Calling all Festival Goers - what makes a good Family Friendly Festival?

(66 Posts)
carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 05-Mar-12 17:22:03

I'm talking at a Festival organiser's event on Thursday, on a panel of two with the chap from the Lollibop festival.

They've asked me to talk about:

What is the difference between family audiences and other festival audiences? (to include discussion on entertainment, facilities, spending habits/ability, etc)
What are the most important things to include at a family festival (and what?s important NOT to have)?
What challenges are there associated with a family festival?

We go to Latitude every year so have a bit to say on distance of family camping from car park and access to decent loos shock. I also went to Harvest Festival last year so have something to compare with, but would be great if any folks who were festival goers could give me some feedback on your experiences. Where do you go, what attracts you to a festival, what puts you off? Which ones would you recommend and is there something you'd like to see, or something that would definitely make you go - whether it's Charlie and Lola on tap or babysitting services, phone charging or family loos grin

Thanks in advance for your help.
Carrie

Glastonbury goers here smile
Do have to agree about the parking and the loos, but I also think at somewhere like glasto, there is family camping, kids field etc but when it comes to the evening bands it would be great to have a family area near the stage so children can see without the risk of the mosh pit. Would be could for those with pushchairs, younger children to sleep next to them etc.
I personally dont think i would go for the babysitting services at a festival, but it I may reconsider if it was available, right price and times.

Also I do think prices of food and essentials are ridiculous and I think there should be more cheaper places with families in mind. ( I know the kids field at glasto has a cafe that is slightly cheaper and great kids food)

Hope all that helps

We go to Larmer Tree every year, because it is so family friendly. Not too big, so if the children get lost they can always find the tent again. Not too many large groups of teenagers partying at 4 am and falling into the tent. They introduced separated camping last year, which seemed to work well.
Being able to drive up to the tent on the Monday morning is great.
Fantastic security who really look after the families.
Phone charging area, who were happy to plug in our bottle steriliser last year!
Tons of toilets, including disabled, which are big enough to take a buggy/ toddler into.
A tent in the children's area for changing/ feeding when it is peeing downoutside.
Lots of children's entertainment that the older children can access without the adults and toddlers being too far away. ( this wiil be interesting this year as we have a 10 year old and a 2 year old)
A playground for all ages to let off steam at.

Would agree that food is often expensive and far too saucy. Need access to more simple salads etc ( dd lives off lemon and sugar crepes most of the time!)

Also, the facility to re- freeze cool blocks to keep our milk cold would be good.
(often find friendly stall holders to fill a beaker with warm milk at bedtime)

Clear understanding that audiences during the day will include children and swearing should be kept to a minimum on stage- after 10 pm is fair game. (or a warning in the program)

I wouldn't go to a family area near the front of the stages, because of the volume, but in some of the tents, an area at the back/ side to park buggies out of the rain would be helpful.

What we love the most about Larmer Tree, is that you are not isolated in one part of the festival, just because you have children. I also love the fact that there are adult only craft tents where I can escape to if dh is amenable!

cheap simple food options for children would help (and for adults at that).

a quiet undercover area would be handy for feeding and changing and dehyping.

a play area and ideally the odd one hour kids entertainment - wouldn't mind paying a reasonable sum.

not too big, separate camping areas and family toilets would be good.

18biscuit Mon 05-Mar-12 18:36:53

We have been to lamer tree festival 4 years since dc were babies and I agree with post. It's small , safe and wonderful for families , just hard work in mud, more undercover areas would be good for wet days. Something for everyone but not too commercial , wouldn't like tv characters popping up. Agree with previous comments.

BluddyMoFo Mon 05-Mar-12 18:38:39

One that my family could afford to go to!

The compost toilets at Camp Bestival were fab, so much better than the honking portaloos. But, festival organisers need to decide how many toilets and showers they will need, then double, nay triple, that number. There never seems to be enough.

Camp bestival 2010: if you are going to make a big deal about the tents and stages closing at 11pm then letting one (the one with the carrying bass) stay open till 2am somewhat negates the child friendly intentions. You might as well have had them all stay open. Having said that, we discovered DS could sleep wearing ear defenders.

18biscuit the first 2 years we went, it was glorious sunshine! (2005 & 6 I think). Since then it has been very soggy, I agree. We all talk about the sunny years with dreamy nostalgia.

18biscuit Mon 05-Mar-12 18:59:48

Yes, we cherish memories of sunny days at festival sitting under shade of trees and by circus skills area which dc love. Sadly can't make it this year so it will def be a dry one!

jicky Mon 05-Mar-12 19:08:09

I've only been to one festival with children (previous trips were nearly 30 years ago as a student, I'm really old!)

Last year we did a 3 generation trip to West Dean Festival (took granny too). It was the first time they had run it and very small. I think the best bit was no where was crowded, but suspect that's why it's not running this year as they must have lost money.

Anyway good bits were small & safe, so even the 6 year old was allowed to roam in the day time, short queues for showers, a good mix of things to do - granny liked the tai chi and crafty stuff, the pre teens liked kids rock school in the mornings and mountain boarding, the 6 year old liked betting on ferret races. Dh liked idler academy. Murray Lachlan Young did a great family show which we all loved.

The music probably wasnt the main selling point (Adam Ant was headline act) but bits were very good - some flamenco and jazz. The food seemed to be an OK price & we found stuff we all enjoyed (although maybe not a balanced diet, lots of pancakes for youngest!)

weblette Mon 05-Mar-12 19:46:19

We're firm Cornbury devotees. We go with our 4 dcs and my parents every year - another family are joining us this time too. We love it because it's child-appropriate but still treats adults like adults!

Plenty of toilets, a decent-sized quieter camping area, free (or £10 a time as this year) for 12 and under, lots of entertainment for them, food's not stupidly expensive, feels very very safe.

Music is a great mix of modern and retro, quirky sideshows, stage for up-and-coming/folky stuff, no branded kids characters (hooray!), all very relaxed.

There are the younger beered-up crowd but I've never seen any trouble and if you go for quieter camping you're usually far enough away from the bar to notice.

I know it has the 'Poshstock' reputation but that's a side I've never seen, we stay firmly away from the VIP tent...

We're not massively adventurous types, the smaller family-feel seriously appeals. We don't necessarily need huge headline acts either, we just enjoy letting the kids hear some fantastic live music in a fun atmosphere.

One major thing that really resonates with me, the promoter is very personally involved with it. Last year he sat next to us at a kids drama thing as his dd was in it and was genuinely interested in what we thought about it all. Stuff like that makes a difference, it's not just a corporate money-spinner.

Have been to beautiful days with children and without and are going back this year, would like to see better parking for families as it is harder to cart bigger tents and all associated toddler stuff ( ds will be 4 this year and dd 2.5) we love the kids area there as it s close enough to one of he main tents to be able to hear.
Dh says better policing of family camping as h jest year we took the children we camped in family camping and had a group of boisterous, swearing, drinking people next to us which wasn't fun

fivegomadindorset Mon 05-Mar-12 20:08:36

We go to Camp Bestival as it is near us. The one major thing that is disliked last yera was the stoned and drunk teenagers who had been abandoned by their parents.

Went to The End of the Road at Larmar Tree last year with two toddlers. The things that made it really good we're the Wonderland Area with so much hands on arts stuff going on that was either intended for kids or that kids were honestly welcome at, and the whole general demeanor of the festival goers, who were considerate of everyone and not totally off their faces. So the place felt safe and friendly. The size, and the fact the line up wasn't huge names probably helped a lot. I thought the food choices were good and varied, though some plainer options might have been helpful.

Things they could improve - Wrist bands for toddlers were not very informative, having only room for a mobile phone number, but with the recharging tent being overwhelmed my phone was not working for most of the festival. Still, if we'd lost a child we would have been straight in touch with security so I doubt it would make much difference, but didn't feel well considered. There wasn't much covered space, we had great weather so it made no difference but had it rained I think we'd have had a much less good time. Toilets we're not great, I was glad we had a travel potty, slightly older kids would have had real trouble in some of them.

I would be a bit horrified by TV characters - we're looking for something different when we go to a festival.

I hadn't been to a festival for about 20 years and was really quite nervous, I would not have wanted to take kids to any of the ones I went to when I was younger. I was pleasantly surprised.

Crocodilio Mon 05-Mar-12 20:52:52

No tv characters needed.

I'd prefer for the children's activities to be mixed in with other stages and tents of normal stuff, as when at a festival like Womad, which had a fab programme of kid's activities, I felt very isolated hanging out there with the kids in the separate area. It needs to feel like part of the festival, maybe be able to hear bands and at least see some action. I did rather feel like if I wanted a weekend of kiddy craft and music activities I probably wouldn't be paying £££ for the weekend.

Cars allowed in to unload and reload stuff at beginning and end.

No restriction on caravans - some festivals only let in tents or camper vans, but caravans are such a practical, cheap family option that I never choose festivals that make us use a tent rather than take our caravan.

I wouldn't use a babysitting service, I don't think, but would like a safe buggy parking enclosure nearish to the stage (at the back so not too noisy) so I can safely leave them asleep in the buggy whilst I'm dancing nearby without worry of someone knocking them over or pouring a pint over their heads by mistake or whatever!

CurrySpice Mon 05-Mar-12 20:56:41

It's hard to put a finger on but it's about the atmosphere

I have been to V many times and wouldn't dream of taking kids there

I have taken the kids to Cornbury and been very comfortable with it

Some things which make it family oriented are, imho:

- the music on offer. Certain music attracts a certain clientele. I would take the kids to see a festival with David Gray and Squeeze, but not Metallica or Slipknot - they attract different crowds and create a different atmosphere

- booze: don't get me wrong, I like a beer when I go to a festival with the kids but it's not like the emphasis is on getting drunk at Cornbury, unlike at V. This also impacts on the camping scenario. At V there are lots of people drunkenly stumbling around after dark

- Facilities for kids: activities etc

- Size: I wouldn't take the kids to a massive festival. Too busy

- Facilities: stuff like toilets, food, space for camping etc needs to be just a notch up from basic if I'm going to take the kids

Does that help

CurrySpice Mon 05-Mar-12 20:57:53

I also though - lots of signs and markers to help kids navigate. Mine are just old enough for me to say "You can go off for half an hour but meet me at...."

At the V hestival, you're stumped for landmarks and I wouldn't feel happy lettng the kids go off if there weren't plenty of places to meet

weblette Mon 05-Mar-12 22:03:08

Oy Curry isn't it all about the fabulous company of the other festival goers grinwink

sfxmum Mon 05-Mar-12 22:04:42

We have been going since dd was 2, three years to Latitude, the last 2 to Camp bestival

Latitude had better music, more diverse entertainment, excellent family camping area (give or take the odd civil servant with entitlement issues)
Loved the library, the woodland activities, the workshops, the parade
BUT it is during school term so over the last couple of years we switched to

CampB, which is even more child friendly, more diverse in terms of demographic of attendees but which had last year, as mentioned far too many drunken teen left to roam

for me it is important that the camping is segregated mostly so that the teens can be noisy and the children can sleep.
There has to be decent food both in outlets for meals and fresh essential for sale
proper toilets or decently clean drop bogs
plenty of decent washing points (not next to toilets where the cleaners wash their mops)
workshops for kids suitable for all weathers
and decent music, comedy, talks

parking not miles and miles away from camping, at least allow for drop off and decent transport to campsite.

a proper clear policy to look after lost children CampB does this well

the main thing is to chill enjoy, don't stress don't be selfish and impose the children on the childless but also for the childless to show tolerance

rather not have merchandise aimed at children, it is expensive enough.

I hope to initiate my daughter to Glastonbury next year, she will be 8 by then so should be ok

sfxmum Mon 05-Mar-12 22:07:20

phone charging is great and not to call the outside world but to find stray husbands with poor eyesight

CurrySpice Mon 05-Mar-12 22:15:20

Of course webby. Of course! grin

Grumpla Tue 06-Mar-12 00:23:50

Consider the fact that some of your performers, stewards, staff etc will have kids with them! Changing facilities in the backstage camping please smile would settle for a portaloo that didnt contain a two-foot poo mountain coming out of the bowl

exexpat Tue 06-Mar-12 00:31:10

Smaller festivals are best for children, in my experience - trekking round Glastonbury would turn into a whinge-fest after a day or so even in good weather, but would be ten times worse in a wet year, or even in a too-hot year.

I went to Womad in 2007 with DCs aged 8 and 4, and it was a nightmare - once we'd waded through the liquid mud (stopping to retrieve the 4-year-old's wellies which kept getting sucked off by the mud) to a relatively solid patch of land within sight of a stage, there was no way we were going to do it again an hour later to see a different band on another stage, so we ended up missing most of the best stuff.

Toilets, showers and standpipes with drinking water - the more the better, obviously. Simple food in small portions would be nice; we tend to end up with DD eating a lot of carbs (chips, pancakes etc) and not much else as she won't eat all the nice curries and so on. But it's only for a couple of days at a time, so I don't get too stressed about it.

The best child-friendly festival I've been to is a tiny one, Beyond the Border - storytelling and world music in the grounds of a castle/school/arts centre on the coast of south Wales. Very small, very safe, best loos and showers I've had at a festival. No big names, but some of the storytellers are amazing performers, and the music is low-key but fun.

I think Green Man would also be good for children, though I've only taken my early-teenager.

fivegomadindorset Tue 06-Mar-12 06:11:47

Oh yes, child size portions of food.

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