Shane from Strood having fun at last year's English Festival: picture Simon Kelsey

Build sandcastles, dance to big band sounds and even rub shoulders with Shakespeare at Medway’s third annual English Festival, taking place on Saturday, 21 April at Riverside Country Park, Gillingham.

Held on the closest Saturday to St George’s Day, the free family day out celebrates all things characteristically English and attracts thousands of visitors every year.

MP for Gillingham and Rainham Rehman Chishti will officially open this year’s event, which takes visitors through themed zones including the seaside, a village green, a farm animal enclosure and a medieval arena. The Mayor of Medway, Cllr Ted Baker, will be in attendance later in the day to introduce The Queen’s Speech, a respectful spoof to entertain all.

Among the other attractions on offer throughout the day will be a specially created beach complete with deckchairs and donkey rides, Shakespeare’s birthday party, Suffolk Punch horses, goat feeding, have-a-go archery and St George himself along with his fiery but friendly dragon.

Colourful costumed characters from English history will roam around the park, so don’t be surprised if you encounter Queen Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill, Emily Pankhurst, a Fairy Queen or a Town Crier.

The Three Towns Theatre Company will be adding to the fun with more than twenty English characters including Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan and Victorian bathers.

Local traders will be selling food and drink throughout the day, from traditional fish and chips to pasties and ice creams.

Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community Services Cllr Howard Doe said: “In this special year of Celebration in Medway there are even more things to see and do at this year’s English Festival and entry into the event is free. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate St George’s day, so I would urge everyone to come along and enjoy this free family day out.”

The English Festival runs from 11am to 5pm with the official opening at 12noon. Entry to the event is free but some activities such as donkey rides, seaside rides, and face painting will have a small charge. All children entering the event must be accompanied by an adult.

There will be limited parking on site. Spaces are free but as it is limited visitors are strongly advised to use the free park and ride service from the visitor entrance to the Historic Dockyard, Chatham and Rainham Mark Grammar School to Riverside Country Park, Gillingham and back. The buses will run between 10am and 6pm and will drop and collect passengers on Lower Rainham Road, outside Riverside Country Park.

For more information phone 01634 843666