The weather’s getting colder, the nights are getting darker and we are probably all hoping summer comes back quicker this time. You’re probably not even thinking about festivals yet (if you ever do) what with all that Christmas shopping to do, but what better gift than a festival ticket? It will come around quicker than you think and we all need something to look forward to. But can it really work if you have kids?
Festivals are not necessarily a first choice holiday destination for families with young kids. Loud music, endless beer and other substances are normally the first things that spring to mind when you think of a such a place. Not clown classes, tent-shaped pushchairs and over half of the arena dedicated to young family fun. Enter Beautiful Days festival in Devon. This folk music/comedy/theatre weekend is the Levellers festival set in the stunning Escot Park. It celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2012 and in 2011 won Best Family Festival at the UK Festival Awards. (Are you sick of the word festival too?)
But can children and drunken party-goers really mix and keep everyone happy? This is what I found…
“All lost children will be sold to the circus”. The large colourful sign points in the direction of a huge childrens arena with more colour than Toys R Us. Next to the sign stands a happy hippy with four young kids attached to him – one on his shoulders, one on his back and two clinging on to either hand. Not something you’d first expect to see as your walking to your campsite laden with beer and preparing for a heavy weekend, but this man was not an anomaly. Not being part of a multi-generation hippy family, just with my best partying friends, we felt like the anomalies.
Now don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean that main stage music wasn’t still loud and fast, the beer plenty and flowing and the parties pumping and late because in that sense it felt every bit of the music festival we had hoped for but this day-time kids club atmosphere created a whole new festival environment that included, quite literally, everyone.
I remember vividly one year, there was an area beyond the trees that had been transformed into an extremely convincing mad-hatters tea party; including a ginormous wooden dining table, loads of equally huge chairs and massive fairytale toadstools. There was no doubt we were in wonderland. For a short few days I was seven years old again. The brilliance of the set-up was that at night the parties were still raving but as all this was happening a few fields away from the family camping, we could enjoy ourselves without disturbing families or their kids.
For those of us without sprogs, the inclusion of childish fun gave the festival spirit a whole new flare. By day I had my face painted like a tiger, learned circus tricks, joined a percussion band, ate candy-floss, raced on space hoppers, span down a helter-skelter and had an incredibly convincing mad hatters tea-party. But at night I… well I’m not sure what I did, like I said the drinks were flowing! The weekend combined the late-night parties with a kid-friendly, colourful, hippy world where entertainment was there to suit all.
If you are thinking of going to a festival next summer but want to try something a little different I would highly recommend Beautiful Days. The entire weekend (and I’ve been three times now) feels like you’ve entered a different world. The imaginative decorations, childish fun, creative flair and brilliant music have repeatedly proven a winning mix for a guaranteed brilliant weekend and the August date usually provides great weather. They say it’s for everyone, and it literally is.