A question that I’m often asked is; ‘Of all the festivals you’ve been to, which is the best family festival for first timers?’
It’s a tricky question to answer; depending on the kind of thing that would suit you.
Are you seasoned campers — happy in large crowds — or would you prefer something on a smaller scale. Would you be keen to experience something eclectic and left-field or do you prefer something a little more mainstream?
After going to Just So festival, last month, I’d probably say that it’s definitely one that covers most bases and (in my humble opinion) of all the festivals we’ve been to, it would scoop our award for the best family festival for first timers.
Just So is one of the smaller UK family festivals — with a capacity of just 5000 — which makes it a great first festival to cut your teeth on.
If you compare it to Camp Bestival for example — which has a capacity of 30,000 and is a much bigger beast — it’s positively tiny.
But good things come in small packages and even though it’s diminutive in size, Just So has got a lot going for it.
The site is fairly large for such a small festival but I loved this as it meant we didn’t do a quick circuit, then feel as though we’d seen everything half an hour.
It’s beautifully laid out with lots of different areas to explore.
Our favourite area — without question — was the Spellbound Forest.
A magical space that reminded me of the Dingly Dell at Camp Bestival; twinkling lights and bunting festooned in the trees, with so much to see and do.
One thing I felt very strongly, was that Just So felt lovely and safe. As the festival revellers were all families, there were always adults keeping their eyes open for little lost souls.
And as the site almost felt a little too big, for the capacity of the festival, it didn’t feel too overcrowded or busy. There was lots of room to run and play.
Which meant that the boys could hurtle around in safety, without me feeling anxious about their whereabouts.
There were lots of lovely activities to do at Just So.
My bestie — who’s also a regular festival go-er — and I both agreed that it made a lovely change to go to a family festival that had so many free activities on offer.
Most festivals have a dedicated kids field — or kids area —but as Just So was set up almost entirely for children, there seemed to be so much more to do.
Unlike other festivals, Just So didn’t feel at all corporate either; it felt very organic. And this was definitely reflected in the activities on offer.
Everything from learning to dance; disco, Bollywood or Charleston (to name a few); to lantern making — or creating a dream catcher — perfect for tweens and younger teens.
Plus Jellybean architecture, theatre performances and circus workshops aplenty; there was literally something going on for the entirety of the festival.
The boys spent a lovely morning in the Kidunk tent making paper crowns and playing in the sandpit.
We’re excited to be working with Kidunk this year, on the launch of their fabulous kidproof clothes, so it was lovely to be able to go and meet Lisa and the team.
All in all, there are so many things to do at Just So — to suit most age ranges.
Perhaps, older teens wouldn’t get as much out of the activities on offer as the younger kids but there were certainly loads of things to do and — even as a fully grown adult — I was captivated all weekend.
The Tribal Tournament and Fancy Dress
Now, the Tribal Tournament is an integral part of Just So.
Pledge your allegiance to the animal tribe that you’d like to represent — you can choose from owls, foxes, frogs, stags, lions, fish or bees — then dress up accordingly!
But if this isn’t really your thing, a token pair of ears or a tail will suffice.
That said, seasoned Just-So’ers take fancy dress very seriously indeed. I absolutely LOVED how much effort people made. And even though the parade day was Sunday, the fact that people got dressed up in full costume, every day of the festival, made it feel like a very special place indeed.
One thing I will say, it gets very competitive and if you have a child who will be devastated to come last on the leaderboard — choose your tribe wisely!
We were Team Lion and I lost count of all the children who joyfully ran up to us to say that we were losing!! Perhaps if the boys were a little older (or more sensitive) I think this could have posed a problem.
2017 was the first year that Just So had the bee tribe and, as a result, there were bees swarming everywhere! It was definitely one of the most popular fancy dress costumes.
I think it would perhaps be a little fairer if the tribes were more equal in numbers but — winning and losing aside — being given handfuls of golden pebbles for our efforts ( I think our little team amassed around 70 in total!), was a brilliant incentive to wear full costume every day.
The camaraderie between our fellow tribe members was lovely.
Comrades from the same tribe, seeking you out to tell you where to find more golden pebbles was such a sociable and noteworthy element of the festival.
There were lovely facilities for campers at Just So; outdoor kitchens to wash up, plus the obligatory showers and loos.
You can take your own tent or treat yourself to boutique camping; they had yurts, tipis, tents and pods to choose from.
As we have Dolly the caravan, we always get a live-in vehicle pass — extra on top of the ticket price — which means we’re in a separate field to the tents.
But happily Just So offers the same policy as Shambala, whereby you can have friends who are camping in tents, pitch next to you in the live-in vehicle field.
This is such a lovely bonus.
One of the things that makes me a bit cross about certain festivals is that the campers are segregated; caravans, campervans and tents each have their own allocated campsites, which is a bit annoying if you want to all camp together.
One of my very favourite things about festivals is hanging out at our base camp. Cocktail hour at Dolly is renowned and having a little corral, with a group of friends, really makes the whole festival experience.
This was lovely as we got to hang out together all weekend; the twins played beautifully as they had Julia’s children — Sam and Flo — for entertainment, and it made for a much more sociable, happy experience.
Food & Drink
If you’re not planning to take a weekend’s supply of food and drink with you to Just So, fear not!
There were loads of lovely options available to buy at The Social. It was like a mini market selling street food; wood-fired pizzas, Mexican, Indian, churros, ice-cream — there was a really good array on offer, for fairly reasonable prices.
Once you’d bought your food, you could head over to eat in the Social Barn.
I loved the atmosphere in here particularly; tables crafted from hay-bales and boards made a fantastic makeshift restaurant, for everyone pitch in and enjoy their grub.
There were so many things I loved about Just So Festival — too many to squash into one post — but I think my very favourite thing was the giant pillow fight on the Sunday.
This was something I always yearned to do, when I was a little girl, so it was a life-long ambition fulfilled!
There were other brilliant things too; of particular note was the lantern parade on the Saturday night. I’m going to write a separate post for this though, as it deserves a mention in it’s own right.
Brilliant — we loved it.
I would definitely say, to get the most out of it, immerse yourselves in everything that makes Just So Festival unique.
Leave your inhibitions at home; get dressed up, embrace the mayhem and remember what it is to be a child.
Of all the festivals we’ve been to, my boy and I agree that Just So is definitely the best family festival for first timers. It’s small enough to not feel overwhelming but the site is large enough — and there’s enough going on — for it not to feel tedious.
It’s a brilliantly, bonkers weekend; full of magic and wonder.
Just So gives you everything you wanted to do when you were younger but weren’t allowed to do, on a plate.
Food fights, pillow fights, midnight feasts.
Totally enchanting and marvellous, we can’t wait for next year!
And if this rambling post hasn’t persuaded you, I’ve made a little film of our weekend. Have a look and I defy you not to feel bewitched.
Early bird tickets for next year’s Just So Festival 2018 (August 17th to 19th) are on sale now.
Do pop along and check out their website — click here for ticket options and pricing.
The Twinkle Diaries are very proud to be official bloggers for Just So this year and were given tickets free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
All thoughts, words and images— as ever — are entirely my own.