The first time we took our children to a music festival it rained and rained, a relentless, torrential downpour which meant we were unable to leave our tent.
This didn’t matter in the least, camping was a brand new experience and just the thrill of being within four canvas walls, with a miniature stove to cook on and a potty masquerading as a loo, was enough.
For them it was all about the eggs and bacon we cooked for breakfast. For us, there was music and cider, albeit in snatched twenty minute slots and more kids’ entertainment than you’d find in a Mark Warner holiday camp.
There are like minded parents too, all trying to recapture a bit of those carefree, solo days while occupying their offspring with some alternative culture.
Camp Bestival in Dorset’s Lulworth Castle is like the master class in family festivals.
By day there is jousting to watch, farm animals to feed, a fancy dress tent to mess about in and an entire field dedicated to craft making.
By night you can feed your music habit – we tuned into Florence and the Machine, Black Kids and Flaming Lips; this year they are promising Madness and Friendly Fires.
The whole vibe is slightly bonkers – staff in Butlins-style blue coats shouting through megaphones, burlesque dancers and parents dressed as teacups.
One word of warning, though – the site is huge, crowded and officially kiddie heaven – so you may well experience a heartstopping moment when a child goes missing. The security is very good, however – children are tagged with parents’ mobile phone details and there are plenty of lost and found tents.
With this is mind I’ve come to think small is beautiful when it comes to kids and music festivals.
After one particularly rainy, mud-sodden Glastonbury with our children, we said never again. Small legs walking mile after mile through sticky toffee mud and nowhere to sit down – it just wasn’t fun for anyone.
Our most successful festival to date has beenDare 2 in Tollard Royal. This event takes place in early July in a picturesque sloping field. The big draw for kids is mountain boarding but dance classes, arts and crafts and small theatre shows also run through the weekend. In the evening there’s a huge bonfire and live music. The main thing here is the freedom – it’s small and safe, so you can allow your children to roam. You won’t get the big name bands but as a boutique family camping experience it can’t be beaten.
The Larmer Tree Festival on the Wilts/Dorset border is also another great place to take children. Regulars go for their annual fix of Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra – this year Alison Moyet will be performing with him.
Children will love the resident peacocks and macaws, the walkabout theatre and a giant adventure playground.
Here they go to town on the artsy craftsy side of things.
Also worth checking out is The End of the Road Festival which is held at The Larmer Tree in September. This folk festival is magical – a spectacular setting, there’s even a small woodland lit up with fairy lights and decorated with hundreds of toy soldiers. The End Of the Road is more about music than kids’ entertainment – this year’s line up includes Iron & Wine, Black Mountain and Wilco – but it’s a great place to hang out and the ice creams are excellent.
What more could they need?
Thinking of taking your kids to any festivals or carnivals this summer? Any ones we’ve missed out?