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.