Festival watch;Festivals

16th July 1999 at 01:00
Long summer evenings, strawberries and cream eaten al fresco, strait-laced towns sprouting bunting, fireworks, dancing in the street, authors on a pedestal, jazz in the park, face-painting in a tent and music wafting on the breeze. It must be festival time.

As well as the big ones, of which Edinburgh is the acknowledged grand-daddy, there are festivals big and small all over the country. Scarcely a hamlet feels complete without its few days' celebration of culture, so most people should be able to find something to their taste nearby. A comprehensive list is available from the British Arts Festivals Association, 3rd floor, The Library, 77 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX. Tel: 0171 247 5010.

The BBC Proms must count as one of the most accessible festivals in the world: anyone who can switch on Radio 3 from this evening until September 11 will be rewarded with a feast of live music - everything from Richard Strauss to Thomas Ad s, Mozart to James MacMillan.

And even for those who must be there to experience the real Prom flavour, there is an alternative to buying tickets for the Royal Albert Hall. As well as the now established Prom in the Park in Hyde Park, where Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Evelyn Glennie and Courtney Pine will perform live with the BBC Concert Orchestra on September 11, there will be simultaneous open-air proms in Singleton Park, Swansea, and in Centenary Square, Birmingham.

In all cases, the Last Night of the Proms will be relayed live on a giant screen. The next day, there will be a special children's Prom in the Park in Hyde Park, introduced by television presenter Katy Hill. Young singer Charlotte Church will be on the bill.

Young people have always been the foremost prommers. This year's brochure tells you how to prom: buy a season ticket, for instance, and you may well get in for as little as pound;1.50 a concert. And those under 14 can be admitted half-price (not on promenade tickets) to matinees on July 24, August 15 and August 29.

The first of these is the Blue Peter Family Concert, which promises "a selection of shorter pieces presented with wit and verve" and features the Islington Music Centre Children's Choir. Prepare to join in.

Young people are taking the stage elsewhere too. Students from the UK's leading music colleges will be performing in a series of concerts of work by contemporary composers at the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington.

The National Youth Orchestra is working on a piece by Mark-Anthony Turnage that will receive its London premi re on August 7. Silent Cities, inspired by Kipling's description of First World War graveyards, is not an easy piece. But that, says Mark-Anthony Turnage, is "not a problem". He will be going to the NYO's summer school before the prom for rehearsals and to take composing workshops.

"They are", he says, "very, very sophisticated performers - and they have such enthusiasm. They are flexible, open to trying things. And the standard keeps going up - they are like athletes, although one does worry about the effect of the cut-backs on future players. This is quite a dark piece - well, the central section is jazzy, so it's quite noisy, despite its title. The whole thing has a dense, thick texture."

Two other pieces have been written with children's choirs in mind: James MacMillan's Quickening, for Westminster Cathedral Choristers on September 5, and Louis Andriessen's Trilogy of the Last Day for the New London Children's Choir on August 26. The City of Birmingham Youth Chorus will be singing works by Mahler and Schumann on August 23 and 28.

And those of us with croaks for voices can listen with pleasure.

Bookings: 0171 589 8212; www.bbc.co.ukproms

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