Festival Like a Pro
Festival Like a Pro
Festivals are part of my family’s DNA. My husband’s job as festival organiser has given us unrestricted access to some of the most popular family-friendly festivals in the calendar. My eldest son Jack spent his first 7 summers at Camp Bestival, learning the ways of wild living. Crawling, toddling, running from field to field. Honing his senses to sniff out the next marvel that would blow his mind. With my sister as my wingman, we’ve navigated misadvised early bedtimes (never try and get your kids to bed before it goes dark, no matter how young it is not worth the battle), worked out that early rising kids means no queue at the showers and found that tag teaming babysitting gave us all an opportunity to stay out with a bit of wild abandon. Camping at festivals is quite unlike any canvas adventure I can remember from my own childhood. My youngest boy Alfie came along 3 years into our annual pilgrimage. That was the year we took a time-out from on-site camping and found we missed the little moments that weave a festival weekend together.
Falling asleep to the distant hum of basslines, the bliss of the bubble where for a short time reality doesn’t exist. Where perfecting a glittery eye is the highlight of the morning routine. We felt too clean, like polite guests stopping by when we arrived on site each day. The compromise of juggling my little family while my husband worked was to hire a motor-home and for the next two years we found our festival nirvana. Pampered? A little. But my god I was grateful for that toilet! I’ve watched my children grow against a backdrop of unimaginable creativity. Each summer, milestones have been measured by the speed at which we could navigate the site. How late we managed to stay out (answer not very!). That time when Jack discovered a love for a plastic guitar and spent the whole weekend dancing to his own rhythm. Watching the DJ’s delight in his funny little swagger. Seeing my boys confidence bloom under the bright lights of a circus marquee as he robot danced his way to first place in the talent competition was a high point. I’ve never seen Jack so at ease in front of a crowd. And for one magical moment he was king of the festival.
We finessed our packing list. Prioritised the important stuff (glitter) and learnt the importance of light layers as day turns to dusk, sun turns to a torrential downpour. Side note to the fashion-loving maven, walking around a site in flip flops when you’re pushing a buggy and chasing after marauding toddlers is never a good idea. But you will never regret packing something with sequins and sparkle. Pack wellies for everyone and go as bright as you dare with waterproofs. Everything exists in Technicolor at a festival so don’t dull your senses with anything that looks too practical. Navigating fussy eaters became my personal area of expertise. What did I learn? Well I quickly discovered that loading up on breakfasts of eggs, beans, sausages and toast while the arenas are quiet helps to start the day in the right frame of mind. Bringing fresh fruit for snacks helped to appease my parental fears of malnutrition. A smoothie by the main stage on a chilled Sunday morning made good the indulgences. Graze. Graze. Graze. A charcoal-cooked sweetcorn mid afternoon followed by a pizza back at camp is every bit as satisfying as a proper dinner. The choices are limitless – who knows, they might even try something new (spoiler, mine never did).
Over the years we learnt that it was never a waste of time to plot up in unexpected places and just let the thrum of the festival pulse through us. At Camp Bestival we could often be found wiling away hours in the woodland play spaces of Lizzy’s Way. Making potions with leaves and brass goblets. Digging for treasure in a shady spot. Aimless, endless roaming and weekend’s where we didn’t manage to see even one musical act have also become customary in our bank of festival memories. And yet I would still advocate taking time to bond back at the tent or pitch up for a few hours in a shady spot. Take a nap. Let the kids go feral in their pants while you all enjoy a break from the hedonism.
My biggest mistake came in year 6 when I thought my kids were finished with our trusted off-road buggy. WRONG! I completely underestimated how reliant we were on our wheels and after dragging two ice-cream smeared, weeping toddlers across 3 fields I vowed never to enter a festival site without a buggy again. We have commandeered trollies and loaded ourselves up with supplies and layers. But a word of warning to any festival novice. Those rides are HEAVY. Like pulling a garland-covered rhino up a mountain. The kids love them. The kids also fight like possessive cats over who sits where and which limbs have the right to stretch. I’ve never managed to fancy dress a trolley but have massive respect to the families who construct architectural feats on these humble little carts. I refer again to the weight thing. But can’t deny a twinkly string of fairy lights is charming.
With my husband now working on other events, we’ve hung up our Camp Bestival dancing shoes. For now. But our time will come again. Attending a camping festival as a young family will challenge your stamina, your bank balance and emotional resolve if you’re subjected to a wet one. But whether your drenched in rain or sunshine, when surrounded by smiley, dancing tots and party-loving parents there is no place on earth that can make you feel so free and so connected as a family.