The Big Malarkey family festival is back

New writing to nursery rhymes, fairy tales to Frankenstein, puppets to poetry – we’re in for a very special weekend at Hull’s unique Big Malarkey festival.


Celebrating all things to do with children’s books and stories, it’s a welcome return to East Park for the hit festival that made its debut in 2017 as part of Hull UK City of Culture.


Hull-born TV presenter Amy Thompson, of Channel 5’s Milkshake fame will be on the mic’ as MC throughout the weekend, helping to make sure no one misses a thing in a fun-packed line-up.


Amy says: “My very first job when I was 15 was working at the Central Library. I have always loved reading and I am really chuffed to be involved in presenting at The Big Malarkey and helping to inspire children to read.”

At this year’s Big Malarkey, presented by Hull Libraries, there is no shortage of inspiration.

You can meet famous writers, poets and illustrators, get creative and have a go at writing, drawing, making and all manner of digital wizardry, listen to live music and watch some fabulous performances.

All ages really are catered for: from Yoga Babies and Baby Boogie sessions for the little ones; to the double-decker Blundabus that our friends at Back To Ours have converted into a mini venue for young people aged 13 and over.

The Big Malarkey Festival - © Fiona Lumbers

Children aged three or over can get to know the book-loving hero of Luna Loves Library Day at a reading and live drawing event with poet Joseph Coelho and illustrator Fiona Lumbers (Sunday, 10.30am-11.15am and 1.15pm-2pm).

Fiona says: “We are really looking forward to sharing the magic of Luna’s favourite stories with all the young book-lovers of Hull.”

And as you can see from this great illustration drawn by Fiona especially for The Big Malarkey, Luna doesn’t just love library day, she loves The Big Malarkey, too!

Anarchic rhymes could also be part of the fun, as children aged seven-plus are invited to join Hull punk poet Joe Hakim at the city’s first have-a-go poetry slam for young people (Saturday, workshop 2pm-3.30pm; finale 4pm-4.30pm).

Joe, who can often be spotted on stage performing his poems to introduce gigs by BBC 6Music favourites LIFE, says: “I will be hosting a poetry slam on the Saturday. Hull is fast-becoming one of the UK’s hotspots for poetry and spoken word, and it’s time to get more young people involved.

“I’ll be hosting a workshop which will give tips on how to take work from the page to stage, as well as introducing the basics of the ‘slam’ format, culminating in Hull’s first youth poetry slam.”

Other highlights include the bonkers world of Spangles McNasty, a chance to make Harry Potter-style “magic” pictures, Jack And The Beans Talk puppet show and Frankenstein How To Build A Monster and Bad Science spoken-word workshops.

There will be appearances by daughter-and-father duo Katy and Chris Riddell. Katy is known for her work illustrating books such as the Pongwhiffy series by Kaye Umansky, while former children’s laureate Chris is best-known as the writer and illustrator of the Goth Girl  series.

To get an idea of what to expect, here’s how last year’s Big Malarkey went down…

As festival director Ellen Bianchini says in New Writing North, it’s all about reading for pleasure to spark the imagination. “There’ll be stories told through theatre, music, illustration, puppetry and animation – with some ageless classics such as The Moomins, Roald Dahl and a few beloved fairy tales.”

Michelle Alford, director of library services for Hull Culture and Leisure, says: “It’s not just about fiction, but about all types of reading and performance because people forget that creative writing also creates plays and TV shows and songs.”

Reading has literally never been so much fun.

Visit The Big Malarkey website to check out the full 2018 line-up and to book tickets. The two-day festival takes place in East Park, Holderness Road on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 June, 10am-5pm on both days.

Tickets are available online and at all Hull libraries, costing £2.50 for children, £5 for adults or £14 for two adults and two children.