Music festivals for all the family

Music festivals for all the family

Everything you need to know about enjoying the summer festival season with tots, tweenies and teens.

In the old days, a rock festival was a very different experience – a few days listening to loud music in the rainy countryside, along with thousands of teenagers who had escaped mum and dad’s house for the first taste of freedom, with only a few burger stalls and the longest toilet queues known to man for comfort.
Not any more! These days acts like Kanye West happily perform alongside Burt Bacharach, and sideshows include theatre, comedy and gourmet food. Could this be the summer you take your family to a festival?

Festivals with babies and toddlers

You’d be amazed how geared up for babies and toddlers most of the big music events are. This isn’t a great time for potty-training though – pull-up nappies could be your saviour!
• Take noise-cancelling headphones for little ones so that when they’re sitting on your shoulders watching Fatboy Slim their little ears aren’t harmed.
• Use an all-terrain pushchair. Whether it’s muddy or dusty, a field is no place for a lightweight buggy, so either take a baby carrier or if you don’t have a rugged three-wheeler pram, hire one.
• Invest in a sturdy toy wagon – brilliant for toddlers to cart about toys, lunch, drinks and quite possibly your tired toddler by the end of the day.

Festivals with children

All the best festivals have a dedicated area for kids to play and party, often with dedicated kids’ stages for acts like CBeebies stars or famous children’s authors. Many will offer sessions where you can safely leave children with trained professionals but always check credentials thoroughly.
• Before you go, check out the programme and plan your days so the kids have something to do in the mornings then some chill out time – they don’t have your stamina and if you want to catch your favourite bands later, you’re going to have to plan nap time beforehand!
• Find out what ‘lost child’ advice the festival offers. It’s worth writing your mobile number on your child’s arm in marker pen, but don’t put their name.
• Pack your bag as if for a picnic in the park x10 – lots of wipes, drinks, sunblock, spare light clothes and something reliable to sit on.

Festivals with teens

On-site security is very well organized these days, a festival can be a good way to allow your teenagers a bit of freedom to do their own thing for a few hours.
• Encourage your teen to check out the whole bill on Spotify or at band websites first and plan their days so they make the most of this chance to see lots of great music in one place.
• Make sure you’ve got a very definite meeting place arranged in advance and that they know who to ask for help if they need it.
• Encourage them to wear something with a zip-up pocket to keep cash and valuables safe, and remember – mobile phone reception isn’t always reliable in the middle of a field!


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To camp out or go home?

If you want to sample the festival fever without the hassle of putting up a tent or risking bad weather, one-day festivals are ideal. Maybe start with a local music festival near you before setting off on your first Glastonbury trek! Check your local council website for events this summer.
• If you do want to stay over, book a space in the family camping areas. These are located further away from the main stages so your little ones won’t be disturbed by late night revelers.
• Festivals offer all kinds of alternative spaces now, like huts, yurts and caravans. Some of these are budget-busting, but a good alternative is to rent a campervan for the weekend. It’s more secure too.
• If you do take a tent, make sure you adorn it with something distinctive like bright ribbons tied to the top, so your kids can find you easily among the rows of other campers.

The best of the fests

• Latitude, Suffolk: July 16-19 2015
A well-run highlight in the festivals calendar, Latitude even runs a special day when school trips can visit as part of key stage learning. Festivals really have come a long way. What would Jimi Hendrix have thought of that? Or indeed Noel Gallagher, who’s High Flying Birds are headlining this year. As a parent going to festivals like this, it pays to nurture good taste early – under-5s go free and 5-12s get in for just £8 for the whole weekend! Similarly, Glastonbury is free for all under-12s, though tickets are super-hard to get and often sell out on their first day on sale.

• Camp Bestival, Isle of Wight: July 30-August 2 2015
Along with a great music line-up, there’s a wealth of comedy, art and circus to see too. Bestival encourages a spirit of dressing up and you might easily see an entire family wandering round dressed as Where’s Wally! There’s a dedicated Upper Kids’s Garden with go carts, BigTopMania for circus skills, and a Breastival Mother and Baby Chill Out area plus everything from sandplay to catwalk dressing up for older children.

• Wilderness, Oxfordshire: August 6-9 2015
What other festival would offer Raymond Blanc as a headliner alongside Bjork? Music, theatre and food are the main themes of the festival, with live stages and feasts to enjoy. There’s a dedicated kids area with attractions including V&A Family workshops for costume and dance, and a funny theatre for little ones. There’s also child-friendly cabaret, martial arts, music, storytelling, crafts and ping pong. You can even book a registered nanny and head off to the lakeside spa for a spot of festival R&R if the mood takes you…

• Just So Festival, Cheshire: August 21-23 2015
A family celebration of music, poetry, imagination and play. There’s entertainment for all ages plus a ‘Peekaboo Glade’ with a baby feeding boudoir, nappy changing tents and bathtime with bubbles (BYO towels). There’s music sessions with ‘Cello Babies’, baby massage and hands on clay modeling sessions. The top choice with under-5s.

• End of the Road, Dorset: September 4-6 2015
With teen tickets £150 and under 12s having to pay £75, this isn’t the cheapest festival, though many parents love its rural laidback atmosphere, set in Larmer Tree Gardens. The Wonderlands area is where the workshops take place, with activities for children of all ages. These include things like painting, drawing and animation classes alongside circus tricks, songwriting sessions, yoga and origami.

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