Summer site-seer

The term isn't quite over yet, but the end is in sight. And just as the academic year collapses into a heap in the corner, so another clutch of broadly educational endeavours reach their climax. It is now peak season for the international cultural festival industry - and there are dozens of websites bursting to tell you all about these mind-expanding events.

In truth, for many - teachers included - the peak happens next weekend at Glastonbury (www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk). The three-day music festival, cheerfully scheduled to collide with the dog-end of some unfortunate students'A-levels, is the colossus of European rock and dance music events this summer. You can tell how big it is by looking at the number of unofficial Glastonbury websites it has spawned. There are three sites solely for people looking for lifts or hitching partners.

Life-enhancing as it might be to thrash around in deep mud to the strains of the Chemical Brothers, there's more to the festival business. For a grandstand view of events worldwide, go straight to Festivals.com (www.festivals.com), an American site which works to a charmingly catholic definition of the word "festival", and takes a genuinely global view.

This is a glorified listings service, but executed with panache and an endearing and occasionally idiosyncratic style. Look, for example, at the provocative "top 25" of international cultural festivals. London's Notting Hill carnival is there, alongside the likes of La Tomatina (Spain'straditional food fight), Mexico's El Di de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and Turkey's Festival of the Whirling Dervishes (Mevlana Festival) in December.

This is the sort of website that could have you booking airline tickets to Slovenia (to imbibe the atmosphere of the Maribor district's 17-day riverbank festival, of course) when all you meant to do was check the dates for Edinburgh. A site that tells you not only that there are now more than 100 Shakespeare festivals each year, but also where they are, whether they're worth going to, and how to get to them.

A word of warning, however: if you enter the Kids' Festivals area, you will find a teachers' corner offering curriculum advice.

One of many links on this site takes you to the comparatively parochial website of the British Arts Festivals Association (www.artsfestivals.co.uk). This is eminently usable, with its click-sensitive map and events diary. Again, a festival innocent will be amazed by the variety of arts activity taking place in the streets, market squares, libraries, concert halls and even car parks of Britain over the year.

If carnivals are more your thing, try CarnivalNet (www.carnivalnet.org.uk), an Arts Council site that lists around 100 carnivals around the country. There's a fine photo gallery on the site, plenty of information and advice on costume design - and an application form for funding to put together a Mas band at the Notting Hill Carnival on August 27 and 28.

BILL HICKS


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