Never been to a Folk Festival? Nows the time to try it …

I can’t believe it was so long ago that we went to Folk By the Oak 2013 at the beginning of the summer in July.

Folk By Oak
Folk By Oak

I’m a fan of family festivals as you know, but I’ve never been to a ‘folk’ festival, so I was intrigued to see what it would be like.

I needn’t have worried and I can tell you now that if you aren’t sure about going along to a big family festival, then this is definitely the chilled way to go!

Also, if you live in London it’s so easy to get to as well because you just walk straight out of the train station and up the road to Hatfield House – perfect.

Kids love the folk music as there is something in it that reminds us of our roots and gets us jiggling.  Plus folk festival goers are intrinsically well behaved, so it’s the perfect option for a family.

The BIG TIP that I discovered was not to sit in the throng of things and expect the kids to stay with you, but instead sit off to one of the sides, where there are more kids and some space for them to run around.  Check out my other tips here.

Children Play At Festival
Children Play At Festival

Plus I gave them both a budget, so that we had a look around at all the stuff and then they had to pick and choose.  This way, it wasn’t all about them doing stuff all through the day, but they got to chill and listen to the music or play.

Hows about the music?  There was some fun traditional folk music, which I really enjoyed.  But much of it was more lovely voices singing – simple as.  Then there was the guy with the electronic guitar, which Curly Headed Boy loved; definitely a new way of listening to ‘Strawberry Fair’!

 

Now that you are gutted that you didn’t go, I have some good news for you!

To finish off the summer you can go to Folk Stock on Sat Sept 21st at Aldenham Country Park.  Doors open at 10.30 and it finishes at 11.30pm.  Folkstock is slightly different in that it is not just folk, but also acoustic artists, and the amount of choice is going to be phenomenal.

Check out their wicked jingle (I KNOW how cool is it that they have a jingle!) .. <listen here>

Plus, there is a big bonus in that we will be launching Espiritu, our new Salon and Spa there – so you can come and get free hair consults, hair colours in your hair (using hair chalks), braids, reflexology or indian head massage.  Come on over and we’ll give you a bit of a pamper and pep up!

My FAVOURITE artist of all time is coming woo hoo …

 

JonPaul Palombo
JonPaul Palombo’s greatest fans!

Check out his classic song ‘Jimmy’ which gets the audience dancing every time …

 

Check out some of the other folk/acoustic music here and you will see what a mixture it is going to be.

 

And if you are fascinated by why folk music has a enthralling magic to it, then check out this radio show by Tamsin Rosewell where she looks at some of the artists at Folkstock.  She explains it much better than I can – there is just something very ‘ancient’ in the music that we can all enjoy, even if you are normally clubbing it on a saturday night or listening to Xfactor.  Plus she has a lovely way about here; I’ve listened to this show several times while chilling out reading a book at the end of a hectic day.

 

In a summer holiday that has frankly been difficult as we’ve been working all through it, without the money for camps etc, Folk by the Oak was a lovely treat to start the summer with and Folkstock will be a great way to round it off.  We didn’t manage to go to any bigger festivals this year, or go camping, so I’m really chuffed that we’ve found this slightly easier alternative.  Hope to see loads of you in a couple of weeks at Folkstock!

 

Disclosure: I’m part owner of Espiritu, so clearly I’m going to pimp it out!  I was given a family ticket to Folk by the Oak, but I would have gone anyway, and we have also got a family ticket for Folkstock, but again I would have gone anyway – don’t tell them that though!

 

Feather Bowers at Just So

Go on try something new – a festival or camping?

Life’s still hard with the recession and we all need some fun and adventure in our lives, so for this month’s Lifestyle feature over on Radio Verulam with the lovely Danny smith on his Drivetime show, I talked about festivals and camping.

I first decided to got to a festival when Little Dimples was 18months (two years ago) and Curly Headed Boy was 5.  I’d NEVER been to a festival and felt a bit mortified by it.  I decided if we started now with the kids, they might TAKE ME when they go to Glastonbury in 15yrs time!

Since then I’ve actually become a fan of camping too.  We started glamping, but due to the cost my practical side chose camping with a touch of glamp last year.

Listen here to me chatting with Danny here:

 

Why Go?

Music is good for the soul, it feeds our spirit and gives us a much needed lift.  One thing you can be sure about is that the quality of the music will be MUCH better than anything you see on Xfactor.

It’s great for kids because they learn to sit and listen to music, and the festivals I go to they tend to get to chill, run around and dance.  If you go to a family festival there will be all sorts of lovely things for the kids to do as well.  CHB says that a 3day festival is like going on holiday for 10days!

If you are brave enough to go for several days and try camping it is even better.  There is something about camping and it’s closeness to nature which is relaxing and healing at the same time.  We tried a motorhome at the beginning of this year, but despite being more practical it just didn’t have the same benefits for me.

my son and me in a motorhome
Top bunk is always best

 

 

Tips and Concerns

I know it can be intimidating, so I’ve put together my top tips for you to get you inspired to go!

The biggest reason to go is if you haven’t done it before, then NOW is the time to try it.  Be ADVENTUROUS.  Make memories to look back on and say ‘I did that’!

 

1) Start Small and Local

The key is not to go to Glastonbury on your first year (although they do have a family area)!  Go for small ones (5000 and under).  Look for local one day festivals so that you don’t have to camp.

Local to me in hertfordshire are:

St Albans Folk Festival Sorry I didn’t manage to publish in time –  (22-23rd June) – terrible website btw guys!

Folk by the Oak – Hatfield House – Sunday 21st July – I’m really looking forward to this festival.  Check out this youtube of Kate Rusby:

Folk Stock – Aldenham country park – 21st September –

Here is a fab way of hearing all their artists on a sound cloud.

They have got my FAVE artist coming – JonPaul Palombo

Celtic Harmony do a Beltane (See my video review here) and Samhain Festival each year.

Plus we had loads of fun at Hoo Bookfest, so I really recommend that for next year.

 

2) Planning

Feather Bowers at Just So
You are never too old for a feather bower or hair garland!

Plan ahead so that you know what is on BUT also go with the flow as it can be too stressful to keep to a schedule.

Go with friends.

Explain to your kids about safety, and make sure that you have one of those wristbands with your mobile number on it.  Or this weekend at Britmumslive I was given a Kattoo which looks brilliant (tattoo for your mobile no).

Bring Ear defenders for the kids and a picnic blanket to sit on.

3) Family Festivals

It really helps your sense of safety if you go to a family festival.

Lollibop – This is a London festival with a big kids TV orientation.  I’ve never been, but I’ve heard that it is great.  It would probably be a bit too commercial for me.

Camp Bestival – This is in Dorset and looks to me to be incredibly well organised.  Again there is a bit of a Cbeebies theme going on.  It feels to me like they try to make sure that all the practicalities that a ‘middle class’ family would worry about are covered.

Just So – This is a magical, more artsy festival with a hugely magical vibe.  Here’s my mammoth review from 2012 (same location as this year, so you might like last year’s planning post too) and my review from 2011.

 

4) Weather and what to wear

An example of what I wore
Festival style from the back!

Remember this is all part of the adventure!  We went to the Penn Festival (eighties music) last year, which was more of a mudfest.  The kids LOVED it.  All you need to make sure is that they are covered from head to toe in water proofs.  We also had a small pop up tent, that we used near the stage.

Bring lots of layers so that you can take stuff on and off.

What to wear – Leggings or skinny jeans are the easiest, with a pretty dress or long top over them.  No heals, instead go for daps/wellies.  A flower garland is essential (BE BRAVE!).

Check out my what to wear to festivals post with lots of ideas for you and links to my Pinterest boards.

 

Money

I don’t like the ones with lots of things to spend money on like the Herts County Show, buy, or things that kids will want to do that cost a fortune; so we tend to avoid those ones.

What you can also do is give the kids a budget, so that they know they just have £x and that is all.

Food can be expensive, so make sure you take water, squash, snacks and fruit.  Check if breakfast is provided if you are camping otherwise brioche is fab.

 

Loos and Showers

Actually again because I go to small ones or family ones they aren’t too bad.  But always take LOO PAPER and anti-bacterial spray.

Some actually have great showers BUT you can get away with a day of showering with wet wipes (it’s not as bad as it sounds!).

 

Camping

How to make your tent look Glam
Camping with glamp

Take ear plugs (just incase you are near someone having too much fun or kids that wont sleep), a wooly hat, socks, and extra jumper for night time.

Bring something to put mudding shoes in, so that they don’t come in the tent.

If there are just a couple of you then you can get a festival kit ever so cheaply with everything that you need.  There is nothing wrong with going for ‘cheap’ shops like argos etc.

If you have a little more money to spend then check out the pop up tents (a bit tricky to put away) or the Vango blow up tent we have.

The best beds are the mats that puff up; air beds are actually cold.

Bunting is a MUST!

Here is my ultimate camping list (you don’t need it all!).

 

Finding

Festivals for all – great site for all types of festival

Festival Kidz – specifically for taking kids

Forestry Commission – I’m an ambassador for the FC and was gutted to realise too late that they do concerts.  How gorgeous to see someone like Olly Murs AND be in a forest.

 

At the end of the day

Go on, try it.  It’s fun.  It’s simple.  It’s pretty cheap in comparison to a package holiday.

And you’ll have something to tell your grandchildren that will give them the impression that you didn’t wash up all day long!

Have you started camping in the last few years?  What do you reckon?

Have I inspired you to try a festival this year?

 

Acrobatics from a tree

Review of Celtic Harmony Beltane Festival

Acrobatics from a tree
Acrobatics from a tree

At the beginning of May we went off to Celtic Harmony in Hertford for their Beltane Festival.

I’m very interested in the times of the year and the month, how they affect us, and how it can be helpful to be more aware of them.

Someone once said I have a witchy vibe, in a nice ‘white witch’ sort of way; maybe it’s my ‘inner celt’ coming out!  So this year I did a little Beltane ‘ritual’ with the kids, so that they could understand that the seasons were changing and was really excited to go to a festival.  But we’ve been to a lot of much bigger festivals than this, so I was a little worried what the kids would think.

I needn’t have worried.  It was chilled, simple, well organised, had clean loos (the best I’ve ever seen) and the kids came back relaxed and happy.

There is something about giving them the space to run around safely, jump on hay bales, make apple spirals from old fashioned machines and watch very old fashioned entertainment (i.e. from Celtic times), that really works for kids.

Both kids tried the archery, and Curly Headed Boy (7) is totally hooked.

I loved the dancing doing the acrobatic display in a hoop hanging from a tree.

There was a bird rescue stall with a raven (OMG it’s huge), magpie (so friendly) and crow; all of which the children could stroke, which was really unusual.

Many things repeated all day, so there was always a chance to have a go at it, like the drumming workshops (I’d actually appeared with a headache, so we didn’t try that, but my headache was gone by the end of the day, which shows how relaxed I was).

There was a wonderful owl display (although it did go on a little while), great fairy queen fight as the summer fairy beat the winter fairy (not sure that has actually happened in real life, although the sun is out today!), and fire breathing with a story about dragons.

We didn’t manage to do the story telling walk as Little Dimples was a little tired.  But she loved the may pole dancing, and Curly Headed Boy joined in with the final procession.

If I was going to suggest any changes at all, they would be to provide bigger signs (it can be a little tricky to see when also keeping an eye on 2 children), more choices of snacks (it’s surprisingly hungry work), and even more Celtic-ness (did they have jesters, or druids?).

I’m definitely keen to go to their Samhain festival in october, and take Curly Headed Boy along to learn archery in their covered barn as soon as I have a bit more time in my currently hectic schedule, and their summer Bushcraft courses look wonderful.

Now drum roll please!!!!  Here is my first ever, clever video of loads of clips put together.  I have sweated a pile over this, hope you love it!!

 

Now tell me that wasn’t fabulous!!

 

 

A scary monster!

Can a book festival really be fun? Does it encourage kids to read?

Beast Quest Monster
What a Beast!

Is a book festival fun?

I was worried.

My kids are used to going to festivals.  So turning up at a ‘book festival’ were they going to be severely disappointed?

Our first stop was to Beast Quest.  Very quickly my worries were calmed.  A crazy magician guy introduced the concept (I had no idea what it was all about), read a bit (very funny!), and then they played a beast quest version of bingo (chaos!).  Finally they all designed a new monster with Justin Bieber hair and every possible other ‘evil’ quality available.

Here is the monster that they created:

Curly Headed Boy is now very into the books and also the new ones ‘Sea Quest’ as the hero has the same name as him.

 

Authors we saw:

Helen Dennis – Curly Headed Boy adored her and we have therefore got a pile of her ‘Secret Breakers’ books.  Clearly she knows how to relate to kids in real life as well as in her books.

Jeff Norton – is now CHB’s new hero because having turned up early to the talk he got to talk to him lots beforehand.  His Metawars books really appealed to CHB’s very philosophical ‘what if’ nature as well e.g. What if we could upload ourselves into computers?  It covers some really modern problems/concepts and shows why we need new books sometimes, despite the old classics still being wonderful.

Jackie Morris – wasn’t very engaging for the kids to be honest.  Perhaps a little too ‘into her art’ and out of touch with the kids.  But her artwork and books are beautiful, especially for a child like Curly Headed Boy who is quite into nature or spirituality.

Missed:

Jonathon Meres – ‘World of Norm’ – who wrote the fab guest post on my blog.

David Melling ‘Hugable Douglas’ – who wrote the cutest guest post on my friend’s blog and therefore we had to by his book which is a firm favourite.

Lauren Child (Charlie and Lola) and Cressida Cowell (How to train your dragon) – one mum felt that it was really only useful for grown ups, but a mum with older children loved this talk, which was the big seller for the day.

 

Does it encourage reading?

I’m surprised.  It’s a resounding YES.  Even in Little Dimples (3yo).

Curly Headed Boy has been tackling much thicker books all on his own, even Meta Wars, which to be honest I think is aimed at much older kids (he is 7).  He has definitely suddenly moved onto books that are centimetres thick rather than just 20 pages.

It cost us a fortune!

Curly Headed boy insisted on buying any books related to the authors he had met.  Plus I LOVE books, and there were some gorgeous ones there that I’d never noticed on our more recent trips to book shops.

We definitely have years worth of books – so I see it as an investment *cough*

Here are my finds:

East of the sun
East of the sun
Wild Child
WildChild

Jackie Morris’s ‘East of the Sun, West of the Moon’ – it’s taking some time to get CHB to read this, but as it has a distinct hint towards the natural world or magical fantasy ideas, I know he will love it.  He just needs to get over the fact that he didn’t bond with Jackie herself.

Jeanne Willis and Lorna Freytag ‘Wild Child’ – you can see from the picture how gorgeous this book is!  It is truly gorgeous, can’t recommend it enough.

Lauren Child ‘I will not go to sleep’ – Little Dimples (3) adores this, and I will definitely be buying more.  Having an older brother and the relationship being similar means that she totally relates to it.  CHB loves it too – but don’t tell anyone!

Only down points

Willow Face Paint Hoo BookFest
Cheeky Butterfly

Facepainting – if you are going to have it with hundreds of kids, have more than ONE slow person, or only offer small quick options.  A great alternative is to have a face painting station where the kids and parents can do it themselves.  I queued with an INCREDIBLY patient Little Dimples (3yo) for must have been 45 minutes for the blinking face painting!  Hence I missed Helen Norris totally, which was a shame as Jeff Norton was on when Little Dimples needed a nap, so I missed him too.

More signs needed – parents with children do get easily confused and easily stressed.  I didn’t actually find the walled garden until I left because I followed a sign that said ‘EXIT’ – it actually meant exit from the walled garden.  Apparently I missed great cakes and tea in there.

There was a lull point, which I think was arranged to coincide with lunch and give people a chance to wander around.  But actually for people who had arrived later it meant that they got a bit bored.

The toilets ran out of tissue – the normal issue with festival toilets, but daft for just a one day event.

There weren’t enough toilets – very difficult for an event with lots of young children hopping round, desperate for a pee.

Directions at Luton hoo hotel entrance would have been great to send us further down the road.

 

Would I go again?

YES!

Would I pay for tickets myself (I went on press tickets) – Yes!

 

 

Great books for mums

Hoo’s Kid’s Book Fest: Meet Jonathan Meres and WIN TICKETS!

Great books for mums
Books, books, books …

What’s a book festival I wondered when I saw that Luton Hoo has a book festival on Sunday 21st April.

“I’ve been to music festivals with the kids, maybe I should take the kids” I thought?

Then they invited me, wicked!!  So I’m going to be able to tell you about it, but I’m also really hoping to convince lots of local people to come along too.

The reason being:

Children’s authors tend to be really funny and really cool, and they get the kids excited in ways that we as ‘boring parents’ can’t possibly do.

I know this because Bowmansgreen where Curly Headed Boy goes to school invited Timothy Knapman for World Book Day, he inspired CHB and SIGNED A BOOK for him and since then CHB has moved up from those skinny books you get at school to proper ‘take a few days to read‘ books.

Books are my escape, my rest, my rejuvenation, my sanity creator in a world of chaos.

Children need that escape.

 

But let me show you by introducing Jonathan Meres to you, the creator of ‘The World of Norm’.  He’s one of the authors who will be at Hoo Book Fest, along with a tent for Roald Dahl, Beast Quest and the Famous Five, plus an illustrators tent, and creative writing tent.

Read to the bottom because there is a COMPETITION where you could win tickets to the festival!!!

For more author intro’s checkout:

James Mayhew on Hertfordshire Mummy on Tues 26th March.

Guy Parker-Rees on Dorky Mum on Wed 27th March.

David Melling on Being a Mummy on Thurs 28th March.

 

****************

 

Hello.

Jonathan Meres
Jonathan Meres

My name is Jonathan Meres.  I write books and stuff and I can honestly say that I’m really looking forward to being part of this year’s Hoo’s Kids Book Festival. Bet you think I say that about every festival or event I’m invited to, don’t you? Go on, admit it.  You do, I know you do.  I’d probably think exactly the same thing myself if I was reading this.

Well you shouldn’t be so cynical.  OK, fair enough – so even if I wasn’t looking forward to it, I wouldn’t be so insensitive as to actually say so.  I’m not stupid.  I’d probably come out with some waffly non-specific guff about the festival’s growing reputation and the chance to meet some new readers and blah blah whatever.  But the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is that I’m genuinely looking forward to it.  And I’ll tell you why.

Firstly, I’ve never really been to Luton.  I’ve passed through it countless times – either on the train to and from London when I was growing up in The East Midlands – or nowadays when I fly down from Edinburgh.  Not to mention skimming past numerous times on the M1.  But passing through somewhere isn’t the same as actually going there.

When I left school and joined the merchant navy, I went to many different ports in many different countries all around the world.  The list of places I’ve set foot in is admittedly impressive.  Well, if you’re impressed by that kind of thing it is anyway.  The list of places I’ve actually been to, however – as in really visited and got to see – is considerably less impressive.  Technically I’ve been to Rio De Janeiro.  But I haven’t really seen Rio De Janeiro, other than the dockside.  I don’t intend to make the same mistake in Luton.  And yes, I know there isn’t a dockside in Luton, but that’s not the point.  The point is, I don’t want to look back on Luton in years to come with the same feeling of intense regret as I look back on Rio now.  And there’s a sentence I was never expecting to write.

The second reason I’m looking forward to coming to Hoo’s Walled Garden so much?  Well the clue’s in the name.  It’s a walled garden.  Not a fenced garden.  Not a railinged garden.  Not an open-plan garden.  An actual walled garden.  I love walled gardens.  No, really I do.  There’s something very special about them.  Something nostalgic and yes, something magical about them too.  Sun-dials glinting in the moonlight?  Clocks striking thirteen?  Edwardian children gallivanting about, being all…well, Edwardian basically?

Now at the time of writing I haven’t looked online to try and find any actual images.  I may be way off the mark.  Maybe it’s not that magical, or special at all.  Maybe it’s just a common or garden garden.  With a common or garden garden wall around it.  But somehow I doubt it.  So I’m going to spend the next month building it up and up in my head.  And right now, Hoo’s Walled Garden feels like the perfect location for a children’s book festival.  And frankly, if there isn’t a cantankerous old Scottish gardener waging an ultimately futile one-man war against the rabbits when I get there?  There’ll be trouble.

****************

Competition!

Win 1 family ticket (4 tickets minimum one adult) to Hoo Bookfest by adding a comment to say which event your children would love most.

The competition ends on Sunday 31st March at midnight.

You can enter again by tweeting, and following Hoobookfest and myself on twitter and Facebook.

UPDATE: Isabel Thomas you are the winner!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

 

 

Competition terms and conditions

We have 1 family ticket (4 tickets minimum one adult) to give away and the lucky winner will be chosen at random.  

This giveaway closes on Sunday March 31st at midnight and the winner will be notified by email.

Make sure your email is correct in the comment that you add, otherwise we will not be able to contact you to send tickets.

– Within 7 days of notification the winner(s) is required to email confirmation of acceptance of the prize to Mummy Whisperer, along with a postal address in the United Kingdom to which the prize can be sent.  If the winner doesn’t provide such confirmation their entry will be disqualified and an alternative winner will be chosen.

-The winner(s) consents to their name being displayed on this site

-The prize cannot be transferred and no cash alternative is available.

-The decision of Lisa Pearson will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.

 

Disclosure: I’ve been given a family ticket to the festival and this ticket for a competition for my readers.  But I was excited about it beforehand, so it hasn’t affected my opinion.

 

Fairy

Is this potentially the best family festival in the UK?

JonPaul Palombo
JonPaul Palombo’s greatest fans!

 

This is a mammoth review of Just So Festival 2012, so hold onto your socks!

Because I reviewed it last year and wrote a pre-post explaining all the different areas and my plans, I thought that this year I would do a quick interview with some other people and get their perspectives.

They’ve all had a little more than ‘quick’ to share though, and I actually think that the information is really useful if you are thinking of going yourself, so I’ve decided to make the most MAHOOSIVE blog review post in the history of mankind.

If you’ve attended, I’d love to hear your opinions too!

By the way, they have an early bird option on at the moment for 2012 and once all the early tickets are sold it goes up to full price.

(All the photos are of my family or things that we did, not of my interviewees)

Sunday Day Ticket

Wild rumpus parade
Curly Headed Boy, Little Dimples and their friend on the way to the Wild Rumpus Parade

I met the lovely Ruby on twitter and really wanted her perspective as she only came for a day, not only that she got the rainy day.  So what did she think? …….

My husband and I decided to take the Kids to there first festival this year and Just so looked like the perfect choice, it’s not too far to travel, not too big and the activities were all aimed at children so it sounded great, we booked day tickets incase it wasn’t how we thought it would be or incase the kids didn’t like it as much as we thought.

My husband and I have been to many festivals before including Glastonbury, Download and Hellfest as well as small festivals in Middlesbrough and Bristol. However this was our first with the children. We have two Boys Leo is 32 months and Eli is 4months.

We thought there wouldn’t really be anything suitable for Eli but we were happily supprised by the baby massage classes by Weleda and Baby Yoga by baby bumpkins both of which were great classes and they didn’t pressure you into buying there products or signing up to there classes.

My favourite memory was the wild rumpus parade, although we were only there for a day it was a great way to round off the whole festival in a really magical style. The music tent was great as young children are often told they “can’t touch” expensive equipment, Leo was really excited about the music and has been loving playing with daddy’s guitars since we got back.

Playing Piano At Just So
Curly Headed Boy playing the little piano
 I think the free cloth nappy laundry system is a great idea and I hope there back next year as I’m sure that makes the logistics of camping with cloth nappies easier.  We loved the baby change and feeding area and the toilets were great, so toilet training is fine (can’t imagine portaloo’s would go down well when toilet training!!)

The only bad things we found were the lack of seating areas (especially at lunch time when we had to walk all the way back to the car to sit down to eat) and we were also upset that we didn’t get to see the gruffalo, obviously it’s understandable that while the rain was out he couldn’t come out but after looking for him all day we asked the information desk when he was due out we were told “he’s on his way” so we stood and waited for 1hour in the same place as not to miss him but sadly he never turned up 🙁

Our favourite area was the lazy days as there was lots to do and also space for the kids to have a run around!! The music was great and done in a relaxed and informal way which suited the style of the festival perfectly, (the 12 year old boy on saxophone was amazing).

We took with us a couple of drinks and snacks for throughout the day and bought our meals so we didn’t have too much to carry, the food prices weren’t cheap but about what you would expect for a festival, and we made the most of the Pie Minister stall (we love it but don’t have one here in Manchester).

We decided to go to let the kids experience something out of there normal day to day routine and that’s exactly what we got. From the camp fire in the woods and the music stage to the wild rumpus parade, they loved it more than we could imagine, we will definitely be back next year (hopefully with a nice new bell tent).

I would definitely recommend it to anyone with young children and hope we have many more fun years ahead at Just So Festival.

 

Camping Family with 5 kids (and one teenager left at home)

Wild Things
Willow On Phone In Where The Wild Things Are
 I also met the lovely Ed on Twitter, but we failed to run into each other, despite the fact that he must have been pretty easy to recognise with his lovely big family (and number 7 on the way).  He also happens to be a writer, so check out his blog here, where there will be a lots more pictures.  

Hi, I’m Edd a thirty seven year old man with a large family and a slim wallet. I work as a Labourer for the most part but am trying to better myself through writing and living. I have a wonderful wife and six awesome children (from 15 to 2) , each of whom are as precious as the next, as well as a large extended family that lives pretty close to me (for the most part).

This was our first festival and though we do camp we normally the two girls hadn’t been camping before.

The festival was very busy and to keep toilets well stocked and clean throughout the whole weekend was a big ask but I think they did a good job. Having a main toilet area and then portaloos in strategic areas made sense and it only really got very grim in the main toilets come the final morning, which is understandable. I work on building sites and I can tell you the Just So Toilets were very well maintained in comparison.  The Showers were a pleasant surprise. There was enough room to turn around in them, they were deep enough to allow kids to be in and showered in turn and overall I thought they were kept as clean as possible too. Obviously the wait was brutal first thing but if you left it and picked your moment it wasn’t more than a ten minute wait. That’s shorter than the time I have to wait at home to be honest.

The Planning was spot on from where I was sitting. There was space to roam, everything had enough distance to make it feel very big and yet you felt you were in a specific area when you entered a new ‘zone’. The details made the experience great from the decorative chairs hanging from tree branches too Fairy dresses floating in the woods. It was lovely. The food, toilets and stage set up was great and the breakfast and play barns meant there was always somewhere to take shelter. They even had ATM’s on site. Top class.

Whale at Just So
The Metal Whale Show In The High Seas

The Organisation itself was clean and crisp. The information  tent would charge your phone for you (only for a short period, but enough to get you through on minimal settings), was staffed by lovely, friendly people and having the helpers all wearing top hats meant you could always see a person that could help if needed. Everyone had a wrist band and you were told to write your phone number down on the children’s wrist bands for ease of contact if they became lost. Very good.

As it stands I liked the food court area <best>, but outside of the grub I’d have to say the forest where the Fairy queen lived and the Pirate area by the lake <called High Seas> were my favourites. The lake was beautiful and I love forests so it stands to reason those were the places I’d love. The kids loved the ‘Where the Wild Things are’, ‘The Fairy woods’ and ‘Forty winks’ (all in the same wooded area, my favourite area too).

Honestly I wouldn’t really change any of it. It was charming. I suppose maybe providing more toilets would help to easy the obvious pressure on the festivals organisation? Something like that.

Fairy
Just So is definitely the place for dressing up as a Fairy

Sadly I missed the musical evening sets as I was guarding the sleeping minis that passed out around seven o clock on the nights we were there. Mama took the older kids to the camp fire singing and evening events. I listened to the music drift over the fields towards me from the party but never managed to get to hear it up close and the daytime activities swallowed me up with the kids.  It sounded good from a distance though.

We decided that our journey was too long to bring a lot of food and we agreed to either leap into a supermarket when we had gotten all set up or just eat there and not worry about it. I ended up buying dinner, leaving the breakfast and lunch time stops to be filled with sandwiches or fruit.  The food wasn’t any more expensive than I thought it would be, there was a good spread of choice from Mexican and Noodles too pizza, pasta and burgers. All in all I was impressed with the provision and the quality. Very good eating indeed.  On a side note the breakfast barn was giving out free porridge and crumble bar things, very good idea indeed! I loved the festival but the residing memory will be one of the friendliness of the camping area. Everyone was relaxed, in family groups, seemed respectful of each other’s space and it was clear that they were all having a great time. This feel good factor that surrounded the campers flooded out into the activity fields and made it a magical weekend.

In closing though I’d say we loved it, would love to be back next year but won’t be as our seventh child with be born in January and so it’ll be too tough for us to attend. I do advise you go though if you like your days free, easy and relaxed. No hassle, no crossed words witnessed all weekend and none of the normal young bucks that perhaps don’t quite know when to stop before they take things too far.

A great family festival, a well delivered event and a beautiful crowd of people.

Couldn’t recommend it enough.

 

Camping Family with 1 kid (our mates camping 6ft away from us)

Feather Bowers at Just So
You are never too old for a feather bower or hair garland!

Now I must admit that by the end of Sunday I did think that my mates might be telling me that they had enjoyed it but despite loving me would never come back.  One week on, this is what they said …

We are a family of three from St. Albans; comprising of a happy at home mum, a fun- loving working dad and a 6 year old adventurous little lady.  Just So is the only festival we have been to – twice…. Berkofest is next!

My favourite memory is chilling out in the sunshine at the Panic Circus watching the little lady having fun and skilling up on stilts, unicycles and pedalling furiously!

My man’s favourite points were chatting to Michael Buckley (a writer), camping and exploring the woodland with the little lady and the novelty of drinking (adult) blue slushies and poking out his tongue!

The little lady, when asked replied, “all of it! But especially….” she mentioned: Making Masks in Wild things and the Wild Rumpus Parade, learning circus skills, the experiments with the Physics Busters, riding along with Compass, listening to the music in Footlights –“ I rather love Jon Paul Palombo Mummy – do you?!” and DeliKate and Crepe man were wolfed down!

Flying Bike At Festival
The Crazy Flying Bike!

Grrr to the number of times we rocked up to make something (lanterns, feathered headdresses, musical instruments) at the allotted time only to be confronted with “we’ve run out of materials”…….. faces fell in disappointment and it meant not joining in the fabulous lantern parade.

Also our little lady was very lucky to have a ride with Compass (the Jumblies from last year!) in their fantastical flying machines – however we had to tell about 25 families that we were the last family in the queue – a sign would have been good so we didn’t have to witness others disappointment. I would also have to add that only 16 families each session were lucky enough to embark on this wonderful adventure and that seemed too few. I would have liked to have seen more opportunities for greater numbers to partake in certain areas e.g. trapeze lessons were fully booked in an instant an hour before the event, again great for a chosen few rather than seeing smiles on a decent number of faces.

Music was awesome this year; however, I missed a fabulous band from last year called The Lovely Eggs…… bring back them back please!!!

I would also object to the pricing of a small yet delicious sausage in a hot dog roll by The Farmer’s Wife – £4.50!! Thankfully, the other eateries were much more realistically priced for brilliant quality food.

Levitation
Levitating Little Dimples!

Some areas were sparsely populated with activities and stalls and more could have been added to draw more crowds – All the World’s a stage was extremely empty and this didn’t seem great for the stallholders there, however, was probably a bonus when we were having a nursery rhyme knees up with an audience of 4!

Loved Footlights, Nowhere Now was a huge hit too – The Fantastical Photobooth of Confusion and Wonderment from which we have a treasured keepsake of the festival and little lady enjoyed Levitation and experimenting with the Physics Busters.

Really great! Adored JonPaul Palombo again but sad that his set was so short, the Robbie Boyd Band and Common Tongues also provided a fabulous energy to bop along to.  However……. bring back The Lovely Eggs –( my friend thinks I’m insane for liking this band but now we and many others we chatted to went and downloaded everything they’d ever recorded off Amazon after last year’s Just So performance.)

We cooked tea the first night and brekkie both mornings and then bought lunch and dinner from the following:

              • Rode Hall Farmer’s Market – snacks of stuffed vine leaves and spinach parcels yummy!
              • The Farmer’s Wife – delicious yet expensive sausage for the little lady
              • Deli Kate – yummy paninis and milkshakes. Such a hit, brilliant stuff!!
              • Pieminster – yummy Heidi pie – however in line with the Festival’s common theme of running out of stuff – it had to be eaten solely with a knife as cutlery was in short supply – the lovely pie people did take a £1 off for the inconvenience though!
              • Tasty Thai Cuisine – definitely my favourite… well priced and scrummy!!
              • Ginger’s Comfort Emporium – the little lady loved the vanilla ice cream
              • Crepes – A yummy nutella and banana one hit the spot, however was eaten with fingers as…. Wait for it…. There was NO cutlery!!!  Before you think I’m strange for not asking other stalls for a fork or knife… I did however some were not into sharing due to a meagre supply or didn’t have any themselves!!
  • Stage at Just So
    Dressing up and fun at All The Worlds A Stage

Loos – great until the final day when the organisers scrimped on a final pump out and sent the portaloos into a complete state. Cue Jackass style wretching from the little lady and a request for a peg for the nose and a blindfold!  The showers were a huge hit with my man – who loves a good shower!

Upon arrival unloading on the drop off zone noted on the programme was fab but then…… we were told we could not use this for packing up….. Cue human conveyor belt of numerous bags, tents, blow up mattresses being passed from the field, over a fence, over the road, over a fence into the car park. One word to yea organisers – KERFUFFLE and please please stick to one rule for all otherwise it gets people like me crazy. After a Just So bod telling me I wasn’t allowed to move my car to the drop off zone on the road sides due to the fragility of Snowdrops some others were waved through and when I asked why – the reason given was they have kids?! Mmmmmm wonder how much adult blue slurpy they had consumed the night before!!!

Just a suggestion please could you make things to do pre-bookable online so then you’ll have a rough idea of how many want to take part in activities and I certainly wouldn’t object to spending a bit to guarantee a slot or to help increase providers to ensure more happy faces.

Just So
The little miss that made us sing on stage after dressing up at All the Worlds A Stage

So I sound pretty mixed about Just So but as the rain ceases, the smell from the portaloos dissipates, the sweat dries from the kerfuffle of packing up and you stand there smiling in a field, muddy, clutching a paper mache mask and some Physics Buster bubbles you know you’re going to return to do it all again next year. The organisers are incredible, admittedly not at conventional organising but at imaginative organising and it offers families a fabulous opportunity to do something brilliantly different.

<We went> because we loved it so much last year and the people we went with obviously!

Yes <we would recommend it> – but not to all, you have to be a kid yourself too to really get the most of it and we’re like Peter Pan in our house!

Yes- because Just So tickets seem to come with Rose tinted glasses so that all of the bits that could be improved and make you sway about going back next year seem to add to its charm!

 

 

My Review is: 8/10

Puppet Show
Little Dimples running her own puppet show in the Panic Circus

I love Just So, I love the ethos behind it and the magic it creates.

I liked the new location, although I think it might need a little rejigging next year with maybe a few bigger props for the bigger location (but don’t change High Seas which was wonderful with the most amazing atmosphere!).  It did seem to me that there were a LOT more people as well, but it handled the rain on the sunday well and didn’t get too muddy.

Music was brilliant, especially JonPaul Palombo; my only complaint being that his set should have been longer, but at least I got a hug!  Louis Barabbas was one of those bands that works brilliantly for kids because he was totally crazy.

This year the kids really got into the music side of it; Mum and Dad having a drink, kids running around and dancing, and then dragging one or other parent up to look silly.  I LOVE this bit and love that it is so safe.

The other reviews show how well it covers many age ranges from baby upwards, which I think is very clever, and also different types of people from extremely different backgrounds.  I’m going to add the tip to bring a picnic blanket with you, so that you have somewhere to sit, as there will never be 4000 seats to my top tips for family festivals post, as well as many packs of wet wipes for showers.

I really enjoyed the camping side of it and it has proved to me that it totally works for me as a relaxed type of holiday, but OMG the toilets on the last day were outrageous and don’t empty the ones by the tents at midnight!  I also embraced the wet wipe version of a shower as I couldn’t be bothered to queue, however the hairy northern enjoyed them.

Mother hen
MopTop and Knickers had my 2.5yr old entranced!

I wouldn’t be giving an honest review or helpful feedback if I didn’t say that:

  • It does NOT work to have activities going on for just a small handful of kids when you have thousands coming.  Those activities need to be either bigger with more helpers, or back to back or both.
  • It does NOT work to have craft opportunities for excited kids wanting to make things for the parades in the evenings and then to run out of materials, I think Just So are going to have to give the craft people material budgets.
  • In fact lots of the craft activities and unusual oddities should basically run all day I think, which I do understand will increase the prices as this means paying them rather than just giving tickets.  The problem is that you drag the family all the way to one location, find it’s all booked up, so walk off to the next to be too late for that one and so on.  It was a struggle at times with dissappointed kids.

So the slightly suburban middle class computer nerd side of me struggled with some of the organisation of it, and hated having to disappoint the kids at times.  Plus it made it a bit more stressful for us parents.

However, the tree hugging side of me suggests that next year we just avoid anything organised, mill around and catch the spontaneous things that encourage the children’s imagination like the Panic Circus (so much better than the circus at Penn Festival), MopTop and Knickers (fabulous from Mother Hen) and the stone balancing.  The music was great and I was REALLY happy with the fact that the kids learnt to just mess around and dance to crazy music.

Teaching someone to play the saw
Curly Headed Boy Learning To Play The Saw

I know that regular festival goers would say that we were lucky to have loos that worked for the majority of the time and that all the problems that worried me are pretty standard.  But Just So is now getting so popular that it is going to get people coming who need structure and organisation even more than me and there are other festivals that from their reviews I can see focus more on making the parents life easier, but are probably too main stream and commercial for me.  This is the challenge for Just So for 2013 after the challenge of moving location this year, and as they pulled that off, I’m sure they will pull this off too.

Will I be going back?  I really hope they invite us back, (a) because we love it and (b) because I’d love to give them a 10/10 next year.

 

Curly Headed Boy said he definitely wants to go back because there was so much to do, and his favourite bit was the music.  I will finish on a video of Little Dimples dancing to Louis Barabbas!

I’d love more comments from people who’ve been to other festivals or fellow Just So-ers?

 

Disclosure: I received a family camping ticket for Just So, but all the opinions expressed are my own or those of my interviewees.  The picture of Little Dimples as a fairy has a green tutu and wand sent to us by Fairy Glass, the wings were the ones we bought there last year, but we also have a gorgeous pair of wings to match the tutu; just couldn’t get her to wear the matching set all in one go!

 

 

Kids love muddy festivals

Don’t Go Thinking I’m More Adventurous Than You!

Kids love muddy festivalsI had a couple of lovely comments from Mums watching the funny stream of muddier and muddier instagram photos appearing during my visit to Penn Festival.  Many suggested how brave I was, or how well I was coping with mud up to the kids knees.

So I thought I’d set the record straight, because I don’t want you all reading my blog and thinking ‘Oooh isn’t she clever – I could never do that!’.

I am definitely NOT more adventurous than you!

Two years ago I’d never been camping and never been to a festival.  Not one tiny festival, even as a teenager or student.  How boring is that!

As part of my mid-life crisis I decided I was going to be more adventurous and do things I’d always wanted to do.  So I literally convinced myself that I was up for it by reminding myself regularly of how adventurous and magical my life was.

Last year, we went off for our first adventure to Just So in a Yurt (proper glamping to start me off slowly).  Finding it a huge success I decided that this year was going to be even more adventurous, and that I also wanted to try out holidays that were maybe simpler and cheaper so that I could review them for my blog.

Luckily for me it’s all been pretty easy.  The gorgeous Romany from FestivalKidz contacted me to review Penn Festival and hence I am now a ‘proper’ festivaller who has experienced a musical mud-fest extraordinaire, plus my first camping trip (check out the video of hubby putting up a tent in 3mins), and found that as long as I can make it look vaguely pretty I can handle anything.  (Especially with a shed load of lists!).

Hopefully I get so see what it’s like to go to a non-muddy festival in a tent later in the year as Just So have invited me back to review their new location and even more fabulous line up.  This time we are going for the full event and not leaving until the monday, so that we can soak up the whole magical environment; the organisers of Just So have the most incredible imagination when it comes to kids, so it’s bound to have LOADS of adventure in it.

In a few days I’m going to be able to let you know what it’s like to be in a mobile home holiday camp in Normandy care of the lovely people at Siblu.  I would always have wanted to try something like this, but I must admit I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to try something so different if they hadn’t contacted me.  So if you would also be nervous of ferries, and caravans in france, perfect, because I can let you know how it all pans out and you’ll know whether it would work for you too!

I’m really excited about seeing what Siblu is like because when we went for our first summer holiday last year I realised how ridiculously expensive it is if you want practical accommodation  for a young family (i.e. inter-connecting hotel rooms or studios).  We found a cheap holiday in Cyrpus in a studio apartment.  But one family I met had to pay for TWO studio apartments, just because they had 3 kids rather than two, literally doubling the price and therefore meaning they could only go for one week.  So although Siblu would be about the same price as that holiday (when you add in Ferries etc), it would be a totally different situation for people with more kids.  Plus if you don’t want to fly with your kids, it’s a perfect idea.

I’m not naturally adventurous.  I’m just 43, and decided that I’m done with thinking that all the adventure is for other people and not trying things out myself. I’m sure some won’t work out, but some will be great.

So when you see all the fab things I tell you about on my blog, rather than think ‘I’m not sure I could do that’, think instead ‘Well, if Lisa can do it, then so can I!’.

 

 

Add some colour to your tent

Don’t Forget a Thing! Packing List For Camping With Your Kids

Add some colour to your tentI’m just back from my first ever camping trip and first ever family music festival, so being addicted to lists I thought I would share and share alike!

I promise you won’t get such a comprehensive list elsewhere because:

(a) I’m a bit wacky and love a bit of glamping and

(b) I’m retentive about lists.

I’ve highlighted the MUST HAVEs for you!

If you haven’t been to a festival with the kids yet, check out my post on why family festivals are a great adventure to try out with the kids and my review of the fabulously muddy Penn Festival and last years Just So.

 

Clothes

Check out my tips on what to wear to a festival, plus my Pinterest board with more ideas and links to the clothes.

Wellies (there are some lovely ones on my Pinterest board)

Crocs (don’t use if very muddy, they’re feet will be a terrible mess!)

Daps if it’s not muddy (There’s some cute daps on this Pinterest board of mine)

Fleeces – were brilliant for me and the kids (I’ve now bought an extra one, so that I’ve got daytime and nighttime ones!)

PJ’s – take extra incase of trouble for the kids (mine are fleecy Joe Browns ones)

Water proof coats and trousers – I don’t wear the trousers (yuk!), but they were a must for the kids and the hairy one.  The macs need to be those pack-a-mac ones for lightness (try to get a prettier one if you can)

Wooly hats – for kids in evenings

Pashmina Scarf – for me (I don’t go anywhere without them)

Socks, Knickers, Bras – just incase you forget

Wings, Tutu’s and wands for Little Dimples

Fancy Dress For Curly Headed boy

Poncho Towels x 2 for the kids for after a shower

Nappies, wipes and bags

Outfits for each day plus spare leggings/tracksuit bottoms

 

Bedrooms

Hotwater bottles for me and the kids – OMG so glad I had these as I’m a wimp!

Pillows for me – yep wimp again.

Those cuddly teddy bear pillow for the kids – make great teddies and travel companions too.

Sleeping bags – a double for me and Little Dimples, Moshi Monster one for Curly Headed Boy and ‘proper’ one for the hairy northerner

Double blow up bed (and pump) – for the girls

Sleeping Mats – thick mat for the little boy and thin mat for the ‘hard’ one

Blankets x 4 – 1 under me, 2 on top of me and 1 more for Curly Headed Boy

Bed Bumpers – so that little dimples doesn’t roll into the tent side (she doesn’t like it)

Towels x 4 – can’t have enough towels

Microfibre hair turban if your hair takes a while to dry (£1 from Wilkinsons or a pound shop)

Festival

Rucksacks – for each of us, don’t use over the shoulder bags, and if you can get oilcloth washables one for you, they will be the easiest to clean afterwards.

Ear Defenders for kids

iPads and iPhones with films on for packing and unpacking

Power monkey to charge up iPads and iPhones – AMAZING!

Radio Flyer – perfect for carrying two kids, sleeping babies, lugging stuff from the car, and getting through mud. (some places you can rent them)

Games

2 books of drawing/sticker activities

Lego book for son, Duplo for daughter

Football – didn’t take it, will do next time as it is much more sensible than a frisbee

Books – thin ones that work for both kids (Gruffalo!)

Bananagrams game

Some little characters to play with e.g. Mini mouse plastic tiny travel house for Little Dimples, and Octonaughts submarine for Curly Headed Boy

 

Camping Stuff

Here’s my pinterest board for camping/glamping stuff.

Bog in a Bag – OMG you HAVE TO HAVE one of these – no long trip to the loo overnight or panic when it’s pissing it down! (there are a few left here to buy!)

Bunting and solar fairy lights – 2 lots – VERY important!

Tent – check out my review of the Vango Airbeam  Tent

Mallet – for the tent.

Pop up tent – we have a little one that is useful sometimes for at the festival or keeping things in outside our tent if we don’t take an awning.

Pink whistling kettle – obviously!

Enamel Tea Pot – Keep Calm and drink tea from John Lewis – tea is obviously a necessity!

Enamel Plates and Bowels – pretty ones with bunting on from John Lewis – I was disappointed that the edges seem a little dodgy.  You can buy the blue ones from the pound shops.

Cuttlery – we had plastic, but it was horrid.

Cooking spoon – get a metal one, we melted the plastic one!

Saucepan and frying pan – doesn’t need to be big, just enough for a whole meal for the family.

Front door mat – WOW this was useful – I’d bring two next time one for inside and one for outside

Wind break, HUGE picnic blanket and cushions from GLTC – gorgeous and made it feel really homey.  Would have been wonderful if it was sunny.  But didn’t wash very well :o(

Picnic basket and cool box – we didn’t really use this as we decided not to take lunch with us, but we will use it at the Just So festival and our holiday in Siblu (french caravan park).

Cooker with 2 hobs and under toaster (plus canister) – great for tea, a full english breakfast and making dinner on the night we arrived.

Collapsible water bottle – a must have

Collapsible washing up bowl – so useful for feet, washing up and catching drips from wet clothes!

Oven gloves – get thinner light ones as the lids are small

Light cutting mats for cutting up things to cook on.

Knife with cover.

Tea towel – we forgot!

Dustpan and brush – definitely needed on longer trip.

Kitchen cooker table – was very wobbly, I wasn’t sure that it would stay straight.  Not needed for a festival (just cook on the ground), but good for a longer trip as long as you buy boxes to store stuff underneath.

Table and Chairs – This one from Cotswold is very easy to transport, but a little wobbly with little kids and takes up lots of room.  I don’t think you need it for a festival, just for camping longer than a weekend.

Cheap Plastic backed picnic blanket – was a god send outside the front door.

Wind up Lamp, plus two little ones for the kids (head torches are great too)

Something to hang up wet stuff with – a washing line or I got a pink plastic oval thingy with pegs on it that I could hang from something

General kitchen supplies

LOADS of black bags

LOADS of antibacterial wipes

LOADs of baby wipes

LOADS of kitchen roll

LOADS of Loo roll

LOADs of little packs of tissues

Matches

Little travel bottle with washing up liquid

Newspaper can be great outside the front door if it gets muddy (or straw as we had)

Dish cloths

Toiletries

EAR PLUGS – (Reminded by a lovely commenter!) – I use the blue waxy ones from Boots, not the yellow foam ones or the plastic ones.

Eye masks – you know the ones you get on a plane – can be useful because it gets so light in a tent in the mornings!

Wipes to wash face and take off make up

Travel bottles with shampoo and conditioner.  (I can’t travel without mousse either).

Moisturiser

Deodorant

Toothbrushes and toothpaste

Makeup.

Tampons and pads – if there is a chance your period is going to come while you are away, you so know it will!

First Aid – Plasters, Suntan Lotion, Sudocrem, Thermometer, Calpol, Aloe Vera (after sun and good for bites)

Food

Note: Remember not to take glass bottles to a camp site or festival.
Most important – Tea (or coffee), milk (take 2 x 1 litre and have one of them frozen), Orange juice, apple juice (take a frozen one), squash in a plastic bottle
Alcohol – now at the penn festival you couldn’t take alcohol on site, so the best bet would have been cans of cider or gin in a tin.  But at Just So last year we spent some time at the tent in the evening, so a box of wine is a good plan.  (Be considerate if you get drunk please!).
Fruit – last year I felt a bit unwell after going to Just So because my body is fussy and likes it’s fruit and veg.  So definitely take grapes, apples, satsumas, those innocent fruit drinks for the kids, and some extra veg for the adults for the first night’s dinner.
Snacks – will be expensive so add some high sugar but healthy emergency rations: bear fruit, yogurt covered raisins/strawberry flakes, sesame seed snaps etc.  Plus late at night the kids might be snackish, so some crackers are a good idea.
Breakfast:
  • Cereal – those little travel boxes of cereal are great if you aren’t taking bowls.  But they caused arguments between the kids as they don’t have equal numbers of types of cereal.  So I’m going to pick one type and put in a plastic box next time.
  • Toast – nice and easy and a good back up to have a loaf of bread with butter and marmite
  • Brioche – can make a lovely breakfast or snack later
Lunch/Brunch
  • Eggs, Bacon, Sausages, Tomatoes – we had a full english breakfast because the Penn Festival didn’t start until 12, so didn’t need to take a picnic lunch with us.  Whereas the Just So festival starts really early, so there will be no time for this.
  • Baps, cheese, crisps – when we go to Just So it starts earlier so we will take lunch with us.
Dinner – on the evening of arrival and last night – but don’t bother during the festival.
    • 2 cold cooked chicken breasts chopped up added to fresh pasta (quicker to cook).  Add pesto and a big tin of sweetcorn.
    • Tins of tuna heated up with some philidelphia and milk to make a sauce and big tin of sweetcorn with pasta or noodles
    • Tins of spagetti bolognaise on toast with big tin of sweetcorn
    • Tins of tomato soup, big bread, cucumber and carrots
    • Hotdogs (but my hubby is allergic to celery, so they don’t work for us)
    • I was tempted to introduce the kids to spam and corned beef!
    • Remember you can get tinned potatoes, which would be quicker to cook than normal ones.

 

 

What do you think of my tips and list?  Let me know if you use it and if there’s anything to add.  Also feel free to add your own lists in the comments!

Glamping an Vango Tent

The Perfect Tent For First Timers and Family Festival Goers

Ok I admit it, the Big hairy northern one was right!

It might not happen often, but his tendency to want to spend the spangdoolies was correct this time.

A few weeks ago he had a big panic about our tent and said he wanted to go back and look at the Vango Airbeam; basically a tent that blows up in 5 minutes.

Although it was to be our first time camping, I was pretty sure that it was going to be something that I would want to do again, so I agreed on the proviso that he got a smallish one and off he happily went to buy one.

It was such a good plan.  We had picked the worst weekend ever to try our first attempt at camping at our first attempt at a music festival, so there was no panic on getting the tent up in the rain as it literally does go up in 5 mins!  Plus we made a fast exit on the sunday due to the potential for getting ‘mudded’ in and the packing up took long enough; if we had added another 1.5hrs on top of that it would have been a nightmare.

Here is the video of him putting it up for only the second time; pretty cool heh!

 

 

This tent has two sleeping compartments, but we took down the separator as it was easier to just all sleep together.  There was plenty of room for the beds and our bags with clothes in them.

I would say that for a family of 4 it’s an OK size, unless you have loads of stuff like tables and chairs that have to fit in as well due to it raining outside.  So we are investing in a porch, ground sheet and also carpet for the section next to the bed rooms.  But if you are travelling a little lighter than we were it would be perfect for a short camping trip or a festival.

It also handled the rain and mud with no problem and no leaks.

 

 

Side View Of Vango Airbeam

The reason I hadn’t been keen initially is because I wanted somewhere to sit outside or feel like you were sitting outside and because it angles outwards it doesn’t give that feeling.  However we found that with two extra poles we could put the front door up and make a little place to sit under, which would be great in normal or slightly damp evenings (not when pissing down though!).

The only other problem is because of this angling outwards for all the doors (front and side), you have to quickly shut them if it rains, as obviously otherwise the floor gets wet.


 

Glamping an Vango Tent

 

One downside for me is that it’s also a disgusting colour; why oh why do tent makers think that we want to have a yukky green tent?  Adding bunting and some fairy lights did help though!

It’s quite expensive, you can definitely get a cheaper tent.  But it’s the same price as we would have spent on one yurt, and with this tent we are going to two festivals, and I’m definitely planning on going full on camping in it as well. (It was the Kinetic 500 which could sleep 5 (£600), but they do have bigger and smaller versions).

 

Have you had any tent nightmares you’d like to share or got a fab tent you would like to let everyone know about?

 

Disclosure: No one paid me or gave me anything for this review (but I’m always open to offers ;o) 

Kids love muddy festivals

How fun Mudfest at Penn Festival was: I’m a ‘proper’ festival goer now!

I realise now that I’ve often looked on wistfully at images of Glastonbury wondering why I’d never been to a music festival and experienced the whole ‘vibe’ of camping, wellies and getting covered in mud.

Well I need wist no more!  I’m now officially a ‘proper’ music festival camper having just got back from Penn Festival 2012; a mudfest with a wonderful vibe and great music.

 

I have therefore proved to everyone that I’m totally capable of camping, as long as I can make it all look pretty with a bit of glamp style and that mud doesn’t phase me at all.

 

Add some colour to your tent
Add a bit of colour & cosiness to a tent

It all looked like it was going to go badly wrong when I got a text from the lovely Romany at Festivalkidz to tell me to not set off yet.  Problem was I was already half-way there!  The local cricket club weren’t willing to help out with their hard-standing parking (boo), and people were already getting stuck in the mud.  However they decided to go ahead, and I think it was the right decision.  They showed a load of determination and in return the vibe of those of us who made it and braved the difficulties in getting there had a great spirit.

people covered in mud at music festival
Crazy people embracing the mud!

I know it might sound a bit mean, but I think that considering the Isle of Wight festival a few weeks beforehand, there could have been a more concrete contingency plan in place.  That way it would have gone into action more easily.  For instance they would have known on the friday that only campers and artists/stalls were going to be let on and had the press about the buses/coaches picking up day ticketers sorted straight away.  There would have been more wood/straw/grasscrete to get those of us in and out, and more clarity on when the farmer was or was not going to be there.  However, realistically this was only their second year, so it’s just a little bit of inexperience and I really hope that they didn’t lose too much money and get to put it on again to resounding sunshine next year.

Snap At Penn Festival
Dancing to Snap!

On the VERY big upside the music was INCREDIBLE.  All the bands were good and in tune (unlike on the TV), even the terrified girl band I saw first of all in a tent.  Standing out particularly were Vanquish who I don’t doubt we’ll see in the Pop scene very soon.  I didn’t get to see all the bands that I really wanted to because with two little kids it was a bit tricky to traipse from the tent to the main stage each time an act finished.  So instead we waited at the main stage and were rewarded by amazing performances from Rozalla and Snap!  I was a fan, but not a big fan of their music in the eighties; I was more of a modern romantic kind of girl.  But live they were incredible!  You could see how great they were by the effect on the kids, because they may have never heard them before but both of them were up and dancing.

Kids love muddy festivals
Mud is a kids activity in itself!

They also had some lovely stalls, with no duplicates which was great.  The only thing that I’m not keen on is lots of activities for kids that are what I call ‘easy’ and ‘insubstantial’ fun, that cost money; so we spent a lot of time being nagged for another ride on the bumper cars, or fair ground ride etc etc.  There was a big top with circus performers, but it didn’t quite work for our 6yo because when he went it was all older kids, and he felt left out; you know what a 6yo’s attention span can be like.  But we spent a lot of time chilling out in front of Festival Kidz tent, while I swapped philosophy with the other stall holders, so thank you to Romany for that quiet space.

Pop Up Tent eating pizza
She wanted the other bit of Pizza!

The food was fab.  The big hairy northern one and I had a curry from Malik’s, which was just gorgeous.  Sadly the kids wanted Pizza which took 40mins, and the noodle people hadn’t made it; understandable that they couldn’t get a full range of food in due to the mud.  We took a little pop up tent just in case which was brilliant, and meant that when it rained heavily the kids could go in it, they ate their pizza in it, and I breastfed Little Dimples in there.

It felt as though there was a slight confusion about the festival.  Was it a ‘family festival’?  Or was it for party goers, as there was a Wedding reception and hen party, plus big groups of young people?  It said in the pamphlet that the aim was to enable kids and adults to enjoy themselves.  But it didn’t quite get the balance right for me.

Mrs Connor Getting Married At Penn Festival
Congratulations to the new Mrs Cooper!

Maybe that’s because I have a young family, but the camp site didn’t work.  There was meant to be a ‘family’ side and a noisier side.  But it wasn’t marked and it wasn’t policed by the stewards.  On the friday night I went to complain to the circle of tents behind us who had put an awning in between them, but they just thought I was being grumpy and wanting to stop their ‘fun’.  You’d have thought that families with older kids would remember what it’s like to have younger kids, but NO.  So I didn’t sleep at all on friday night, which was horrible, especially as the showers didn’t start until too late at mid-day.  On saturday night I went to ask for help from the stewards, but their response was that the noise had calmed down by 4am the night before.  EXCUSE ME but I have kids who wake up at 5am, you plonker!  Luckily the family of tents had clearly partied themselves out the night before and ironically the group of young guys from ‘Phantom Light‘ I talked to were really sympathetic; so I did get some sleep in the end.

Tractor pulling festival goers
Mr Saviour - the farmer and his tractor

On sunday morning we eventually made the terribly sad decision to go home.  The farmer was there with his tractor and we couldn’t be sure he would be back.  If I’d been sure he would be back on monday morning I would have waited and seen The Beat and Altered Images.  Instead we came home and started the mammoth job of de-muddifying everything.

Clothes covered in mud
Rounds 1-3 of many more loads

 

So my verdict is:

Out of 10 – 7/10

Would I go again – Totally

Music – Amazing quality of all bands, incredible energy of headliners!

Mud – not a problem, the kids loved it

Camping – Wasn’t clearly signposted and very noisy.  Top tip: camp right over by a far edge/fence if you go to one this year without different areas.  The good thing is that it was close to the festival site, and parking, so if they are in the same place next year, it’s very convenient.

Poshwash showers – I would have loved to try, but they started up too late on the saturday, and we left on the sunday.

Food – dinner was great (pizza and indian), I didn’t go for the £5 breakfast as it seemed a bit steep, but then saw a £3 option

Social Media – they used Facebook and twitter to keep us up to date, I think this could be done even more and is a great idea

Stuff for kids – pretty good, probably just limited by the mud.  However the mud was an activity in itself!

Contingency planning & Logistics – I’m sure this will be improved next year with more experience.

Determination – I would definitely give them 10/10 for determination for keeping the festival going, well done guys!

Disclosure: I got a family camping ticket in return for reviewing the festival.  Thank you very much to Penn Festival for inviting me, I really hope you invite me back next year so that I can give you 10/10!