It might be a few weeks since Just So Festival but it’s still a hot topic of conversation in our house – in fact just this lunch time Amy was complaining to me that I hadn’t let her do the “Barefoot Walk” and asking if we can go back again next year?
With that in mind I thought I’d share 20 things we did do at Just So Festival this year!
1. Pitched the tent in a thunderstorm
This wasn’t actually quite as bad as it sounds – we’d kept a close eye on the weather forecast and knew the storms were due on Friday afternoon so were keen to get on site and pitched as soon as we could. By the time Dave got home from a hospital appointment and we had re-packed the car for what felt like the millionth time I think we arrived on site around lunchtime. Everything was really well organised in terms of people directing us to the car park and it was just a case of finding a spot and getting the tent up. We decided to set up camp as close to the car park as we could on the basis that it would be easier to cart stuff too and from the car. Of course some people prioritised proximity to the festival itself, the toilets etc. Everyone is looking for something a bit different from their spot! It’s worth noting that the site fills up quickly so if you’re wanting to camp with friends you need to try and arrange to arrive at the same time or take plenty of stuff to mark out your territory so to speak. As it was, the threatening rumbles of thunder quickly gave way to a heavy rain shower but we had struck lucky and got the tent itself up before the heavens opened!
2. Drank rhubarb gin in the sunshine
Although the forecast for the weekend wasn’t exactly glorious, we were treated to some lovely pockets of sunshine – and during those moments we stripped off our waterproofs, topped up the suncream and drank rhubarb gin in the sunshine (well Dave & I did anyway!). The rest of the time we kept our waterproofs and wellies on and made the best of it. Of course we’d have all loved a weekend of blue skies and sunshine, but as the saying goes “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” and we weren’t going to let a bit of rain spoil our fun!
3. Contemplated dressing up
Now, if you know me well, you’ll know that dressing up ain’t my bag. So much so I’ve actually been known to decline party invitations purely on the basis that I don’t like dressing up. I don’t even really know what it is about it but I’ve always hated it. I’m not the most creative of people (well obviously I am but in a different way – Photos, videos, writing? Yes! Creating fancy dress costumes? No chance) but there’s something about Just So Festival that just makes you want to get involved. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the festival, there are six tribes to choose from and festival attendees are encouraged to dress up and show their support for their tribe – cue entire families dressed in tweed suits and fox tails or full on glitter face paint and sequins. It really adds something special to the atmosphere of the weekend and next year we’re going to get involved!
4. Earned golden pebbles for the Tribal Tournament
Despite having not dressed up, we still earned some pebbles for the Tribal Tournament – Ben got one when he was chatting to a couple of attendants at the fire and Dave earned one for dragging the trailer up a muddy hill! They decided to give their pebbles to the Bee Tribe. (The Bee Tribe was new for 2017 and a really lovely nod to the events in Manchester earlier in the year.)
5. Made a lantern and joined the parade
As recommended by Kat Molesworth in her video of Just So Festival Camping & Planning Tips we got on with making our lantern first thing on Saturday morning – she explains in her vlog that the sooner you can do this the better before materials and tools become scarce. Now I must admit that about half way through our lantern making I think we all regretted ever having started. Ben and Dave did a great job with creating the structure but trying to cover it in thin sheets of tissue paper and glue, with the wind blowing and the ever-present threat of rain was probably more stressful than any of us would have liked. We were all pretty glad when the job was done and we could hand our lantern over to dry. We collected our lantern again on Saturday evening to join the parade. Because we were quite late joining the parade we were right at the back of the line – meaning a very stop start walk through the festival site. It was a lovely sight to see so many beautiful lanterns on parade but we decided to swerve the grand finale and fireworks in favour of getting three tired children into bed.
6. Ate enormous ears of corn
You haven’t been to Just So Festival if you don’t find yourself eating an enormous hot, buttery ear of sweetcorn at some point over the weekend! In all seriousness though, you won’t starve at Just So – there’s so many options from pizza to pasta to a full on vegan feast and it’s all really reasonably priced. Don’t get me wrong, if you eat three meals a day on site – you’re going to have spent a lot of money by the end of the weekend, but we decided to do breakfast & lunch at the tent then our evening meal from one of the vendors when we would be ready for something nice and hot to fill our tummies.
7. Enjoyed all sorts of theatre experiences
Live theatre is at the heart of Just So Festival and there’s so much to see. Over the course of the weekend I think we saw five or six different performances, and some of them more than once. That’s the joy of Just So Festival – you just rock up, sit down and watch. It’s worth bearing in mind that the Woodland theatre can get very busy so this year we decided to pick out what we most wanted to see and try to catch it on the Friday when there were fewer people around. This worked really well for us, though the show was quite delayed so we were sat for ages waiting for it to start. The rest of the time we tended to stumble across things as we were exploring.
8. Marvelled at the crazy man who could put his trousers on whilst jumping on the trampoline
Yes, I know that sound completely random but it really does just sum up Just So Festival for me – you really never know what you’re going to see or experience next.
9. Caught up with friends
One of the things I love most about Just So Festival is that it is kept deliberately small and intimate – this means that the festival always feels quite calm and safe for families and you’re almost guaranteed to bump into the people you know – we had quite a lot of friends attending the festival this year and whilst we never really planned times to meet up we always seemed to find each other at some point!
10. Gave the kids some freedom
As I’ve just mentioned, the festival feels small and safe – everyone is there for the same reason and as such we felt quite confident being able to give Ben and Chloe a little freedom. By no means does this mean we just gave them the run of the festival – but we felt comfortable allowing them to go to the toilet and come back to us, or move forward within an audience at a performance or the campfire without us having to stay by their side. As long as they could see us, we were happy.
11. Danced the Maypole
The Maypole on the Village Green caught Amy’s eye almost immediately. We managed to watch the very end of a session on Friday afternoon and promised Amy we’d find a time for her to join in over the course of the weekend. Due to some poor planning on our part we kept missing it or arriving after all the ribbons had been handed out so on Sunday, Amy & I settled ourselves down near the Maypole a good 40 minutes before the session was due to start. It was worth it to see her face when she had her ribbon and could dance around the Maypole with Ben.
12. Spent our evenings by the campfire
Sitting amongst the twinkly lights of the Spellbound Forest around the campfire of an evening, listening to storyteller Ian Douglas or singing campfire songs was a real highlight for us – and many others. The campfire was often very busy and at times it was difficult to hear Ian or his colleagues – I would love to see them mic’d up to allow the people on the edges of the audience to get full enjoyment from the performance and not just the front rows.
13. Took our first festival showers
In a previous lifetime (you know, the one before I had kids) festival showers were not something I bothered with – a wet wipe wash was fine. Who wanted to be queuing for a shower when there was dancing and drinking to be done . . .
I was genuinely impressed with the showers at Just So Festival – yes there were queues (though the earlier your kids woke you, the less time you had to queue) but they were hot, powerful enough to get a decent wash and pretty clean. (That said, I would still recommend taking your flip flips to avoid the muddy floor!) It’s also worth mentioning that the toilets at Just So Festival are also far cleaner than any other festival experience I’ve had, perhaps in part due to the clientele not having copious amounts of cider coursing through their veins . . .
14. Played “Actual Reality Games”
Who needs a screen when you can put on a Pac Man head and chase your ghostly big brother around a maze, or hit your kids over the head in a real life version of Whack-A-Mole! The Actual Reality games were full on real life versions of your favourite arcade games – great for the kids to get involved in and do something physical and hilarious for the adults to watch!
15. Wore metallic tattoos on our faces
I’d fully intended to get n the festival spirit with some glitter for our faces but then realised that it would be a complete nightmare to wash off and would end up all over the tent so we used some metallic tattoos that we’d reviewed a while ago – they worked perfectly.
16. Made the most of having a trailer with us
Our trailer was a last minute purchase after much debate as to whether we actually needed one or not. Whilst it was a massive pain in the backside to fit in the car, it was worth it’s weight in gold to be able to move the camping gear to our pitch, carry bags and coats onto the festival site, give the kids somewhere to sit down or even let Amy ride in it when she got tired. I wholeheartedly recommend investing.
17. Regretted not taking ear plugs
Bedtime on a campsite is always a bit noisy and as such as tend to let the kids go to bed at about 9.30pm – making sure they’re properly tired and it’s dark really does help them drop off if it’s a bit noisy outside the tent. However I think the family who camped next to us had forgotten their tent was pitched almost on top of ours and that it didn’t have brick walls. They completely lacked any sort of self-awareness or ability to whisper – definitely a lesson in taking ear plugs next time round!
18. Enjoyed live music at the Footlights Stage
Having listened to the Just So Festival taster CD in the car on the way there, we had all identified acts we wanted to see over the course of the weekend. As it turned out I think we missed most of them but we did manage to see a young lady called Laura Oakes and Amy told her she was “the best singer in the whole world“. Live music has always been a big part of Dave & I’s life so being able to introduce the kids to live acts at Just So Festival is a real highlight for us.
19. Packed up early
Although Dave had the Monday off work, the forecast was for heavy rain right through Sunday night and into Monday morning so we decided to spend some time packing up on Sunday morning whilst everything was dry. We didn’t see the point in staying the extra night to then have to pack up a wet tent and get stuck queuing to get out of a muddy car park. As it was, the weather wasn’t too bad on the Monday morning but I’m glad that we did it that way round. We were able to enjoy our day at the festival but head home warm and dry that night with a full day ahead of us to get the washing done etc etc.
20. Cried when it was over
Dave and I sobbed our hearts out. . . Ok. We didn’t. By the Sunday night we were tired and ready to go home – we wanted to sit somewhere comfy and know that our bed wasn’t going to deflate part way through the night requiring mouth to mouth resuscitation at 3am. Amy however, was gutted that it was over and even more so when she realised it was a whole year till we could go back!
Even as I’ve finished writing this I can think of more things we did – and plenty that we missed too. Just So Festival – you did it again. See you next year for more magical memory making! (If you’d like to join us at Just So Festival next year, Early Bird tickets are available now!)
Why not read more about Family Friendly Festivals for 2020 here
*We attended Just So Festival free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own.
To see what some other bloggers thought of the festival check out the posts below: