Family Fun: Thousands flock to the Manchester Children’s Book Festival for creative fun, author events and interactive activities

Nick Butterworth signs books for young fans. Photograph: Will Coldwell
Manchester Children’s Book Festival returns with a sell-out Family Fun Day featuring authors, activities and workshops for all the family at Manchester Metropolitan University.

By Jacqueline Grima


Special guests included best-selling children’s authors Nick Butterworth and Cathy Cassidy and special appearances by CBeebies’ Q Pootle 5 and much-loved Peppa Pig.

The Family Fun Day also saw the introduction of new MCBF Patron, Coronation Street star Jennie McAlpine, who entertained children and parents in the Read Manchester Marquee with story time sessions.

Festival Director Kaye Tew introduces new patron Jennie McAlpine. Photograph: Will Coldwell

Jennie said, “I have been taking my little boy Albert, who’s two-and-a-half, to story time at the Manchester Central Library since he was 8 weeks old. We love our reading and our stories so when MCBF invited me to join as a patron, I was very happy to agree and support it in any way I can.

“The Family Fun Day is a free event for families, which is great. There are so many amazing things on offer, not least Peppa Pig!”

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Photograph: Jason Lawton

The Read Manchester Marquee also played host to a variety of poets and storytellers throughout the day, including a performance of The Three Little Pigs by Peoplescape Theatre, an elephant hunt with author Jane Kerr, and poems about love and laughter with Mandy Coe.

Festival Director Kaye Tew, said, “We’re so pleased that so many children have turned up to listen to stories.”

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Photograph: Jason Lawton

In the Family Arts Network Zone, children had the chance to meet Knitbone Pepper author/illustrator duo Claire Barker and Ross Collins, who shared stories on how their own pets had influenced their stories. Visitors also had the opportunity to take part in green screen activities and an amazing, multi-sensory activity based on Michael Rosen’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.

MCBF volunteer Noel Fagan said, “It really adds to the story when you have sound and smell and texture involved. It adds another layer to the experience and makes it more accessible to children with sensory impairments.”

Photograph: Will Coldwell

In the Generation Manchester and Science Zone, older children and teens had the opportunity to visit an interactive planetarium and create their own comics with Phoenix Comics writer and illustrator Robert Deas. Mum Karen Hamlet, who brought her family from St Helens, said,

“The Festival appeals to what kids love. There’s so much to learn but they don’t even realise that they’re learning! Anything that’s free and that entertains your child as well as teaching them something is definitely going to be a winner.”

Photograph: Will Coldwell

Other activities included hip-hop workshops from world record holder Testament and spoken word poetry, plus a chance to meet author Guy Bass, who created the world’s first dinosaur secret agent and his arch enemy Ergo Ego.

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Testament performs in the Generation Manchester and Science Zone. Photograph: Jason Lawton

Stalls offering family activities included the People’s History Museum, Kumon, Play Factore, Lego Education, Green Beans Nursery, the National Football Museum and the Manchester Museum. Outside in All Saints Park a free bouncy castle and giant board games were on hand to entertain children and families in the Saturday sunshine. Meanwhile, MCBF visitors had the opportunity to try some tasty treats served up by GRUB, with Ginger’s Comfort Emporium dishing out delicious ice-cream.

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Family Fun in the Family Arts Network Zone. Photograph: Will Coldwell

All the authors’ books were available to buy on the day from festival friends Blackwell’s and Usborne Books and hundreds of children left clutching books signed by their favourite authors. One young visitor, Oscar, who had arrived with his brother Arthur, said, ‘I’m going to come back every year if I can.”

Mum Claire added, “Since we have been coming to the festival and Oscar discovered Phoenix Comics, he has begun to read more independently.”

The Manchester Children’s Book Festival continues throughout summer with events for the whole family to enjoy. Check out the #MCBF2017 Festival programme and follow @MCBFestival on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest news and events.

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