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Royal de luxe, creators of The Sultan's Elephant, will perform their latest work, Sea Odyssey, in Liverpool this month. Photograph: Laurent Wey/Argos
Sea Odyssey, Liverpool
Crowds swarmed through central London in 2006 to watch The Sultan's Elephant, a magical slice of large-scale street theatre that saw a 30-foot little girl in a green dress pass by, accompanied by a majestic elephant train. So it's definitely worth making the trip to Liverpool to see the latest creation by French puppeteers and theatre-makers Royal de Luxe (royal-de-luxe.com). The little girl will return, accompanied by her 50-foot uncle; for three days, the giant puppets will roam through the centre and north of the city, telling a theatrical tale inspired by a letter from a local girl whose father was a steward on the Titanic's ill-fated maiden voyage.
• Liverpool city centre, giantspectacular.com, 20-22 April, free
East End Film Festival, LondonPhotograph: Ronald Grant Archive
The world's eyes will, of course, be on east London this summer for a certain international sporting event – and the organisers have accordingly pulled out all the stops for this, the eleventh instalment of the East End's annual festival of international film, music and more. There's a screening of the 1964 comedy Crooks in Cloisters (pictured) in celebration of local legend Barbara Windsor's 75th birthday; and a series of Indian and Bangladeshi films and events. Sunday 1 July, a couple of days ahead of the main event, also sees a one-day fringe programme, CineEast, with a huge number of free happenings taking place in cinemas, galleries, shops and restaurants around the area, one of London's most lively and diverse.
• Various venues around east London, 020-7364 7917, eastendfilmfestival.com, 3-8 July
Art 8 – Newquay Arts Festival
This new, eight-day arts festival covers photography, dance, design, theatre, music, art and crafts, with many of the events either free or extremely affordable. For £2, you can book a place on a taster workshop on anything from clog-dancing to musical theatre or glass-fusing (under-14s go free). Other highlights include a bill of new work from the three winners of the inaugural Newquay Art Prize; a male-voice choral concert hosted by the 85-strong Trelawny Male Choir; and the screening of a short film by Cornwall-based painter Kurt Jackson, followed by a question-and-answer session with the artist.
• Venues across Newquay, 14-21 April. For full details, see facebook.com/art8nqy or visitnewquay.co.uk. See Georgia Brown's weekend trip on the surf bus to Newquay at guardian.co.uk/travel
Bristol Folk Festival
Last year saw the first dedicated folk festival in Bristol for more than 30 years; it certainly seemed to be answering a need, with around 2,000 people attending the three-day series of concerts and workshops at the Colston Hall. This time round, the headliners include veteran genre-crossers Afro Celt Sound System, Irish singer Cara Dillon (pictured), and 21-year-old Lucy Ward, winner of this year's Horizon prize for best newcomer at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Also worth a look is Ghosts from the Basement, a Colston Hall concert on 6 May celebrating the pioneering 60s record label Village Thing, which helped put the city firmly on the map as a centre for folk and alternative music.
• Colston Hall, Bristol, 0117 922 3686, bristolfolkfestival.com, 5-7 May
HighTide Festival, Halesworth, Suffolk
It's hard to believe that HighTide, founded in 2007 by a group of enterprising graduates as a vehicle for the promotion and performance of new writing, has only been running its annual theatre festival for six years. It's already punching far above its weight: this year's programme features 18 UK and European premieres, among them the latest play from award-winning young dramatist Ella Hickson, and The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, Mike Daisey's angry one-man indictment of Apple, the company he once worshipped. The under-30s can hop on a dedicated Festival Bus: for £30, they'll get day-return travel from London's Liverpool Street to Halesworth, and tickets to two plays.
• The Cut and the Rifle Hall, Halesworth, 020 7566 9767, hightide.org.uk, 3-13 May
Norfolk and Norwich Festival
This annual East Anglian shindig can trace its origins back to 1772, when a fundraising concert was held in aid of the new Norfolk and Norwich hospital – but its consistently interesting programme of art, theatre, dance, comedy, music and circus remains inexplicably under the radar. Well, not for much longer – this year's schedule is one of the best yet. There are just a few dates left available if you want to check into the AirHotel (pictured), seven artfully constructed pods to be installed high among the treetops around Holt Hall for an unusual overnight stay, complete with birdsong and room service provided by "aerial" staff. The excellent young theatre company Little Bulb, the National Theatre of Scotland's festival debut, and a major exhibition of video installations by Bill Viola are three more reasons to head east this May.
• Various venues around Norfolk and Norwich, 01603 877750, nnfestival.org.uk, 11-26 May
Stockton International Riverside Festival, North Yorkshire
Ancient myths and folk tales underpin the north-east's 25th festival of outdoor theatre. The opening show, Prometheus, is a collaboration between Britain's foremost deaf and disabled theatre company, Graeae, and Catalan theatre-makers La Fura dels Baus, known for their large-scale, provocative work (the 2003 London run of a show simply entitled XXX prompted an investigation by Scotland Yard into whether sex acts were being committed on stage). The finale, from the site-responsive British theatre company Periplum, looks set to be equally arresting, featuring flames and flying in a celebration of human resilience.
• Various venues around Stockton, sirf.co.uk, 2-5 August
East Neuk Festival, FifePhotograph: Eamonn Mccabe
Classical music and a new literary programme are the order of the day here, with many of the events taking place outdoors or in unusual venues – from pubs to churches, gardens, woodland and, most intriguingly, a potato barn. Two concerts will take place there, from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Paul Hillier's acclaimed vocal ensemble Theatre of Voices. Elsewhere, harpist Andrew Lawrence-King will perform in Kilconquhar Church, nature writer Richard Mabey (pictured) will give a talk in Crail and lead a ramble along the Fife coastal path, and author Sara Maitland will pay tribute to the Brothers Grimm on an evocative stroll around the grounds of Kellie Castle.
• Various venues throughout the East Neuk of Fife, 0131-473 2000, eastneukfestival.com, 27 June-1 July
Scottish International Storytelling Festival, Edinburgh
The spoken word has been undergoing something of a renaissance of late, with Edinburgh's festival of traditional and contemporary story-telling firmly in the vanguard. It's held in the autumn, after the madness of the city's glut of August arts festivals has passed, making it well worth another trip to this most culturally vibrant of cities. The programme for this year hasn't yet been announced in full, but – appropriately, in a year that marks the 200th anniversary of the first publication of the Grimms' Children's and Household Tales – it will focus on the folk tales of Old Europe. Alongside live performances, there are usually workshops, talks, panel discussions and family activities.
• Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh, 0131 556 9579, 19-28 October. For full details, join the mailing list at scottishstorytellingcentre.co.uk
Dinefwr Literature Festival, CarmarthenshirePhotograph: Robert Read/Alamy
Festival settings don't get much more spectacular than this: Dinefwr Park and Castle near Llandeilo, the National Trust site of this inaugural symposium of Welsh and English writing, music, comedy and cinema. It boasts a 12th-century castle, 17th-century manor house, and medieval deer park. A camping field will be set up in the grounds, while poets Andrew Motion and Gillian Clarke and musicians Gruff Rhys and Emmy the Great strut their stuff on stage. Also on the impressively eclectic bill at this bi-lingual festival are poet Luke Wright, Irish writer Claire Keegan, and the inimitable Howard Marks.
• Dinefwr Park and Castle, 0844 888 9991, dinefwrliteraturefestival.co.uk, 29 June-1 July, adult weekend tickets from £48.60, child (six-16) from £5.50