Relive Your Glory Days
Why should adults have all the fun? And why should festivals become a memory once you start breeding? No reason. More and more festivals are putting kids activities front and centre, without alienating the adults who pay. It’s spring, thoughts are turning to summer, so on this page we present ten of the best family friendly festivals.
Festivals are magical. They offer freedom, spontaneity, an escape from structure and routine. You can leave your professional hat at home and simply cut loose. Silliness is encouraged. Boredom is banned. They’re safe spaces where we can live how we wish we did. Seeing your kids experience that for the first time is priceless.
Don’t get us wrong, festivals with kids are different. It’s probably best to save your mind mangling for another time. Go with your other half and of course you can enjoy a late night. But remember you’re there for the next generation.
The challenges of festivals are exacerbated by rug rats. Losing your child in the crowd. Mud all over, well, everything. Sleepiness, tantrums, constant hunger: these are all things you’ll have deal with. But if you’re a parent you’re used to it, so don’t let it put you off.
To prepare, you could do worse than writing your mobile number on your child’s arm in indelible marker. Like a kid we saw at Secret Garden Party telling dirty jokes for a quid. Right Victorian urchin he was. And take plenty of snacks. You don’t want to be shelling out £9.50 for hand-reared lobster rolls each time your little darling gets peckish.
Black Deer Festival
Eridge Park, Kent
An authentic celebration of Americana and Country that’s also good for families? You betcha. Listen to Iron and Wine, Passenger, and Jason Isbell, among many others. Young ‘uns are well catered for with tree-top climbing, adventure survival lessons, music classes, and creative workshops. Supajam, a remarkable education provider that supports disadvantaged young adults who have an interest in music, will be hosting their own stage.
Catton Hall, Derbyshire
It won't come as a surprise to hear that beards, real or otherwise, are encouraged here. The 2018 lineup for this award-winning and laid-back festival includes The Coral, Jimmy Cliff and Robert Plant. The festival takes place during term time, so the organisers have cleverly arranged actual schooling. They’ll even send the scheme of work to headteachers to help secure your kid’s freedom.
The Big Feastival
Alex James’ Farm, The Cotswolds
Head to Alex James’ gaff for a food and music extravaganza. Audible acts include Olly Murs, Madness, and De La Soul. Edible acts will be performed by top chefs such as Rick Stein and Antonio Carluccio. There’s a cookery school for kids. And a sensory experience called Field to Fork, where the journey of ingredients is brought to life.
Vicarage Farm, Hampshire
Blissfields has been going for nearly 20 years, but this year they’re taking a break. In its stead, they present Blisscamp: an intimate festival in the heart of the Hampshire countryside. A very green ethos at its heart, and storytelling and acrobatics on the lineup. Music acts include Slamboree, Beans on Toast and Dub Pistols.
Lulworth Castle, Dorset
One of the first festivals to evolve from its adult progenitor, Camp Bestival is the family orientated little sister of Bestival. Set near the craggy Dorset coastline and featuring Clean Bandit, Simple Minds, Orbital, and a DJ set from Basement Jaxx. Kids activities include ZSL London Zoo: Gruesome Nature Live! - an interactive musical show sharing scary facts about grisly creatures.
Baldersby Park, North Yorkshire
Goldfrapp, Drenge, and Field Music for starters. Comedy, spoken word, soldering lessons and all manner of adrenaline sports for the kids. And that’s just a tiny taster. There’s so much going on at this lovely festival, you’ll feel very smug that you brought your tribe. As you recline in the wood-fired hot tub sipping prosecco.
Glanusk Park, Wales
A legend on the festival circuit. Green Man offers three days of music with more than 100 acts on a glorious site nestled in the Brecon Beacons national park. Headliners: The War On Drugs, Fleet Foxes, John Grant. Expand young minds with art installations, film tents and Welsh poetry. The FutureGenerations area is curated exclusively for young people under 18.
Larmer Tree Festival
Larmer Tree Gardens, Cranborne Chase
Intimate, eccentric and pleasingly small, Larmer Tree Festival offers a unique, child-friendly party experience in the beautifully landscaped surrounds of a Victorian pleasure garden. The eclectic lineup includes folk, world music, roots, blues and reggae. First Aid Kit, Jake Bugg, and Public Service Broadcasting to name but three. The young ones can choose from 150 workshops and talks, as well as enjoying the dedicated kids’ zone.
Hengam Park, Suffolk
Latitude is a big festival with big acts like The Killers, Solange, and Alt-J. Despite this, it still feels special. The activities make full use of the woods and the lake. There is a wide range of kids fun including comedy, pizza making and stargazing. There’s loads of stuff for teenagers too. No need for the in-betweeners to be left out.
Shambala went fully vegetarian in 2016 and has never looked back. This year the organisers hope the festival will be powered by 100% renewable energy. No acts have been announced yet but tickets are selling out fast. The fancy dress theme this time is Avant Garden. Get togged up and dance on down to the roller disco.
Indulge your aristocratic fantasies in the grounds of a 16th Century manor house. But with less ballroom dancing and more Paloma Faith, George Ezra, and Bryan Ferry. Standon Calling is cashless. Top up your wristband and take your cherubs on a musical and cultural adventure. A highlight for the kids is the Horrible Histories stage, where a brand new Barmy Britain show will be unleashed.
Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire
An eclectic and sophisticated cultural lineup. Banquets, stimulating talks, and late-night parties. Reckon your kids would enjoy an overnight forest camp? You’re in the right place. How do you fancy revelling in a hyperrealism-themed tent hosted by Veuve Clicquot? Step this way. Cut classy shapes to Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, Bastille, and Jon Hopkins.
Have fun, play safe. And tell your barber all about it. Bring on the summer!