Summer: aka ‘festival season’ is almost upon us, so it’s time to dust off those muddy boots, dig out the fancy dress and head to the nearest field to embarrass the kids with a little mum and dad dancing. Festival are great fun. They are overgrown playgrounds for adults and children alike, full of music, dance, comedy, theatre and great food.
I love the endless music, and opportunity to dance all day. My daughter is a huge dance fan but refuses to do ballet, instead preferring to ‘freestyle’ in the mirror at home. She’s ordinarily quite shy of public performance so it’s quite magical to watch her letting go to the music at a festival, completely oblivious to those around her.
The fashion for fancy dress at festivals is fantastic. It encourages everyone to participate, express themselves and get creative. It strips us of our everyday uniform, and provides a great talking point making it easier to interact with one another. We are offline, face to face, hanging out as a family and dressed like crazy people. It’s silly, fun and wonderful. It’s also healthy for kids to see thousand’s of people having a great time, without a brand label in sight.
Each of the festivals listed below has its own wonderful and dedicated offering for children. Whether it be a theatre workshop, circus skills training, painting, running races or a plain old bouncy castle. You can guarantee that there is something that will entertain, engage, and even drive them to try something new. At home, we have a difficult audience: a 5-year-old and two very different ‘tweenies’ to entertain, but at each of these festivals they and we have all had a smashing time.
Dates: 23rd – 26th August, 2018
Summary: This is fun and welcoming festival set in a beautiful location. Expect to be joining in a Kate Bush dance workshop one moment, and listening to Roni Size the next. I have enjoyed this festival both with and without kids. They have well organised kids field with lots do, as well as great separate family camping, wonderful food and all round nice folk that attend. This isn’t specifically a family festival, but families work very well here. Fancy dress is compulsory (well not quite, but you would feel silly in everyday clothes), the theme for which is issued by the festival. It does have a slightly hedonistic undertone, so I probably would not have the kids out past 11pm (although many do). If mum and dad fancied tag teaming on a night out then they would have lots of grown up fun too. This is a super green festival that is 100% independent so no corporate advertising, influencing or branding here, just the good stuff.
Pros: Non-commercial, lovely ethos and people, beautiful location.
Cons: Can be a bit wild at night and all food is veggie/vegan (both could be a pro of course).
Dates: 8th to 12th August 2018
Location: Monnow Valley, Welsh Boarder
This is the little sister Shambala, so has the same wonderful ethos and values but, this time is specifically for families. Think of it as an extended family camping holiday, with lots of enriching activities and workshops to keep the little ones entertained, letting mum and dad relax without spending too much cash. It’s set in a gorgeous location, it feels safe with children, and they feel like they are running wild and having the time of their lives.
Pros: Very friendly, feels very safe with kids, great value, beautiful location.
Cons: More of a family holiday experience, not so much for adults.
Dates: 26th to 29th July 2018
Location: Lulworth Caste Dorset
This is a dedicated family festival, the younger sibling of the more riotous Bestival. Here everything has been considered with the parent and child in mind. There are lots of fun activities, music, food and plenty of retail. This is probably the antithesis of Shambala. It is very commercial, with lots of brands present, but this does allow them the budget to book some big headline acts for both the parent and kids to enjoy. On one occasion, we were able to smash it with Mr Tumble in the afternoon and watch De La Soul that evening. There are few people there without kids, so you do feel very comfortable about them being able to play freely. There is a plethora of fancy camping options available should the thought of carrying and setting up your camping base with three under 3’s in tow absolutely terrify you. All three of our kids had a great time and have been begging to go back ever since our last visit. We stayed in a tipi tent, as opposed to a full tipi, which was around £495 for the weekend. It came with all beds and bedding and was fantastic for ease, and plenty of room for shelter during the odd rain shower.
Pros: Well organised, great entertainment, great live acts.
Cons: Quite expensive when there, very commercial.
Dates: 2nd to 5th August 2018
Location: Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire
There is a clean, wholesome and fun vibe at this festival. It’s not specifically a family festival but a 100% suitable for kids. There are lots of fun activities in the kid’s area and plenty of outdoor workshops, and kid friendly general social areas.
It also has the most amazing food selection. Think more Champagne and feasting with Michelin starred chefs than cider and sausage roll, but plenty to suit all tastes and budgets.
Fancy dress is a must, but somehow people here still manage to look rather cool and beautiful whilst swanning around in their sequin unitards. The event is well organised, keeping the more raucous grown-up shenanigans to the evening and in a very separate night-time area. There are almost two separate journeys of wholesome or hedonistic activity to be had, and the two need never meet.
Last year I celebrated my birthday here with some girlfriends, and without the kids, thus expecting a night of mayhem and rekindled lost youth. Instead however I left feeling like I’d been to a health retreat, having joined in morning the group run, having a Neal’s Yard facial and even joining in a yoga class (all are at an additional cost). Seriously non-standard festival behaviour, but it did feel refreshingly good. There is also plenty for dads to do (think archery, fly fishing, and ‘Hunter, gather, cook’), and beyond all of that, a very well curated selection of music, theatre and dance.
Pros: Lovely environment, great food and music. Very family friendly.
Cons: Lots of expensive add-on activities, not so much dancing in the day.
Dates: 24th to 26th August, 2018
Location: Chipping Norton, The Cotswolds
Although called the ‘Big Feastival’ the music offering is as good, if not better than the food offering. Ultimately people are drawn to this festival because they enjoy food, and for those, there is an array of food to purchase, cooking workshops, retail and celebrity chef demo’s. There are also some great live music acts as well as great DJ’s (including my favourite Norman Jay) meaning mum and dad can have a boogie to some great music too. For the kids, there are lots of rides, workshops, dedicated play areas and even farm animals to keep them entertained. This festival is really family oriented, and a lovely first step into the world of festivals with your children. It feels a little like Wilderness, but without the late-night activities and annoyingly beautiful groups of child-free twenty somethings.
Pro’s: Amazing food, fantastic music Line-up, lovely crowd, and day tickets available.
Con’s: Not sure there is enough going on to do more than one-night (see above re one day tickets).
Other family friendly festivals that are highly recommended:
Dates: 1st to 3rd June, 2018
Location: Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire
Dates: 13th to 15th July, 2018
Location: The Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire
Dates: 16th to 19th August. 2018
Location: Brecon Beacons, Wales
Dates: 13th to 16th August, 2018
Location: Cardross Estate, Stirlingshire
Dates: 17th to 19th August 2018
Location: Escot Park, Devon
Thank you for taking the time to read Please do let me know of you family festival favourites, and if you think that this blog was useful – please share!