Mum, is this for real life?
We were walking under floating umbrellas, towards the arch with bright lights spelling out Just So Festival.
My 4-year-old turned to me, wide-eyed and asked again, ‘Is this for real life or is it a dream?’
I assured him it was real but, in truth, Just So Festival was a little bit of both.
The boutique family festival, only our second family camping experience, was a calmer, even more kiddie-focused experience than the awesome Camp Bestival 2012.
There are no big name bands, no TV stars pulling the crowds, but we never ran out of things to do.
Just So Festival is intimate, creative and utterly enchanting. We found delights around every corner.
Plus with live music throughout the day and retro discos every night, we danced our wellies off.
In the evenings, there were campfire bands, a woodland bar and toasting marshmallows.
During the day, there was so much to explore we’d only covered half the site by Sunday. In the Spellbound Forest you might run into an elf making a lantern for the magical parade or, to my little man’s delight, a cuddly Gruffalo.
We even had our picture taken in the moon.
Rain paused play on Saturday, although we managed to catch La Balade de Bergerac swinging through the air, capoeira dancers spinning, fire juggling and Sing-a-long Jungle Book in the open-air cinema.
Happiness is sitting on wet hay stacks beside my boys in their bright yellow ponchos, singing ‘Bare Necessities’ with a bunch of strangers.
My boys loved staying up for a Midnight Feast featuring an acoustic set by the Lovely Eggs, storytelling, popcorn and hot chocolate.
On Sunday we ventured further afield, wandering the flower maze, up towards the High Seas (where pirate training sold out early) and the Buckets & Spades beach.
We tried our hands at stone balancing, looked for winged beings in Away with the Faeries and caught the end of a Midsummer Night’s Dream in All the World’s a Stage.
The boys got stuck in at a Pillow Fight in the wood.
The mass hay fight after cowboy training finished was even wilder.
Young and old, chasing each other with armfuls of straw, laughing breathlessly. I loved seeing one dad tip his son out of his wheelchair so he could crawl forward and join the fun.
The big finale of Just So Festival is the spectacular Wild Rumpus where all the animal tribes dress up, march, drum and dance from starting point to The Social. The truly fabulous Owls deserved to win the Tribal Tournament.
Although my Lion cubs weren’t too happy with the results.
They perked up at the ’80s disco where boogied the night away until they tossed us out (at 11pm, too early). Nearing midnight, we found more families clinging onto the embers of the festival at the woodland bar.
As the band played, the babes tossed sticks into the fire and a bartender handed me a free gin and tonic. Perfect end to an amazing weekend.
Bring on next year. Roooooar!
Toilets. The loos were clean, flushable and although not quite so rosy by Sunday night, perfectly manageable. We didn’t even bother to unpack our Bog in a Bag.
Disco. At one point there was a circle of whooping onlookers while the babes tore up the floor. They get it from their mama.
People. Warm, friendly, chatty and many were Just So Festival regulars.
Rain. Thankfully there was enough action in the tents and barns where you could escape the downpours.
Bedwetting. Note to self: ain’t no shame in popping the kids in ‘night-time pants’ when camping!
Running out of iPhone juice and discovering I didn’t have my charger (charging was £1 per 1hr in the Barnardos tent). Luckily a lady in the Information Tent lent me hers. I don’t know your name, but thank you!
One final wristband salute.
‘La Balade de Bergerac was one of the best aerial shoes I’ve ever seen in my life. Sing along a Jungle Book was also great. Toasting mallows was fun as well. I also pulled off some moves on the dance floor at the disco. I had lots of fun at the Wild Rumpus.’
Thanks to Sarah and Rowan for their generosity, creativity and talent and to all those who helped make us feel part of the Just So community.
Early bird tickets are on sale for Just So Festival 2014.
**We received free tickets to review Just So Festival 2013. All opinions are strictly my own.