UK music festivals have developed considerably over the last decade or so and none more so than family friendly festivals. For some the thought of a festival where the whole family can enjoy themselves is a living nightmare. However many people who became festival junkies when the market for such events began to explode in the early 90’s now find themselves as parents, but they are still addicted to the community spirit, freedom and unadulterated joy that the best festivals can bring. This addiction leads them to seek out new family friendly events where mum and dad can immerse themselves in the pleasures of live music in the open air, but the kids can have a grand old time as well. The best family festivals provide so much more than some duff bands and a tokenistic ‘kids area’ tucked away in a corner somewhere with a face painter as the main attraction - instead they provide a magical experience which may include circus, crafts, dance, theatre, art and even the odd childrens star ‘personality’. One of the most surreal sights at last years Camp Bestival was thousands of tots singing along to Mr Tumble. It certainly wasn't My Bloody Valentine or Motorhead.
Of course when you’re a single twenty year old you probably may think the idea of a load of under 10’s running amok in a field is living hell, but ask yourself this - when you get older and if you have kids, what will you do ? Just give up settle into a life of mediocrity?
Of course a family friendly festival is different in many ways to something like Reading or V Festival. You can certainly expect to feel a lot safer. The chance of someone setting fire to the portaloos is virtually nil and they will be a lot cleaner - it seems that kids can use the things better than drunk adults. You’ll also almost undoubtedly get a better nights sleep on the campsite. And during the day the influence of so many children can actually have a charming and calming effect on non-parent adults as well as parents. But they’re not for everyone. Some parents will find the whole thing too daunting, whilst other non-parents will simply become annoyed by the fundamentally different lifestyles of families. As someone posted on last years Camp Bestival forum “There were far too many children there.” A child posted back that they found that insulting “I thought there were too many adults.” Some may find them a little bit too ‘tame’ and not rock n roll enough. Ultimately it depends on what perspective you come from.
Here at Breaking More Waves we’re pretty seasoned music festival goers having attended nearly fifty of the things from the huge (Glastonbury) to the small (Blissfields), and so have our children. This year we’ll be reporting back from at least two family friendly festivals and whilst our main focus in our posts will be on the music, we’ll be sure to be sampling everything from The House of Fairy Tales at Camp Bestival to the Roald Dahl Museum and Children’s Literary Festival at Wychwood.
But the music is vital. Never forget that. There seems to be an assumption by some that once you become a parent your interest in music stops. Music is for life, not just for youth - an analogy would be telling someone they can only go to the cinema until they have children and then they have to stop.
It’s imperative that the family friendly festivals we choose have to have some great new music as well as nostalgic acts. This is why Camp Bestival comes up trumps with the likes of Breaking More Waves favourites Stornoway, Hurts, Ellie Goulding, Gold Panda, Unicorn Kid and Summer Camp alongside Madness, The Human League and Billy Bragg. Wychwood too has Beth Jeans Houghton, Goldheart Assembly and the soon to be announced BBC Introducing Stage which will have a host of new and exciting bands alongside The Happy Mondays, The Levellers and Seth Lakeman.
The best family-friendly festivals don’t just wallow in musical nostalgia, but provide a broad range of artists, as well as a huge plethora of activities for young and old alike. We’ll probably still be going to them as grandparents.