!, festival Guest Director and award-winning children’s author Frank Cottrell-Boyce hosts a lively discussion about storytelling and creativity for anyone aged 8 and up, featuring current Children's Laureate and poet Joseph Coelho, How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell, and drawing from Carnegie Medal for Illustration winner Chris Riddell. 

Step onto the warm sands of The Island of Brilliant with Frank and award-winning author-illustrator Nadia Shireen in their live podcast recording, featuring very special guest Julia Donaldson, author of international sensation, The Gruffalo. 19 May, all ages.

Discover the magical mayhem of Frank’s new novel in an introduction to The Wonder Brothers, with live drawing from its inspired illustrator, Brighton based Steven Lenton. 19 May, ages 7-11.

Join us for a special screening of the British Animation Award winning Kensuke’s Kingdom: voiced by Oscar winner Cillian Murphy, Sally Hawkins and Ken Watanabe, it follows the story of a young boy shipwrecked on a remote island with a Japanese World War II soldier, and is adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s best-selling children’s book of the same name, by Frank Cottrell-Boyce. Stay for a Q+A with them both. 12 May, all ages.

Time For Table Tennis

Attempt a Guinness World Record with community-based Brighton Table Tennis Club at their AllStars Extravaganza! It’s a mass participation table tennis event hosted at the refurbished Corn Exchange 27 May, and everyone’s invited – could you find yourself playing opposite UK Paralympic gold medallist Will Bayley?

Outdoor Adventures

The family-friendly Carnesky’s Showwomxn Sideshow Spectacular will take over Elder Place, Brighton 25-26 May. With nine stages and a cast of aerialists, wrestlers, variety dancers, contemporary clowns and contortionists, come along for a spectacular celebration of variety performance and the fantastical forgotten women of its history. Performers include Netflix star Tallulah Haddon, World Record holding hula hoop artist Symoné and Bollywood dancer Kaajel.

Photography: John McMahon

Pop-ups, Prose and Performance

On opening weekend 4-5 May, catch the UK premiere of You’ll See… from Branar, one of Ireland’s leading theatre companies for children. It uses a combination of live performance, an intricate popup book and an original score to bring James Joyce’s epic tale of one day in one city, Ulysses to life. Ages 8+.

Branar also present the charming and playful Grand Soft Day, a largely non-verbal theatre show celebrating the seasons and natural world. 25-26 May, ages 2-6.

Two young children engage with an installation made of brightly coloured columns and boxes criss crossed with lots of string
Photography: Leap Then Look

Get Stuck In

Get your groove on with the The Sticky Dance, brought to you by disabled-led dance company Second Hand Dance. Three dancers shimmy and shake through the audience creating a tapestry of sticky tape – we dare you to try and stay seated! 17 May, ages 3-5.

Pop along to 100 Miles Of String throughout the run of the Festival, from Brighton-based contemporary arts organisation Leap Then Look. The free, interactive art installation allows participants to construct an ever-evolving landmark in the Royal Pavilion Gardens using thousands of metres of string. All ages.

Photography: Inspirate

Community Spirit

Outdoor arts specialist, Without Walls, are back with a series of free pop-up performances across Brighton and Crawley. Highlights include disabled and non-disabled ariel company Head over Wheels’ gravity-defying Anchored In Air (18-19 May), Manchester’s energetic hip-hop dance piece Closer To My Dreams (10-11 May), and award-winning brass band Perhaps Contraption and Deaf & BSL poet Zoe McWinney’s musical multi-art performance piece, The Journey (18-19 May). All ages.

Illustrator: Steven Lenton

Young Readers

Throughout May, join celebrated writers at readings and workshops, including the ‘ingenious’ M.G Leonard (12 May) and fantasy and young adult author Jenny McLachlan (18 May).

The ‘brilliantly funny’ Laura Ellen Anderson (11 May) and 2024 World Book Day author Tọlá Okogwu (11 May) chat about their latest publications, action-packed author Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre host an interactive drawing adventure (12 May), and Sophy Henn presents her new book, Lifesize, featuring to-scale pop ups, animals facts and challenges (12 May).

Older children can enjoy genre-bending young adult author Alexandra Sheppard’s writing workshop and intro to her new book, Alyssa and the Spell Garden (5 May), and wind wonderous paths in Vashti Hardy’s Fantasy Map Drawing (26 May).

Photography: Jodie Canwell

More Dates For The Diary

4 May – Children's Parade. A fiesta of colour, costume and live music based on Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s chosen theme: Dream Again. All ages.

4-26 May – Children's Illustration Exhibition. Children’s bookshop, The Book Nook, will display a selection of their work in a free exhibition throughout Brighton Festival. All ages.

8-10 May – First Light. For 0-18 month olds, an immersive and gentle multi-sensory experience.

18 May – The Rainbow Butterfly. Join Maja on their joyful, transformational journey as they explore the world and outer space as a Rainbow Butterfly. Ages 3-6.

19 May – Shelf: The Kids Show. Sketches, songs, pranks and silliness make up comedy duo Rachel and Ruby’s exploration of emotions, friendship and shyness. Ages 3+.


The Wonder Panel! is sponsored by Brighton College

100 Miles Of String supported by Southern Housing New Homes

Without Walls is sponsored by Graves Son & Pilcher

You'll See is supported by Culture Ireland

Children's Parade sponsored by Brighton Girls and Same Sky Brighton

Explore the full programme

Brighton Festival 2024