WHITCHURCH Children’s Festival returns this month, celebrating the stunning natural environment of North Hampshire.

The event is a small, safe and friendly festival in Whitchurch, designed especially for families with pre-school and primary-school age children and will take place on Saturday July 31 and Sunday August 1.

It is an annual children’s arts event with the very specific aim of supporting children’s mental health and wellbeing through deepening their creative responses and emotional connection to the local landscape: the River Test, Mill Trail and the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The location for the festival is a wildflower watermeadow belonging to the historic Fulling Mill which lies alongside the crystal-clear waters of the River Test.

The festival has gained Arts Council England ‘Artsmark’ status and has a commitment to working with high-quality arts providers. Children are encouraged to achieve an Arts Council ‘Discover in a Day’ certificate while they are at the festival.

The festival’s family-focused programme is packed with an exciting range of activities including willow weaving, stencilling, art mural painting, pottery, jewellery making, wood whittling, storytelling of Hampshire local folklore, Storytime and Rhymetime, music-making sessions: steel pans, taiko drums.

There is also a gala classical music concert on the Saturday and acoustic live music on the Sunday.

Organiser Cllr Lucie Follet-Maitland said: “After more than a year of lockdown, it’s a much-needed opportunity to strengthen children’s emotional and social wellbeing, try out new and exciting experiences, as well as spend time with family and friends.”

A family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children) costs £15 for the entire weekend. Once inside the watermeadow, all children’s activities are included in the ticket price.

Partnerships have also been arranged with primary schools in Whitchurch, Overton and St Mary Bourne to allow free family tickets for children on free school meals..

The festival is being organised and promoted by Whitchurch Conservation Group, a constituted community group in Whitchurch, with over 800 local members.

The festival is to be formally opened by Mayor of Basingstoke, Cllr Onnalee Cubitt, on Saturday July 31 at 9:45am.

Sponsors include Arts Council England, National Lottery, Backstage Trust, Greenham Trust, Sasakawa Foundation, The Engineering Education Grant Scheme and the Nineveh Trust. Local sponsors include The Four Lanes Trust and Sun Life Financial in Basingstoke, Newbury Building Society and NFU Mutual North Hampshire.

Partnerships have been lined up with Hampshire Cultural Trust, Hampshire Libraries Service, Hampshire CPRE, N Wessex Downs Landscape Trust, N Wessex Downs Trust, Hampshire Council Countryside Service and Whitchurch Silk Mill.

For more information, visit: www.whitchurchchildrensfestival.co.uk