Manchester Children's Book Festival is running again in 2017, following its huge success last year. The festival, which started small in 2010, has grown dramatically in size during that time and takes place at venues throughout Manchester.
The main event of the festival is its Family Fun Day which offers a full day of free activities for the whole family at the Manchester Metropolitan University All Saints Campus. Whether you simply want to inspire a passion for reading, teach your kids new skills, or demonstrate to your children the great breadth and depth of talent involved in creating books, it's a must for all ages.
Last year I brought my three children along (ages 8, 6 and 2) for the first time. We had booked on a couple of workshops- one with Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre who created the book Pugs of the Frozen North and a comic workshop led by Manchester Phoenix. All my children LOVE books, but what surprised me was how they came away with a new love of illustrating. My older two were drawing pugs for months afterwards. My eldest especially was inspired to create some fabulous comic characters –needless to say we will be visiting again this year.
Learning from the experts
This year's event looks even bigger as it will be expanding out of the main building into the All Saints Park, and will feature the GRUB food market, bouncy castle and an assault course to give youngsters a chance to burn off any excess energy.
We're also promised special appearances from Peppa Pig and Q-Pootle 5 throughout the day, so don't forget to bring your camera.
There are plenty of activities that families can get involved in throughout the day; some you need to book on in advance, others you can just drop in on. The programme is incredibly varied this year, from learning to beat box to playing the Balalaika, and drama workshops to comic-making. So if your child doesn't like reading in the traditional sense, don't let that stop you – go along and see where your child's dreams takes them.
Some workshops at the event are already booked up, but the events below are all free and have availability at the time of writing. Tickets for all events can be booked here.
For the under 5s, there lots to choose from. Coronation Street's Jennie McAlpine will be sharing some of her favourite stories to the under 5s at 10.15am and 12noon. Award-winning author Nick Butterworth, creator of the CBeebies series Q Pootle 5 will be holding an interactive storytelling session, followed by a book signing.
For children ages 6 and up, author Claire Barker and illustrator Ross Collins, creators of the Knitbone Pepper Ghost Dog series are hosting a fun-packed session where you can watch Ross live-draw the characters from the book and Claire and Ross will chat about their own pets whilst introducing their motley crew of ghostly animal friends.
If your child has a passion for drawing and comics, Robert Deas, creator of the Sci-Fi series Troy Trailblazer will be demonstrating how he creates his comic pages, from ideas to the finished script. Youngsters will get a chance to draw along with Robert as he does some live drawing on the big screen.
Guy Bass' Spynosaur is a secret agency Department 6's not-so-secret weapon. Guy will be giving animated readings from his books in a combination of stand-up, reading, pictures and props. Suitable for ages 7-10.
For teenagers and young adults, MC and beat boxing Guinness World Record holder Testament will be bringing his Hip Hop Clinic workshops to the book festival. With over 15 years of experience, he has worked for the likes of MTV, BBC, The Roundhouse and Sky Arts. Find out how to explore sound and use you voice to make beats. Sessions are free and open to all abilities, so if you're intrigued get your tickets booked now.
Come along and meet author Jane Kerr and find out about how a visit to Manchester Museum inspired her to write her book, The Elephant Thief. Joined by the characters from the book, Jane will take you on a hunt to find the giant elephant puppet. Suitable for ages 5 and up.
If you want to give your kids a musical experience, why not join in with the Masha and the Bear Balalaika Workshop? The Kalinka Balalaika Orchestra needs more players, so have a go at playing a tune on the balalaika and amaze your friends and parents. Suitable for over 8s.
Cathy Cassidy, best-selling author of The Chocolate Box Girls series will be sharing her latest book and first in a new series, Love from Lexie, about friendship, love and saving the world. Cathy will be talking about how she writes, where she gets her inspiration, and there will be plenty of chances to ask questions. Suitable for over 8s.
If poetry is more your thing, why not join Mandy Coe in the Read Manchester Marquee? Mandy's poems have been broadcast on CBeebies, Woman's House, Poetry Please and BBC School's Radio. So pop along and introduce your children to the joy of listening to poetry out-loud.
Drop in events
I'm especially excited about STARLAB's Inflatable Planetarium drop-in session which last 20 minutes and will allow little ones to explore the stars, planets and solar systems. Sessions will run throughout the day from 10am-3.20pm and are suitable for ages 3 , but space is limited so make sure you get there early.
Star gazing at Manchester's Children's Book Festival Family Fun Day
Or why not drop into the Green Screen Room and literally put the kids in the pages of their favourite book? It's open from 11am and there's no need to book, just turn up.
The National Football Museum will be providing fun arts and craft sessions throughout the day from 11am, where youngsters can create their very own designer footballs. It's totally free, and all materials will be provided.
If your kids veer on the dramatic side, why not bring them along to a drama workshop, which will be hosted by The Royal Exchange Theatre at 1.30pm. Or let them join in with Chris Jam and Young Identity poets' Open Mic session in the Read Manchester Marquee from 3.15pm? If your child wants to take the mic, just drop by the Wordsmith stand throughout the day and let Chris know.
The 2017 Manchester Children's Book Festival Family Fun Day runs from 10am-4pm on Saturday 24th June. There is no need to book for the main event, you can just turn up and it's totally free. Workshops must be booked separately. For more information, see here.