Just So Festival

The Key To A Successful Family Festival

Just So FestivalI’m so excited, because I’m off to review Just So Festival this weekend (In Cheshire at Rhode Hall: doors open at 2pm on Friday and we get kicked out of the campsite on Mon at 11).

Last year was brilliant, but it was my first ever festival, so I had no idea what to expect.

Apparently I picked the best one, so I’m sticking with it!

I’m now a veteran as this is my 3rd ever family festival (there was the Mudfest at Pennfestival in between, and yes I am joking about the veteran bit!).

So I thought I’d tell you the key to a successful family festival:



Going with the Flow


With no clue of what is on, and no plan of what to do you’ll keep arriving as things finish and miss what your kids would most love to do.

But you need to leave space for magic and adventure to find you as well, especially when we are talking Just So.

Be too organised, and the kids will be constantly on your case as to what is next.  They need to learn to chill and find the unexpected, but having a couple of plans up your sleeve will help to avoid the disaster of wandering aimlessly for a couple of days and not getting immersed in the festival.

So, I’ve been sitting down with Curly Headed Boy and I’ve come up with this plan (which I’ll mention at some point to the Hairy Northerner of course!).

This is just my plan, you might need a cuppa or a glass of wine and a couple of hours to make your own.  But I thought you might like some hints, especially if you are a first timer.


The Areas:

Here’s a quick summary of the different areas from what I can grasp from the online programme (expect changes, things to not be in the programme and surprises!):

Social: Food is looking good this year, I’m really impressed (basically everything I wanted last year is there this year!).  So I’m just planning on taking Tea, Friday night food, breakfast, juice, squash, snacks, fruit and maybe a spare meal for sunday just incase.  Just So is packed with things to do, so I don’t really want to have to go back to the tent and cook.  Other festivals don’t start until lunch time, so there is more time.

Jitterbug: Dancing and discos (I fancy the belly dancing and Curly Headed Boy wants to learn the Chitterbug or Jive)

Footlights: Some of the bands, but it looks like there is lots more music this year and I know one of my favourite bands is elsewhere.

Lazy Days: Don’t be fooled by the ‘lazy’, I reckon it’s going to be pretty energetic with the sports day and circus there.  I missed Capoeria last year, so really want to do it this year: (Friday 4-5pm Saturday & Sunday 10-11am & 4-5pm)

Nowhere Now: These look like fun things to pop in and experiment with, I remember Physics busters from last year and they were fab.

Peekaboo: Baby fun and some pampering from Weleda

40 winks: Looks like a fab chill out place with story telling and dens

Wild Things: Was popular with Curly Headed Boy last year and looks like there is even more fun to be had with bush crafting, den making and don’t underestimate making clay faces

All the worlds a stage: Don’t miss out on getting the kids to do their own imaginative face painting, lots for the more dramatic in the family here

Away with the fairies: a must, they’ve added loads to it this year, but be prepared for the queen to be popular to see (Friday 4-6pm and Saturday & Sunday 10am-12noon and 2pm-4pm)

Elsewhere: Looks like the fun eclectic stuff from Just So that you wander into and then slip away into a magical and slightly weird universe ;o)

High Seas: Pirate training was so brilliant last year and they’ve added loads more (Friday 4.30pm & 5.30pm or Saturday & Sunday 9am, 10am, 11am, 2pm & 4pm), I think that the fox pockets and stone balancing are appealing to me too, no idea why!


Tribes and Parades:

We are part of the fish tribe, which will I’m sure mean more on the festival, but we are definitely going to make the willow lanterns this year and get involved in the parades.  We missed out last year and only watched it and the kids were gutted.



Get all settled, let the kids play outside the tent, wander around getting our bearings (it’s changed location this year)

MUST DO: Jon Paul Palombo 6.30 on ‘all the worlds a stage’ (check out my a fab video of him here: gorgeous and brilliant!)

yoB: looks like they will really suit our friends (going on the music they enjoyed last year – OMG!): Fri 5.30-6.30


Really fancy the fables and music with Fox pockets at the High seas Saturday 11.30am & 4.30pm

Robbie Boyd Band: Look like they could be brilliant Sat 7.30

The Lantern parade is Saturday at 9 – meet in Lazy Days from 8.30 for lantern lighting.


Weekend Sun: Are a must, sounds really cool and funky Sun 4.30

Fiona Bevan: Sounds lovely, I think she could be the shining star of the show: Sunday 6.30

Eighties Disco – Yay!!!

The wild rumpus parade is at 7.30. Again, meet at Lazy Days.

Check out my tips on:

What to wear to a festival, and remember at Just So anything goes as long as it’s fun.  Sadly Wellies are going to be a must this year, but it’s looking pretty warm too, so don’t bring your winter clothes!

A brilliant festival/first timer tent, incase you need some ideas for next year.

Why family festivals are great if you still need some persuading or are worried.

Don’t worry about the Mud if it rains, we survived Mudfest and it was fun.

We are taking a radio flyer, and you can rent them from Trolley Tots and they are great with little ones (even the 6yo still uses it).

If you’re camping here’s my ultimate camping list!


Forgot to say take a picnic blanket as there probably wont be anywhere to sit (thank fully we always have one with us).

Plus extra wet wipes incase you don’t fancy queueing for showers (it’s only 3 days, you’ll survive I promise!)

Set your kids expectations as to how much they might be able to spend per day or the number or icecream vans; that will reduce the number of arguments when you get there and they see a few stalls full of lovely stuff.


Disclosure: Last year I went to the festival on my own steam, but this year I begged them to give me a family camping ticket and they very kindly agreed.  This doesn’t affect my opinion of the festival, I would have loved it anyway! 


Just So Festival

Video Wed: My First Festival, What a Corker: Just So!

Just So FestivalWow, what a magic thing twitter is!  One day a few months ago I said I wanted to go to a family festival and asked for advice, having never been to any (I know that’s a bit tragic).  Go to Just So they said; so we did!

Verdict: BEST family festival ever, what a brilliant one to start with!  (Please don’t sell it to someone else, because you guys definitely have the magic touch and creative imaginations which add a touch of magic to the festival).

Curly Headed Boy’s Verdict (5 3/4yrs): BEST HOLIDAY EVER, felt like 11 days!

Best way to approach it: With no plan, just mooch around and find the right thing at the right time.  It didn’t work well to have a plan or try to stick to a timetable.  Partially because it would mean trying to get across a large area quickly and partially because many of the events didn’t really stick to time plans.

Accommodation: We glamped in style with a Yurt from Fred.  I can totally recommend this, as arriving at the festival and being able to dump all our stuff and head off to investigate straight away was fab.  Plus, having straight sides has the added advantage of the big hairy northern one of being able to stand up (unlike a bell tent).  Also, he was a thoroughly lovely, with an eccentric, intellectual, ‘hmmm not sure I can be bothered to make money out of this’ sort of guy, who apparently chose to rent his yurts to people more because of their enthusiasm, than to make a living from it.  My pink whistling kettle was fabulous of course.

Take with you: We bought a radio flyer (big one), which was fabulous for carrying stuff to the tent, for carrying 2 tired kids, and for Little Dimples to sleep in (I hate to admit it, but the big northern one was right about this purchase!).  I recommend wellies, fit flops, leggings + short skirt (can cool off it it gets hot), hoody fleece and a pashmina/scarf.  Add in a feather bower, flower garland for your hair, and maybe a pair of wings from the fairy glass stall, and you are ready to festival!

Stars of the show: Ironically, the simplest things were the best stars of the festival.

  • Clay faces: These guys came to our rescue when the fairy queen let us down, you can see us making them in the photo for this blog.  They had officially finished, but spent extra time to make a face with Curly headed boy.  Please have more of their sessions next year!
  • Outlaw bootcamp: This girl had an amazing ability with the kids.  Curly Headed boy knows all about sneaking now!
  • Parkour: My god can this guy jump high.  I love the philosophy of free running, check out the video below to see what they do. (Kindle readers, look up Free Running Concrete Circus on youtube).
  • Physics Busters: Simple, but effective.  Curly Headed Boy went back to their stall several times because he loves ‘experiments’.
  • Jumblies: we ran into the green faced, blue handed jumblies and ended up following them into wonderland.  Bizarre and brilliant, they were a good example of the surprises at this festival.  Plus they managed everything with technical problems.
  • Steven Cole Author of Astrosaurs was another surprise find, and absolutely hysterical.  A high point was when Curly Headed Boy asked him if he would like to get shot by his new bow and arrow.  Obviously, we now own lots of his books.
  • The Tall Trees area: Was my favourite, a hidden magical area with an old painted piano, dib dab & sparkle (do your own face painting), and bed time stories (which stopped 2hrs early, which was a shame).
  • Stalls: unique, interesting and genuinely nice people.

Zilch Marks Goes to: Fairy queen.  There was really no need to queue for her, the kids just wanted to wave at her.  She didn’t look that magical and her assistant didn’t look magical at all (there were much more enthusiastic festival goers).  She also shut early (2hrs) on the saturday.


  • Les Peches – loved these guys and had a truly peaceful, magical moment listening to them with the family.  (You guys need a better youtube page, then I could have put a song up for you: I loved waikiki beach).
  • Jon Paul Palombo – I was a huge fan already because he’d said hello on twitter.  But now I’m totally convinced he will make it to be really famous, because of the way he managed with no power on the saturday, which shows true class.  Obviously, I had to go and see the band again on sunday, just to check out what they sounded like again (nothing to do with the big hairy one thinking I thought they were cute looking).
  • The Lovely Eggs – I didn’t get these guys, but 5yrs olds totally did.  Apparently they were ‘rocking’.  Hmmm, I have yet to be convinced, have a listen below and I think you will see why they appealed to the 5yr olds.  For me they were a hell of a shock after the lovely acoustic stuff I’d been listening to before, especially when she started out by kicking her guitar!
  • 70’s disco – class!
  • 80’s disco – didn’t start on time on the sunday, so we missed it :o(

Check out JonPaul Palombo’s debut single – Jimmy – after the audience participation bit, it is now permanently wedged in my brain.

The Lovely Eggs – tell me if you get them?

What didn’t work: I think the organisers have an amazing imagination, the place looked like a magic wood, with the most incredibly little touches.  But I don’t think they are so good at the practicalities or managing an event of this size.  I’m sure they’ll get it more right next year.

  • Showers would have been good, and more of them!
  • Food: Too expensive, which I didn’t expect after the forum posts suggesting it would be cheap, so I hadn’t brought any.  Plus it wasn’t really as child friendly/simple as I would have liked.  Some pasta, jacket potatoes, and more fruit would have been great.  Plus many didn’t open in time for breakfast and disappeared early on sunday.  A plain old fashioned bacon bap van like you get at outside shopping malls would have been great!  Thank god for Dorset Cereals (free boxes), Bear snacks (first time Curly Headed Boy has liked dried fruit), and the organic food box people (selling apples).
  • More of the simple/popular stuff: There were some great events which could have run all day.  Like the clay faces, and outlaw bootcamp.

Luckily the stuff that needed improving really didn’t bother us, as we were looking for an adventure and a touch of magic, and we certainly got that.  So if you haven’t been to a festival, then I really recommend you try out Just So as your first one.  If you have been to them, but want something really family oriented, then this is definitely for you.  In fact I reckon everyone would love it.  See you there next year!

(This is not a sponsored post)