‘I don’t do camping,’ she said, wrinkling her nose. ‘All that mud everywhere, struggling to put up tents, bugs crawling about, and where the hell do you pee?’
Yes, I was once that person. I love my creature comforts and spending a night in the open didn’t appeal to me in the slightest. Then I went camping at a family festival, and everything changed.
I lost my festi-ginity at Camp Bestival. As the solo adult going, I was chucked in at the deep end. I packed a pop-up tent, sleeping bags, two little ones, and boarded a train from London for 4 days of music and mayhem. We had the time of our lives.
Whether you’re a camping newbie or a Glasto veteran, there’s something extra special (and especially extra) about a family festival. Some of my happiest times with my kids have been in the middle of a field, waving hands in the air like we just don’t care, before stumbling back to our tent by torchlight.
I’ve shaken the hand of Chic legend Nile Rodgers, watched Grace Jones hula hooping in a tutu, danced under a shower of purple confetti in a Prince tribute. Yet many of the moments I treasure are just sitting on grass, watching bubbles float past, as I munch on a cob of corn. Or snuggled up with my boys in a sleeping bag, telling the tallest tales imaginable.
On our first day at Just So Festival in Cheshire, my then 4-year-old asked me, ‘Mum is this for real life, or is it a dream?’ And I’ll never forget his little face when we bumped into The Gruffalo – the actual Gruffalo – in the forest.
Sure many festivals cost an arm and your grandma. But compared to a family evening in the West End, it’s huge value for money. Where else can you immerse yourself in theatre, comedy, foodie fun, literary activities, woodcrafts and forestry, arts and crafts, family raves and discos, science, cinema, messy play… in the space of a weekend?! These days, most festivals offer payment plans too so you can spread the costs.
The best family festival is an alternative universe where anything can happen. One of the few places you can recapture your childhood spirit while indulging in proper grown-up fun.
For kids, it’s a wonderful, topsy-turvy world where normal rules and routines don’t apply. Big and small people romping about in wings and wellies, fur and glitter, tutus and dragon tails. Giant sculptures, carnival parades, fireworks. Midnight feasts and pillow fights. Knights on horseback jousting. Mind-bending circus, bubble sorcery and belly painting.
And yes, there’s often rain and mud baths and sometimes storms that send your tent flying. By the final day, the loos inevitably stink and at some point, you’ll lose your will to go on. It’s a festival, fam. You can’t avoid the sweat, tears, dirt, smells, tantrums.
But don’t let any of that stop you.
Because no matter what, you will experience magic.
Whether it’s watching your 5-year-old really getting down to a live band for the first time. Or when your babes are tucked up in a trolley, and you’re screaming your head off to your favourite artist. Or getting a sudden rush of joy, for no specific reason, and seeing that reflected in your little one’s eyes.
‘I like seeing little kids running around at Camp Bestival. It’s probably the first time some of them have ever been to a festival and they’re probably having the best time in their lives.’ – Ezra
Set Sail for Camp Bestival
Our 4th visit to Camp Bestival in 2017 felt just like coming home. It was the wettest, muddiest Camp Bestival in memory, but as soon as we settled in, we were happy little campers. We caught an amazing closing set by Leftfield, and danced our wellies off with Big Fish Little Fish in the Bollywood tent. If you try just one family festival, we recommend Camp Bestival. It’s the largest one aimed at kids, with brilliant acts and super friendly crowds. Camp Bestival is at Lulworth Castle in Dorset, with a nautical theme for 2018. Weekend and day tickets are still available at http://www.campbestival.net/.
Boomtown Fair: Chapter 10
This August, we are LEAPING WITH EXCITEMENT to be official bloggers at Boomtown Fair, a theatrical festival in Hampshire, that attracts 60,000+ revellers! Headliners include Gorillaz among an immense lineup of artists and entertainment across 12 ‘districts’. Boomtown Fair also offers KidzTown just for families. Boomtown Fair enters Chapter 10 (on Aug 8-12) in Hampshire. For the first time this year, the festival will open on a Wednesday allowing a select number of guests early access. Limited RESALE TICKETS are available from today (Jun 6), so hurry if you want to nab some for you and your clan!
Wild Child in the City
Babes about Town is also a blog partner for Wild Child, a boutique festival for families with kids ages 0 to 11, launching this summer in Dulwich. If you’d like to dip your toes in the festival experience, this is your perfect way in. There’s no camping and it will cater to just 500 families a day. We can’t wait. Early bird day tickets start at £24, under 3’s are £5, babies up to 18 months are FREE More info at www.wildchildfestivals.co.uk (Aug 17-19)
Next year, we’re angling for Glastonbury and one day, fingers crossed, we’ll hit the playa for Burning Man in Nevada. For now, I’ll leave you with a flashback to Camp Bestival 2016 with Big Fish Little Fish.
Top Tips for a Family Festival
Glastonbury’s Tips for Bringing Babies and Toddlers
A Field Somewhere’s 10 Tips to Survive Festivals with Kids
What to Pack for a Family Festival
Ideas for No-Cook (mostly) Food to Take Camping
Need more inspiration? See our Top 25 Choices for Family Festivals in London and Beyond!