Festival season is in full swing and whilst heading to a field to watch your favourite bands used to mean packing your tent, sleeping bag and enough booze to last the weekend, now that you have little ones in tow the game plan can be little more complicated… The good news is that there are so many amazing festivals geared towards families now and access to facilities such as hot showers, luxury camping and amazing kids areas definitely makes things a whole lot easier.
This summer, we’ll be following a few of our A&A Collective bloggers as they take their families to some of the UK’s biggest festivals. This time, we’re off to Secret Garden Party with Hello! Fashion Monthly Style Editor and The Mumday Times blogger Ellie Crompton, her husband, and the couple’s two daughters — Bea and Tilly and their baby son Dylan. From tent decorating essentials including sheepskin rugs, fairy lights and lanterns to wet wipes and earplugs, read their diary below and get Ellie’s top tips for stress-free family festival fun.
Due to an imminent house move and a small insomniac living with us for little over 12 months now, our ability to forward plan has fallen by the wayside. As a result, our festival calendar (read entire calendar) was looking non existent this summer so when friends asked us if we’d like to do a whistle stop tour of the Secret Garden Party Festival, see a band we’d actually heard of, go backstage and hang out with all our kids we were all over them like a gold lamé catsuit. Here’s a diary of our 24-hour festival trip with three kids and enough luggage to furnish several yurts and a small cottage.
With the car packed to the rafters (I insisted on packing sheepskin rugs, quilts and lanterns and we’ve become very dependent on our raised camp beds, oh and we needed a travel cot and two types of sling obv) we arrived at the festival site with 20 minutes spare to get to the main stage to see German Folk / Reggae band Milky Chance. Sounds niche I know, but they are excellent!
Earplugs in and ear defenders on, the kids strolled up the ramp to the backstage area looking as though this was completely no biggie to them. Making our way past instruments, hairy roadies and tense people with headsets on, we got to the edge of the stage and saw the sprawling crowd stretching out in front of the stage. The kids definitely looked a bit more impressed now. Mum and dad did their best not to do mum and dad dancing while our 12-month old managed to fall asleep halfway through the set. N.B. Must play the Milky Chance album at bedtime! Maybe there will be a Milky chance of sleep! Actually, we spoke to band member Clemens after the show and he said his eight-month old daughter doesn’t sleep either so maybe not…
Next it was time for dinner. Weaving our way across wooden bridges fringed with flowers and blue dragonflies we found a row of stalls that had something to please everyone. Deep fried calamari, steak sandwiches and avocado sushi for baby Dylan. We did some great people watching from our table and realised that we were seriously underdressed. The theme for the festival was The Gardener’s Guide to the Galaxy and there were some truly amazing get-ups. Secret Garden Party is by far the most outrageous and bonkers festival I have ever been to in terms of costumes and I had a bad case of dramatic cape and gauzy ruff envy. Without a sequin between us we quickly doused ourselves in glitter to up our cred – amazing what you can do with some lipgloss and a pot of sparkle.
From our spot we wandered down to the river to watch a spectacular fireworks and laser display and a giant intergalactic pyramid opening its lid to release hundreds of white balloons into the sky. Dylan slept through everything.
By now the six year olds and the ten year olds in our group were desperate to go on the Ferris Wheel that looked as though it rotated at least 20 times per minute and the flying chairs ride that mocked the very concept of health and safety… With our hearts in our mouths we let them clamber onto the contraptions with the dads muttering things like “good for them, good for their confidence”. Needless to say they wanted to go on both rides again and again, in spite of a demented man wrapped in fairy lights determined to make his swing turn upside down.
After crepes, churros and chai teas it was finally time to go to bed. Our fractious, insanely tired, adrenalin pumped kids were finally soothed to sleep. And then the baby woke up. Gah! * The dads might have gone out ’til the small hours after this.
While I tried to catch up on a couple of hours sleep, the rest of the gang headed off for breakfast and found a great muesli café sheltered by a tall fence. Half way through eating they realised that on the other side of the tall fence, a nude trampolining session was in full swing and that the trampoliners were extremely high bouncers. Pictures of this (there are some) have been excluded in case anyone reading this is trying to eat their breakfast…
After a restorative strawberry and banana Lickalix lolly (we visited this van a lot) and some churros with chocolate sauce (guilty) I joined everyone at the kid’s section of the festival which was fantastic, not least, because they had the quietest and cleanest loos of the whole festival. Bea, and their pals crafted, made tutus, went to circus school and played in the toy filled bell tents while the parents chilled out. Perfect!
After lots of exploring – the site is huge and there was so much to see – we found a shady spot for lunch and then there was more popping in and out of canvas boutiques and listening to fringe acts on the smaller stages. A highlight was stumbling upon the Wonky Races area where you could grab a giant space hopper and bounce to the beat of Fat Boy Slim and other epic choons.
We rounded up the day with another session in the kid’s area where we watched the fantastically eccentric Rhubarb Theatre Company performing their Explorers Galores show which had everyone transfixed including the baby who had to be restrained from crawling onto the stage several times.
After one more round of chai teas and churros we headed back to the campsite and piled our luggage into a lesser spotted festival taxi (thank you festival gods!) and headed back to our car. Dylan was asleep until the moment we lowered him into the carseat…
ELLIE’S FESTIVAL CAMPING TIPS
Pack some sheepskin rugs – sounds crazy but you can line the car seats with them so they don’t take up too much room en route and then they make the tent super cosy, cover scratchy hay bale seats and make excellent lounging mats for babies.
Give older kids their own backpacks or cross body bags so they can carry their own tissues, glitter and wipes etc.
If you’re camping for a few days raised camp beds are great for your back and perfect for stowing all the mess underneath so that your tent doesn’t look like a post-festival field from day one.
Bunting makes everything pretty – we forgot ours.
Take a sling. If your child still fits into one it is so much easier than ploughing a buggy across uneven grass through hoards of people.
Fairylights – no tent is complete without a string of fairy lights to guide you back home.
Baby wipes – even without a baby these are used at least 20 times per day at a festival. I always pack several of our usual fragrance free packs and at least one scented pack to use as a nostril guard when I use the portaloo. It works!
A potty for the kids if they need to go in the night.
Torches and lanterns. It is a nightmare if you get back the tent and can’t see a thing.
With thanks to Ellie Crompton of The Mumday Times X