Children and Festivals

Much has been written on the subject of children at festivals. At best, there’s the funny stuff like this and at worst, parents are called selfish and cruel for wanting to drag their offspring through the mud. (That article is ancient, but it got my goat when it came out.)

After a second successful Kendal Calling with Tom in tow, I’d say it depends very much on the festival. I wouldn’t advise taking children to T in the Park, for example, where the mud-and-wellie Karma Sutra was photographed and went viral on Twitter a couple of weeks ago. Nor would I advise taking your child to a festival where it takes three hours to walk from A to B and you really want to see loads of bands (Glastonbury, for example.) And I’d avoid taking offspring to the wee-throwing, tent-torching, post-exam madness that is Reading and Leeds.

But if you can find a small, friendly festival that’s got stuff for kids, it can be one of the best ways to spend a weekend together. I love the feeling of escaping real life that you get at a festival and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather share it with than my son. This one was the best so far, because Tom was big enough to find his way back to our tent after the loo. Also, more than ever, he just seemed to ‘get’ what the festival was all about.

He beamed all weekend. It could have had something to do with the freebies he kept collecting along his way: a mango, two peacock feathers and a pair of trippy glasses that make all lights look like love hearts. But most of all, I think it was because he felt completely and utterly free.

Bear with me if that sounds a bit hippy, but it really did strike me as I watched him running around the field, all muddied up. Living in our pavement-fronted house with only the alley means he doesn’t feel that free too often (although he does frequently sprint to our doorstep from the corner shop, leaving me shouting “MIND THE DOG POO, MIND THE DOG POO!” after him.)

Mum came round last night to look at the photos. There was one of him clambering on a twisty tree branch and she said “Look at him there, doing what children are supposed to do.”

Of course, children can do all that in the local park, but it’s not quite the same. Where else could you play cricket with water bombs in the afternoon, have a delicious curry for tea, then go and see Dizzee Rascal put on a spectacular show with lasers and glitter canons in the evening? OK, we might have had to censor that a little bit (“Mum, did he just say the SH word?” and “Let’s go flipping bonkers”) but still…

When I lay in bed on the early hours of Monday morning, sure I could just about hear Riot Jazz over the fug of my earplugs, I wasn’t that bothered. It was worth missing the late night stuff to spend it with my favourite person this time.

I spent my childhood summers at church garden parties and fêtes. If Tom is anything like me, he’ll rebel when he gets to thirteen and announce that he’s had enough. But for now, festivals are the most fun we have together. I’d urge anyone who loves festivals and thinks they have to stop going because they have children to just do it. It’ll be a different kind of experience, but it will be brilliant. Heck, if there’s two of you, you can even do shifts…

We couldn’t have done Kendal Calling without ace friends who gave us lifts and hugs, bought the odd ice cream and hoisted Tom on to their shoulders so he could see the stage. They know who they are.

Also, we couldn’t have done it without baby wipes, my trusty bum bag, the Big Ikea Bag (for sitting on and carting stuff round), loads of layers and Traveljohns (Google them, but not if anyone can see your monitor.)

This post is not sponsored but if anyone wants to send us free Traveljohns or bum bags, I’m all ears.



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9 responses to “Children and Festivals

  1. What a fab fest-your Mum\’s right, climbing twisty trees and having these freeing experiences are what kids are meant to do-they are formulative and fun and he\’ll always remember them!!

    • Emily

      I think he will always remember them, you’re right. Very precious memories. Hope all is going well with your baby bump.

  2. Sounds ace! And to add my voice to the chorus of festival-goers – we brought our 15 month-old to Latitude this year and it was amazing. Very, very family friendly, lots of kids there ranging from teeny to teens, a whole kids’ area including a baby/toddler tent with free tea and coffee for the parents and a baby-bath session every evening for people with very little ones. Seren did fall into an in-between category – too prone to sprinting away to enjoy the toddler tent d d too little for the big kids’ carousel, etc, but she had a blast nonetheless. Roaming around the woods, watching people blow bubbles, having a dance… I’d recommend it to anyone. Like you we skipped the very late night stuff but otherwise she just slept in the sling while we watched the acts. Loved it. (Though it helped that I had a press pass – it’s bloody expensive otherwise…)

    • Emily

      Thanks, Valerie. Sounds like your lovely little girl had a whale of a time at Latitude. I honestly think they’re never too young – and it’s actually loads easier when you can cart them around in a sling or a buggy.. means you get to stay up a bit later! Make the most of that bit, I say. And it’s still ace when you have to go to bed early.. just a different kind of festival (nice when the sun beats you out of your tent at 7am and you have actually had some sleep!) They are dear dos, you’re right, but can make a good alternative to holidays.

  3. Hello there! Long time no see!! (that phrase doesn’t really work when it’s just due to the fact I haven’t read blogs for months…but hey, it’ll do!) So lovely to read your writing again, I always think you have such a talent. Sounds like Tom had a blast. I was wondering whether to take Sam to one of the local ‘Fake Festivals’ this year but decided against it as the music might be too loud and he’d be bored (he’s nearly 3). When did you start taking Tom? I think as a young mum I should also try to fill the boots of being a cool mum too…I already have theme parks firmly implanted in my brain (not for Sam’s benefit particularly, I just friggin love them!) but maybe I should add festivals to the list!

    • Emily

      Hello! Thanks for your lovely comment.
      I took Tom to his first festival when he was 3 – and came away wishing I’d done it sooner.
      It was a small, one night affair, so it was the perfect introduction. I bought him some ear defenders and they were a great investment as they only cost a few quid and they still fit him now. They’re essential really – and you won’t have to worry about the noise levels if Sam has a pair.
      I’d say go for it, but take friends if you can. I’ve just written a blog post about Beacons fest, which is happening the weekend after next in Yorkshire. I reckon trying it for one night is a good idea if you want to find out if it’s for you. Good luck, but you won’t need it!

  4. Pingback: Beacons Festival 2012: Family-friendly and Ace | My Shitty Twenties

  5. Jude

    LOVE traveljohns 😉

  6. I am sure that the staff within Kendal Calling look at blog posts like this and smile. I think they work very hard at making it friendly to all and its a great place to give kids that experience. Hope you visit again its all good for the community 🙂

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