This year we went to our first family festival: Green Man, in Crickhowell, Wales. Like most of the larger festivals in the UK, the tickets weren’t cheap. At over £200 per adult, they cost almost as much as an overseas break. But if you worked out how much you would pay separately to see all the bands, film screenings and kids’ entertainment – the ticket worked out at good value for a four-day pass.
I was nervous before we left. Our children are five and three; would they sleep AT ALL? Could we stop them from running off and getting lost in the crowds? And would they be bored while we watched our favourite bands on stage?
But it turned out to be a cracking weekend, thanks to seven essentials which, if missing, might have led to a lot less fun (and more grumbling).
Our children had very clear ideas about what they wanted to do at the festial. None of it involved sitting nicely with a pair of ear protectors on while Mummy listened to the latest in Norwegian electro-folk. D and I took it in turns to go ‘out’ in the evenings, so we weren’t too bothered by not being able to see bands during the day; we quickly realised that the best (and only) way for us all to enjoy the daytimes, was to meander along at the children’s pace. The high point of Green Man for me and D was when our children found two huge clay dragon sculptures. They spent over an hour carving and decorating the beasts, while D and I lay on the grass nearby, reading the papers and napping. Bliss.
Camping is tough. Let’s face it, the ground is never going to be anything but hard and cold. Even a blow-up airbed isn’t pleasant to lay down on, especially when it deflates overnight. But if you have some soft, downy pillows to bury your head into while the raindrops patter on canvas, you might be able to convince yourself there’s something luxurious about sleeping in a tent.
Snacks (tons and tons of them)
As it was our first festival, we decided not to invest in cooking gear. The food at Green Man was good quality, and there was plenty to satisfy fussy little eaters – like pasta, pizza, or fish and chips. But it wasn’t cheap, and the queues were often long, so we packed loads of fruit and snack bars to whip out when the volume of grumbles was rising above the sound of the band in the next tent.
There were a lot of tents in the family camping area (150,000 people camp at Green Man). Some of canny campers had put up flags. We were lucky enough to have a distinctive one near us which looked a bit like a giant white sperm; it was invaluable for directing friends to our pitch, and for finding our way back home. Especially at night, after a beer or two. So next time, I’ll definitely be packing a flag to mark out our mini-kingdom.
If you were able to pick just one of these seven essentials, I’d say friends was the most important. We were lucky enough to go to Green Man as part of a huge gang. So we had kind hands to help carry our gear from the car (it was a looong way to the pitch); little companions for our kids to run around with; people to chat to at the tents, for those on childcare duty in the evening; and a big group to leap around with in front of the stage. Without this, Green Man would have been hard work, and a lot less fun.
Some of our clever friends had packed gazebos, so there was a place to put our stuff under when we arrived (it was drizzly, and we didn’t want those nice pillows getting wet….). The gazebos were also perfect for the evenings, when at least one parent had to stay with the children. If you can’t get out to see the bands at night, it’s much more fun to sit under a gazebo drinking wine with other grown-ups, than huddling in a tent with children who will – not – go – to – sleep.
On the day we left Green Man, the skies were pelting it down as only good Welsh skies know how to. I have to admit, I was relieved to leave that morning. I didn’t fancy a day of rain, after the night’s storms, which had driven water into our tent and soaked my son’s sleeping bag. But when the sun shone, Green Man was blissful. The children paddled in the pool; they roamed from tent to tent; practised their circus skills, and lived outdoors in a way that’s only possible when you’re camping.
Shame you can’t order good weather for a weekend, though.
What are your family festival essentials? Do they change as your children get older?
If you’re looking for more about this year’s family festivals, do head over to Zena’s Suitcase for all your festival and family travel needs.
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