Bedford River Festival 2024, free family fun takes over St. Mary's Gardens

Bedford River Festival 2024, free family fun takes over St. Mary's Gardens

The Bedford River Festival is back on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 July 2024, and this year, St. Mary's Gardens is hosting the all-new Family Island, bursting with free activities designed to keep little ones entertained for hours.

For the first time ever, St. Mary's Gardens will be transformed into the Family Island, a haven of free, fun-filled workshops for all ages. From toddlers to teenagers, there's something for everyone:

Dance workshops: Get your groove on with energetic dance sessions.

Storytelling and sensory activities: Spark imaginations and ignite curiosity.

Arts and crafts: Unleash creativity with exciting crafting opportunities.

Little Science Lab: Explore the wonders of science with hands-on experiments.

A fantastic line-up of children's entertainers and practitioners will keep the laughter flowing all weekend long.  Workshops are free, but some may have limited spaces, so arrive early to secure your spot.

Even if you miss a workshop, St. Mary's Gardens offers lots of free entertainment this year. There will be clay-making sessions for children, to get crafty and mould their own masterpieces throughout the festival. A petting farm will allow children to get up close and cuddly with adorable animals.

The Inclusive Island, a dedicated section within the Family Island, offers a calm and sensory-friendly environment, fantastic for families with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). 

Features include:

Shaded area with sensory equipment.

Dedicated bouncy castle for children and young people with SEND.

Staffed by experts who can answer questions and share information about SEND resources.

Mobile Changing Places toilet nearby.

Proximity to disabled parking and family-friendly stalls. 

"We're incredibly excited to unveil the all-new Family Island at St. Mary's Gardens for the 2024 Bedford River Festival," says Bjorn Hove, Lead Events and Infrastructure Officer at Bedford Borough Council. 

"This dedicated space offers a fantastic range of free activities designed to keep children of all ages entertained throughout the weekend. From dance workshops and storytelling sessions to arts and crafts and interactive science shows, there's something to spark every child's imagination and creativity. 

“We believe this addition will make the festival even more enjoyable for families, and we can't wait to see the smiles on their faces!"

There’s lots more for families to enjoy:

Just over the bridge, Riverside Square and Bedford High Street will showcase a unique display of vehicles presented by the Festival of Motoring. 

There are many activities planned on the river that families can watch, don’t miss the Dragonboat and raft races and the illuminated boat display. The Water Sports Arena, near the Butterfly Bridge, has all sorts of water-based activities.

Just along from the Water Sports Arena, towards Aspect from the school’s boathouses, families can explore the Sports Island and potentially find a local sports club or organisation to join.

Russell Park hosts the Main Stage, funfair, free play area and picnic site, and the new crazy golf course.

In Mill Meadows you’ll find the Community Stage and the new Arts & Culture area, both showcasing some amazing local talent with plenty of free entertainment and things to see.

Families will enjoy the Bands on the Bridge with concert and brass bands performing on Bedford Town Bridge.

New for this year is the Green Earth Village on Castle Mound. The Green Earth Kids area will offer an Eco Forest as well as talks and workshops for children. It’s a great place to enjoy a picnic and there’ll also be an eclectic mix of wellbeing, nature, performance, vegan products, food & arts.

Browse the market alongside The Embankment too!

Mark your calendars and get ready for a weekend of unforgettable free family fun at the Bedford River Festival 2024. Discover the full programme so that you can plan your weekend in advance at

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