The last time I camped at a music festival it rained so much that there was an outbreak of trench foot not seen since the Battle of the Somme and I spent most of Radiohead’s set puking up magic mushrooms outside my tent; I vowed there and then never to go back to Glasto (or any other bloody festival) unless I was playing at it. I did eventually return about 10 years later playing bass for a friend but we stayed off site and spent the whole time ligging backstage – free beer tastes so much better when you’re not in a queue behind some crusty with smelly dreadlocks.
Anyway, fast forward to parenthood and the opportunity to get tickets to a new family festival on the Isle of Wight fronted by Dick & Dom (I’m too old to know who they are but people seem to love them) came up and we took it. There would be music for the young (Rastamouse, The Vamps, Conor Maynard) and old (Bez, Busted, The Blow Monkeys), loads of entertainment for the kids (Peppa Pig live, bouncy castles, arts and crafts, Scouts, Flawless live) and the opportunity to glamp. Plus, taking the car on a ferry would be a first for a newbie driver like me and I figured shepherding my family across the choppy waters of the Solent would make me feel more mature and manly!*
It not camping – it’s GLAMPING
Yeah, still not really sure about camping in general – glam or not. I suppose when you glamp you don’t have to put the bloody tent up or take it down, which is half the misery of camping in the first place. Also, there were blow up beds with memory foam mattresses and all the bedding was provided – which is great as that crap takes up so much room. The circular bell tents did provide more space than your average Blacks purchase and the canvas stood up well to the rain showers and the wind but the environment still alternated between damp/roasting hot inside. Plus spiders and beetles – plenty of those. Also included in the glamping area were showers, which makes everything feel that much less degrading. The main drawback to camping is the obvious one – after gallons of beer, can you really be arsed to get up at 4am and traipse 5 mins to the nearest smelly portaloo? And when your children request a poo poo at 2am, you long for a pristine porcelain cistern in the next room. But hey, this is a festival so you have to get into the spirit right?!
Stimulus = sleep
Before I discovered the joys of the festival trolley on the last day, I spent most of my time carrying one child whilst running after the other as she careened through acres and acres of festival site. It may have been the sugar rush of the Slush Puppy but my girls couldn’t get enough of all the stuff going on; from Peppa Pig on the main stage and slime making in the activity tent, to the bouncy castles and carousel in the fairground, they were like whirling dervishes for about eight hours every day. However, there’s a huge advantage to this – by about 6pm they were dead to the world and would sleep through anything (namely really loud, bass-heavy house) for about 12 hours solid.
Music – it ain’t what it used to be
I’ve no idea if this is the norm for a family festival but I was a bit confused by the line-up. It seemed like it was aimed firmly at old ravers with teenage kids and not much in between. Bands like The Vamps, Conor Maynard, Busted and Becky Hill definitely appealed to slightly older kids, and artists like Bez, Marshall Jefferson and Sigma were bang on for all the raver parents but I was missing some credible alternative/rock/indie acts on the bill – although The Blow Monkeys was a step in the right direction. This was my only real gripe about The Great Wonderfest and to be honest, it didn’t really matter because even if there was the remote chance that there was an artist that I’d actually want to see (most of them are dead) my children would drag me off to a Peppa Pig meet and greet halfway through anyway.
It ain’t the 90s anymore…
And maybe that’s a good thing. When you go to a festival with your kids, there’s no lost weekend, no discovering the secrets of the universe on the Friday and then completely forgetting what they are 12 hours later. It’s a completely different experience; you can’t be a blissed out amoeba the whole time, you need to wits about you. If I can compare it to anything it’s like being at a gigantic outdoor soft play centre but with booze and bands – if that sounds awful then I guess it kind of is. The thing is, the kids absolutely lap it up, so you can’t really complain too much.
Festival tips and tricks
Double up: From what I’ve seen, the best way to do a festival is with another family, that way the adults can take it in turns to have a night off and indulge themselves like the old days – if only for a few hours.
Invest in a trolley see pic above): I only managed to get my hands on one of these on the last day but it was a Godsend. Instead of wondering around carrying a child while running after another, you can stick the kids in this thing with some blankets and cushions and save yourself an expensive trip to the osteopath. Plus they fall asleep and you can watch what you like for a few hours.
Cash: I never carry cash, just like Damon Albarn. The thing is, the funfair didn’t accept cards, and there were no cashpoints at the festival, so until the VIP bar started doing cashback on the Saturday, we were screwed and had to leave the site and travel to the nearest supermarket – don’t get caught short.
Glamping is the only way: If you’re going to stay on site then it’s well worth splashing the cash here – forget crappy nylon tents and putting them up in the rain. Plus the shower thing makes everything just a little bit more bearable.
*it didn’t; the whole ferry thing is boring a tedious in equal measure