As a seasoned festival goer the ‘child friendly’ aspect of a festival really wasn’t on my radar before we had the boys.
But nowadays, with my two little tinies in tow, family friendly festivals are something that I’ve been looking into more and more. Especially as festivals are so much a part of our summer — and our lives — that they’re definitely something that we will continue to do, as the boys grow up.
Aged 1 and a bit, they went to their first 3 day festival last year (read all about that here) and we’ll be taking them to their 2nd this year.
I thought it would be nice to compile a little list of great family friendly festivals and give a few insights, as to why I think they’re a good option for both big — grown up kids — and little kids alike.
Here are my top 5 family friendly festivals for 2015.
Just So Festival
This is one of the (not so) best kept secrets in the festival calendar! This little family friendly festival is in it’s 7th year now. Held over a long weekend, it’s set in the grounds of the beautiful estate of Rode Hall in Cheshire.
Just So is supported by the Arts Council so there’s lots of lovely installations — theatre and storytelling — plus workshops, for kids to get involved with making and doing.
Whilst you probably won’t recognise any of the headline acts, this kind of festival is all about the atmosphere and the experience. If you’re wanting to introduce your kiddos to a festival — or just fancy a lovely camping weekend with benefits — this is the one for you. It’s a lovely, magical way to spend a long weekend.
An assault on the senses. This amazing little festival is an absolute winner for adults and children alike. A huge group of us went last year and it was a sell out — disappointed faces from those that weren’t lucky enough to bag a ticket. We took the twins from the Thursday though to the Sunday and it was fab. It feels as though you’ve just dropped into a weird dream — the calibre of fancy dress was incredible. I’m so looking forward to seeing what people come up with this year — the theme is ‘Cosmic Carnival’ so there’s bound to be some amazing costumes.
As a parent, a highlight for me was ‘Rub-A-Dub-Tub’. A simple and absolutely genius idea, that consisted of a tented area to bathe your babies. We were given a (free) trug full of hot soapy water and the boys spent a lovely 40 minutes splashing about, whilst we sat and chatted to the other parents.
The other things I loved about Shambala was it’s fab free eco-loos — most festivals charge you the earth for the privilege of using these — and their genuine ‘leave no trace’ ethic. When you buy a drink, you’re given a reusable cup, that you fill up again and again. I can say — hand on heart — I have never seen so little litter on a festival site. They should be applauded for it, it was lovely to see. Particularly as we had two little toddlers with us. You don’t want your tiny revellers knee deep in cans or paper cups do you?
The Big Feastival
A relative newcomer to the festival scene, Feastival is the brainchild of Jamie Oliver and Alex James from Blur (who’s turned from rock-star to cheesemaker).
Held on the James family farm in the Cotswolds, Feastival is a foodie’s dream. Lots of cheffy demonstrations and cookery workshops for the adults, tempered with music and things to do for littlies. They have a decent music line up, with some well known headline acts, markets selling lovely clobber — Joules and Mio Skincare to name a couple.
This event isn’t totally geared up for children, as some of the other festivals are, but it’s a lovely gentle introduction to the festival scene if you were thinking of dipping your toe in.
The name suggests ‘a natural environment that has not been significantly modified by civilised human activity’ and this festival is set in the most beautiful location.
Nestled in the gorgeous surroundings of Cornbury park in Oxfordshire, I found Wilderness to be one of the most family orientated of the festivals I’ve been to. Whilst it’s not geared up to littlies in quite the same way as, say, Just So or Camp Bestival, it felt very safe and the pace was very relaxed and gentle. It wasn’t as hectic as some of the others, it’s set on a much smaller scale and it felt very, very laid back. More like an enormous village fete, than a festival.
Highlights for me were the Wilderness cricket match, complete with a streaker (yes, totally naked), the Lakeside Spa (what’s not to love about sitting in a hot-tub overlooking a beautiful lake?) and the banquets. These are fabulous — expensive but worth — it if you’re after something a little out of the ordinary. This year they’ve got none other than Raymond Blanc and Angela Hartnett! Pretty special festival food, I’d say.
Probably the most well known of the family friendly festivals. This is the daddy of them all.
A spin off of the ever popular Bestival — held on the Isle Of Wight (and the biggest fancy dress party I’ve ever been to). Camp Bestival has been going since 2008 and was probably launched to appease all of the die-hard festival lovers, who now have children but couldn’t face the ferry journey across the channel with the kids in tow! Hence, Camp Bestival was born!
Held in the amazing grounds of Lulworth castle, it’s a 4 day extravaganza with probably the best music line-up of all the child friendly festivals. More kids entertainment than you can shake a stick at, Camp Bestival offers the likes of Dick and Dom and Mr Tumble.
Camp Bestival is really geared up for kids but there’s so much other stuff going on too that the ‘big kids’ amongst us won’t get bored easily. A wild weekend of revelry to be had, come rain or shine.
Are you going to any family friendly festivals this year? Are there any that you particularly like that I’ve not mentioned? I’m always open to suggestions and it’s always lovely to have recommendations from people in ‘the know’!
Get in touch — firstname.lastname@example.org — I’d love to hear from you!