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*