Another year has passed and sadly we didn’t make it to Just So Festival – much to the annoyance of my two boys! We were kindly gifted tickets by the team there, but as we couldn’t go (we were in France) we asked my brother in law and his beautiful family if they’d like to be our roving reporters. Needless to say they jumped at the chance! So here is Adam’s account of the festival….
This was our first festival since we’d had the girls; a pair of creative, excitable and active 7 and 10 year olds. It was also the shakedown of our ‘new’ (£12 carboot sale) tent so we crammed that, and an exciting mix of nervous anticipation and the thrill of the unknown into the car and hit the road.
Rode Hall Parkland is a beautiful rolling landscape with plenty of trees, we arrived after lunch on Friday, picked a snug sort of spot, set up camp, and began exploring the festival.
We quickly realised this is a special sort of place, full of expressive and imaginative activities being run by people who are having as much fun as the kids. Any self-consciousness you might feel is gently replaced by the great feeling of watching your children find all they need to have fun outside with honest materials and physical activity.
Within the first hour or so we had spotted the Gruffalo in the woods, toasted marshmallows on an open fire, made some clay sculptures, had a quick blast on the hoopla hoops and stilts at the circus tent, and spotted some inviting decorated paths leading further through the woods to who-knows-where. By then we were all totally in the moment and that is a precious thing to experience with your children.
The Tribal Tournament is a genius way to bring everyone together with some hilarious and friendly competition. Each ‘tribe’ has a leader dressed up as their tribal animal, and being instantly recognisable across the fields or trees, the children flock to their chosen leader for fun and games or to hand over the precious golden pebbles they have earned in creative activities. A large scoreboard keeps a running tally of golden pebbles and is part of Mr Frog’s domain – a greenish tasselled den from where he regularly broadcasts fun and games drawing all the tribes into an excited crowd. All the leaders were great, natural entertainers and the kids were entranced, Mr Frog and his sidekicks really were the centre of the festival for us (all parents included) and some families had incredible costumes too, don’t be shy, we won’t be next year!
As night falls, the friendly lanterns (even in the woods) lead you to short pieces of theatre in a sunken dell, or maybe the outside cinema showing Mary Poppins on the lawn of Rode Hall, for dinner you can get some corn on the cob to munch as you explore, or if you fancy something more involved there are some great food stalls in ‘the social’ – an out of the way corner of commerce helping to keep the rest of the festival feeling like a party.
Also in ‘the social’ is the Footlights stage and field, this is just about the only source of (loud) music during the day – another refreshing difference to most festivals! We caught some jazz, blues, and an excellent pirate band while we ate our messy chocolate crepes!
Although the festival covers quite a large area of woodland and fields, including a secret field for really dedicated explorers, it’s a comfortable place to be. You’re never far from where you were just now but the experiences are varied and distinct and most wanderings take you past the Big Top tent in the ‘Head over Heels’ area for another quick go at mastering stilts, hoops and various other games.
Sunday afternoon was spent sitting in the sun, eating little freshly made cinnamon Duffins watching the kids run around having fun, surely they should be worn out by now?! but no they were just warming up for the climax of the tribal tournament; sports day in front of Mr Frogs den! With golden pebbles up for grabs this was hotly contested and a perfect end to a really wonderful festival.
Rolling home on Sunday evening was a surprisingly jarring transition back to the ‘real world’, it was amazing how quickly we had fallen in love with the festival and the friendly relaxed creative atmosphere. Jasmine our 10 year old described it as “…magical and crazy in a good way! ” and we can’t wait for next year!
Words and images by Adam Taylor.
Thank you to Just So Festival for gifting us a family press pass for the weekend. Early bird tickets for 2016 are now on sale – get your tickets here!