Summer 2018 has been super festival heavy for us and in fact lots of our friends. If you fancy trying out a festival with the kids in 2019, here’s five of our favourite family friendly festivals to consider:
Summer 2018 has been super festival heavy for us and in fact lots of our friends. If you fancy trying out a festival with the kids in 2019, here’s five of our favourite family friendly festivals to consider:
Right about now I should be dancing in the rain with Dave at The Big Feastival, enjoying a bit of old school hip hop from Sugarhill Gang (which Dave would have rapped incessantly throughout) and wondering what to eat for tea. What I’m actually doing is sitting in my pyjamas catching up on Coronation Street after spending the day cleaning and tidying . . .
Friday lunch time we packed the car up and set off down to Alex James’ Farm in The Cotswolds for The Big Feastival (which is considerably further away than I had realised and thanks to some heavy traffic took over 4 hours to get to!) We managed to get the tent pitched just before the heavens opened – it has to be said it’s considerably easier when it’s just the two of us! Once we’d got ourselves set up we were able to take shelter from the worst of the rain before sticking on our raincoats heading into the festival for the evening.
We spent much of the evening pottering around and perusing the different food and drink vendors – picking out ones we’d like to re-visit over the weekend, Dave might have got a bit excited about some peanut butter brownies! I was too cold to want to drink gin (I know, I know but ice . . . ) and decided to save that one for Saturday, preferring a steaming cup of hot chocolate from Neigh Coffee whilst Dave was all about the Birra Moretti (which wasn’t exactly cheap at £6.50 a pint but it’s his favourite so who am I to deny him!)
Last weekend saw our third trip to Just So Festival – which I guess makes us regulars (though there are certainly people who have been plenty more times than we have!) Each year we have done things slightly differently. The first time we just visited for the day, the second time we camped for the full weekend and this time we made a last minute decision not to camp due to the weather forecast and just drove over each day. (We live just under an hour away from the festival site of Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire.) Although we are fully set up for camping in the rain and wouldn’t let the weather spoil our fun, in this instance the forecast was bad for Sunday and the idea of putting the tent down in the rain when we didn’t really have the time or space to get it back up again to dry it out at home ahead of camping again the following two weekends was the deciding factor.
One of the things I love most about returning to Just So Festival each year is the mix of familiar favourites with the new. There were things we were familiar with from previous Just So Festival adventures, others we saw at Timber Festival earlier in the year and yet more still which we’d never seen before at all. Even just the fact that some things had moved around the site keeps things feeling fresh.
This weekend saw the inaugural Timber Festival at Feanedock, the National Forest.
An extraordinary new camping festival exploring the transformative impact of forests. Celebrating woodland culture in all its forms, join us for an intoxicating experience where music, art, philosophy and sustainability weave together into an unforgettable, exhilarating weekend.
From the outset this festival bore all the hallmarks of a Wild Rumpus event, things which we have come to expect after a couple of years of attending Just So Festival; the attention to detail, familiar performers, super clean toilets and shower blocks, and a range of good quality food, but it also set itself apart as a festival in its own right.
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 clientelle 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!)
*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:
I can hardly believe it’s the last day of the summer holidays. At the start of the holidays, seven weeks stretching out in front of us felt so unbelievably long, yet now we’re at the end I almost feel as though they slipped through our fingers. Of course this isn’t the case at all and we’ve packed so much into our #sevenweeksofsummer. In fact there’s definitely been weeks where we ended up doing too much – where I had managed to plan something in for every single day. Looking back perhaps we’d have benefited from more “calm down days” but then equally, those days tended to be the days where the bickering and irritations set in.
Getting out and about with three kids can be stressful – getting everyone dressed, fed and out of the door whilst sorting yourself out and packing a picnic can be prone to stressful moments (equally, some days it just goes smoothly and you’re in the car ten minutes earlier than planned…) Mostly, our days out have been those planned with other people – various Butler adventures to the coast, to Leeds to meet up with Aunty Nic or Jaime and even a trip to Birmingham to see Donna. We’ve been to festivals, had a holiday in Scarborough and even enjoyed five nights with no kids at all. There’s been more ice cream than you can shake a stick at and sun cream by the gallon, picnics, paddling pools and water fights. We’ve done our best to make the most of those sunny days when they’ve put in an appearance (anyone else notice they often seemed to fall on a Tuesday!?) and braved the odd rainy day too.
I’m not sure I’m ready for the summer to end yet. I’m not ready to give up our lazy mornings, the hope of sunshine or our regular ice cream treats. I’m not ready for routine and rain. However, the kids are. They are ready for routine, for catching up with their friends and for learning. It’s time get going again, to lay the uniforms out, get the dinner money ready and prepare for the daily drama over lost shoes and hair bobbles.
Summer 2016 you flipping awesome, quite possibly the best one yet – we’ve made so many memories and I’ve loved (almost) every second of our #SevenWeeksofSummer:
Rather than just churn out a chronological recount of our day at the 7th annual Just So Festival, I thought we’d share a list of things we love about it . . .
Although Just So Festival is held over the course of three days there are a variety of ticketing options available from full weekend camping to single day attendance or even two days with no camping (which would be great if you were fairly local and averse to camping with small children . . . )
Having never camped with the kids before (in fact my last camping experience was at Leeds Festival some years ago) we have no equipment to speak of and decided that, although we think the kids would have loved to camp, it wasn’t really feasible for us this time round. (That said, Dave has since spent some time researching tents bigger than our back garden . . . )
So without further ado – here, in no particular order, is what we think makes Just So Festival so magical:
1. A wide variety of reasonably priced food stalls
We all know that when it comes to festival food we’re pretty much sitting targets, it’s going to cost a fortune right? Although we had taken some snacks with us (and were grateful for the Soreen lunch box we were given on arrival) we had taken the decision to buy our lunch on site – partly as I think it’s important to be able to report back for you guys but also because we knew the weather wasn’t looking great and a warm meal was going to be greatly appreciated if we were a bit cold and soggy.
The site is dotted with refreshment opportunities – we spotted candy floss, coffee and cakes on the Village Green but chose to head down to the Social for our lunch where we found the most awesomely named hot dog vendor “Piggie Smalls” selling an array of puntastic hot dogs including “Pig Daddy Kane” and “Amy Swinehouse” – I had fancied the mac & cheese dog but they’d run out, Amy however enjoyed a kids’ hot dog for £3.
Jenny from The Brick Castle was a big fan of her vegan haggis from iSpice. Chloe tucked into a tub of kids’ pasta (£5) from Rigatoni’s Pasta and Ben demolished an enormous Aberdeen Angus steak burger and fries (£6) from The Little Diner. Dave and I hit up Las Paelleras for a super satisfying chicken and chorizo paella (£6.50). The only disappointment was Donny’s “Kid’s taco” which wouldn’t have even filled Amy up so he ended up “helping” his Dad out with his paella!! Both families tucked into a portion of churros for a suitable sweet hit at the end of our meal!
It’s worth mentioning that although we chose to have our lunch at what I would class as pretty much peak time, there were no massive queues for food. The number and variety of vendors meant that everyone was really well catered for and the combination of fair pricing and no queues meant we were happy for the kids to be able to choose pretty much whatever they fancied rather than just feeding everyone from the same stand which would be our normal route.
2. Easy access
On arrival we were directed to a parking space which was probably no more than ten minutes walk up to the main festival site – there was no queue to speak of for the wristband exchange and we were quickly into the site and ready to start our day! (It was also easy to leave when we’d had enough, no trouble getting back to the car nor any queues to get off site).
We stumbled across Gacko (also know as Gary Bridgens) telling stories on the Village Green at lunch time and we were enthralled – his performance of the Magic Porridge Pot was enthusiastic and hilarious. We had only stopped for a minute to wait for Dave and Amy to get back from the toilet but ended up staying till the end of his performance.
4. Theatre for One
We stumbled across this little gem in the Spellbound Forest – a collection of miniature puppet shows performed to individuals. All three kids were entranced by a little mouse in a house, in fact Amy must have watched this particular show at least three times. They also watched one where they had to wear headphones and there was a little dude doing some painting, the big two thought it was cool but Amy was more than a little freaked out by it to be honest!
5. Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers
Prior to the festival we were sent a programme to peruse and a copy of this year’s Just So Festival CD featuring tracks from performers. We had a listen in the car on the way there and loved the cheeky upbeat nature of Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers. We were lucky enough to catch their performance on the Footlights Stage – from start to finish they were clever, comical and thoroughly entertaining. Dave and I laughed our heads off whilst dancing around with the kids and listened to My Mysterious Uncle on repeat for the duration of the drive home – we all now know the words! For the kids’ first real experience of live music I would say that scores top marks.
6. The poshest festival toilets you will ever see
The toilets on site at Just So were plentiful and impressively clean – from your average portaloo to some decidedly swisher toilets in proper portacabins – which were ideal for Amy who is currently potty training – they even had fancy lighting in them. The queues were never more than a couple of people deep and there was always toilet paper! I actually saw the portaloos near the main entrance being thoroughly cleaned out no less than three times during the course of the day.
7. Corey Baker Dance
Another accidental discovery in the Spellbound Forest. This was in fact one of the first things we saw as we had ducked into the forest to avoid a shower and were drawn to the loud music coming from one corner. We found a thoroughly entertaining dance & acrobatics performance based around a phone box and a very clever soundtrack.
8. Candy Floss
From the moment Chloe spotted FaeryFloss there was no way we were getting her out of the event without a £3 stick of sparkly sugary goodness! We managed to make them wait till the end of the the day, treating them to candy floss rather than our usual ice cream! (It wasn’t really ice cream weather to be honest and the candy floss was far more of a novelty). Ben wasn’t at all impressed that we made them share one between the three of them but they were huge and nobody wants an hour’s drive home with three over tired kids buzzing on a pink sugar high . .
Between the natural cover provided by the Spellbound Forest, the various tents and an enormous shed next to the Footlights Stage, we did a fairly good job of avoiding any major downpours. The festival is nicely spread out so nowhere ever felt really crowded, even when it was raining a little heavier than most of us felt we wanted to cope with!
10. Safe, friendly atmosphere
First and foremost Just So Festival is about the kids – this isn’t a grown up festival where kids are welcome, it’s children’s festival where the grown ups have fun too! As such, from the moment we arrived and were asked to write out phone numbers on the children’s wristbands incase we got separated I felt relaxed and safe. We were all there for the same reason – to have a jolly good time with our kids.
Having not really researched Just So Festival much before rocking up on the Saturday, I must admit that the idea of “tribes” had rather passed us by unfortuantely. Essentially there are six tribes (foxes, stags, fish, frogs, owls and lions) and you choose a tribe to join – over the course of the weekend tribe members can earn tokens for their tribe. The culmination of the Tribal Tournament is the Wild Rumpus on the Sunday night when the winning tribe is crowned. (This year’s winners were the fish I believe). It didn’t matter one jot that we hadn’t pleged our alligence to a particular tribe – we just loved seeing the amazing costumes that people were wearing – full families dressed in tweed and fox tails, amazing owl capes and masks or sequin fish scale shawls. Some people really go to town on their tribal costumes and it’s a wondeful sight to behold. Amy was rather besotted with the leader of the Stags is must be said . . .
12. Incredible attention to detail
This isn’t just a few tents flung up in a field at the last minute with some children’s entertainers – the whole site is strewn with bunting, lights and general all round magic. Everywhere you turn there is something new to notice and discover.
13. So much to see and do
We were only on site for a day and in that time we could only touch on the amazing things on offer – story telling, dance perfomances, circus skills, live music, craft, a campfire sing along to name but a few. It would have been lovely to stay for the full weekend and really take our time to explore and immerse ourselves. I’d have loved to see how the site changed after dark with the campfire and light parade which I’m told was stunning.
14. You can plan your schedule . . . or not!
During the course of the day there were lots of times where we stumbled across performances just as they were finishing and thought that perhaps we should have been more oganised about what we wanted to do but in reality I think pottering around here and there was probably a really lovely way to explore what was on offer. I found myself thinking we had missed out on things until we were driving home and talking about all the things we had seen.
15. It’s not a grand money making scheme
Just So Festival isn’t about rinsing you of as much money as possible – it is run by a not-for-profit communiy interest company called “Wild Rumpus”. All the profit goes back into arts programmes to support emerging artists and the volunteers who run the event. Alongside this – those of us with press tickets were offered the chance to “Pay it Forward” and make a donation towards allowing someone else to attend the even too. Tickets were then passed onto the Gingerbread Project who work with local homeless single parent families.
There is something so very magical about Just So Festival – it feels so far removed from the real world and that escape was very welcome. Next year I think we’d better organise a tent . . .
* Early bird tickets for next year’s event are available now!
If you’d like to read other about some other experiences of this year’s Just So Festival check out:
*We attended Just So Festival as guests for the purposes of review, all thoughts and opinions remain our own*
5. Ice-cream – Of course it would have been rude not to enjoy an ice cream on such a beautifully sunny day! Again these are not the cheapest ice creams you’ll ever buy at around £3 a pop but boy were they worth it.
18. It was clean underfoot – Despite the fact the weather had been pretty wet in the run up to the event the ground was impressively dry and yielded no need for the wellies we had chosen to wear (though I shouldn’t think that was the case for the rest of the weekend)19. Hammocks – Who doesn’t love a hammock?! These made a beautiful bright centrepiece to the site and I can’t say I didn’t want to get in there myself!
20. The sunshine – cheers to whoever ordered that one! I’d been frantically checking the weather all week and was thrilled with the steady forecast of warm but cloudy. As it turned out we really struck it lucky and got the most perfect bank holiday weather of bright blue skies and sunshine. It was a real joy to feel the sun on our faces for a change and was most definitely the icing on the cake of an already fabulous day.
There are so many things we didn’t even get chance to visit – the petting zoo, the under 3 foot area, the craft tents to name but a few! The festival really did provide something for everyone and we’ll definitely be looking to go back next year!
I’ll leave you with this video of some of our highlights: