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.
For us the highlights of Just So Festival 2018 were:
1. Ian Douglas & general campfire fun
It really wouldn’t be Just So Festival without Ian Douglas – this man is a story telling genius and a firm favourite for our whole family. In fact on Friday afternoon, the kids made a bee line for the Spellbound Forest and were happily listening to Ian’s stories within about half an hour of arriving on site. I honestly think we could spend most of the weekend tucked up around the campfire being thoroughly entertained by Ian and his good friend Dieter Wadeson who performs “dangerous” science experiments with plenty of cheek thrown in for the grown ups. I’ve said it before, and I’m going to say it again this year – Ian would really benefit from being mic’ed up on Saturday tea time, it can get really difficult to hear him if you’re sat a little further away and people around you are chatting rather than listening to his tales. (And more fool them!)
2. Footlights Stage
More so than in previous years, I knew the Footlights Stage would be a focus for us this time round. At Timber Festival, Amy was obsessed with dancing to the live music being performed across the weekend and I expected much the same at Just So Festival, particularly knowing that completely random but utterly hilarious Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers would be performing on Sunday lunch time! As is often the case, we dipped in and out of the Footlights Stage, enjoying performances as we ate (the Footlights Stage is conveniently located next to The Social which is your main food destination for the festival). Thingumabob & The Thingamajigs were something of a musical highlight offering up bright, fun “good time music”.
3. Flamingo Lounge
New for 2018, the Flamingo Lounge was focused on all things dance; from ballet to Bruce Lee you were bound to find your feet tapping away under this tarp! For me it was all about the Silent Disco on Friday night provided by Our Kids Social – I loved that there were two channels meaning the kids could bop away to Beiber whilst Dave and belted out a bit of Fleetwood Mac and some 90s dance tunes! We hadn’t been to a Silent Disco before but it was so much fun and definitely something I’d love to do again! Chloe had a right old time learning some Circus Swing along with the girls from Mini Travellers and spent much of the rest of the afternoon trying to teach her new moves to Amy!
The fact that our children are essentially growing up with Just So Festival means that they feel safe and confident at the festival and so do we. Each year we allow them more freedom to explore – this year whilst Dave and I sat and watched Amy do the May Pole, we allowed Chloe to go off into the nearby Flamingo Lounge to find Karen – she popped back to give us a thumbs up to let us know she’d found her and then disappeared off to dance with Lilly for half an hour. If Amy was watching something Ben wasn’t really interested in we gave him options of other places to explore nearby whilst we stayed in one place. The atmosphere at Just So Festival is warm and friendly, and whilst this year felt the busiest yet, it never feels overwhelming.
5. Team Fox!
Previously we’ve absolutely loved seeing all the amazingly creative fancy dress from other people attending the festival but haven’t got on board with it ourselves. In all honesty I’m just a bit rubbish at fancy dress and don’t really like it but the kids were dying to get involved this year. Whilst there are some spectacular costumers parading around Just So Festival, don’t let this put you off joining in if you’re not quite as inspired on the fancy dress front! This time round we decided to join #TeamFox and basically added fox ears and tails to our usual festival attire (oh and some orange glitter!) I added a few foxy accessories for the girls too with these awesome knee high fox socks and a fox scarf each.
Theatre will always be a highlight for us at Just So Festival – there’s so much to see and do. You can immerse yourself in a full on performance from Bicycle Boy at the Village Green or in the Woodland Theatre or just dip in and out by having a quick chat with the roller skating flamingos or Phileas Fogg who was bobbing around the site in his hot air balloon and a cup of tea in hand. When it comes to fuelling the imagination and starting a discussion – Just So Festival is right up there. We spent quite a bit of the weekend having those “What on earth?” moments and sharing our own interpretations of what we think is being communicated by the performance (Ramshacklicious, The Band At The End of the World! is a case in point – I still have absolutely no idea what was going on there but we loved it!)
7. Time with friends
Just So Festival is made all the better for sharing it and we’re lucky that each year, we will bump into people we know. Shout outs to Karen and her girls, Julia, Caro, Nyomi, Karen and Jane for brightening our weekend with their company – I will share links to their posts about the event below as I know they will have lots of great tips and highlights to share with you!
Because we weren’t camping, we did miss out a few things for example, we left before the lantern parade & tight rope spectacular on Saturday night when we’d normally have stayed and put the kids to bed straight afterwards and we didn’t stay for as long as we might have done around the campfire of an evening (that said I definitely saw Professor Pumpernickle at least three times over the weekend . . .).
Of course, you will never cover everything – Saturday afternoon saw lots of things we wanted to do happening at the same time – the new Custard Catwalk, our old favourite the May Pole and Circus Swing all timetabled at once. One of the things Just So Festival do well is repeating things over the course of the day or the whole weekend to give you as much chance as possible to see everything (or to see the same thing over and over as was the case for us a couple of times!), but it’s just not possible to cover it all no matter how carefully you plan. In fact this year we planned very little beyond some absolute must not miss moments like Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers who we discovered at Just So two years ago and have loved ever since. I love just wandering and exploring, stumbling across magical moments like the Phileas Fogg balloons or the Circus Fabularium in Roll Up, Roll Up (a new circus themed area this year and one which we loved!)
Although not staying on site was the right decision for us this year, I don’t think I’d want to do it again – I felt we missed some of the magic and experience that is Just So.
Why not read more about Family Friendly Festivals for 2020 here
Check out other posts about Just So Festival here:
Mini Travellers: 20 Top Tips for Just So Festival 2019
Hodge Podge Days: Making Marvellous Memories at Just So Festival 2018
Nomipalony: Just So Festival 2018 review and our top tips
Tippytups: Just So Festival 2018