A CHANGE IS as good as a rest, so they say, and what could be further removed from the strictures and routines of daily family life than the chance to let your hair down at a festival? Cool festival fashion and Hunter wellies are still de rigueur, as well as the must-have Peltor Kid ear defenders – a la the Apple of Gwynnie’s eye – for your toddler. Make a weekend of it and, if you feel like getting down and dirty, you can pitch-your-own in true camper style; most of the festivals now offer more glamp alternative, so you can sejourn in the Boutique area in anything from a yurt, gypsy tent or tipi to a ready-erected family tent with your own shower and lavatory facilities. Festival tickets do sell out quickly, so make the most of Early Bird offers, and make sure you secure your camping spot in good time!
Top of the pile when it comes to family-friendliness has to be Camp Bestival 29–31 July 2011) held in the delightful setting of Lulworth Cove in Dorset. The ambiance is party-party anything goes, with the highlight of the Saturday being a fancy-dress pararde throughout the Kid’s Garden and Circus Field. Of course, there’s the extensive programme of bands on various stages (last year’s headliners were Madness and The Human League), but there’s also an amazing array of fun stuff for children too, including arts and crafts, shows (this year it was The Gruffalo and Mr Tumble), as well as a fairground and Zippo’s Circus. Its seaside Lulworth setting also means it can be the perfect start – or finish – to a West Country holiday.
One of the most popular music festivals that has become increasingly child-friendly (as the hip among us become parents) is Glastonbury. Line-up for 2011 still to be announced, but strong rumours so far are Kylie and U2, with Beyonce, Madonna, Coldplay and Radiohead also being touted. For children, there’s Kidzfield –
where the hippy-dippy motto is “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood, or to enable someone else to” – filled with theatre, songs, puppetry and inspired nonsense, and it’s all completely free.
WOMAD (which stands for World of Music, Arts and Dance) in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, founded by Peter Gabriel, has been going since 1982 and is a celebration of world music, with performers from as far afield as Ethiopia, India and New Zealand. It also has a dedicated children’s zone, the World Of Kids, bursting with things to see and do from participating in music workshops to painting your own T-shirt and even cooking classes, and the Children’s Parade will be one of the festival highlights. And if the music and vibe isn’t enough to get you in a chilling zone, there’s even an on-site Womad Spa.
Vintage At Goodwood (12–14 August 2011) is one of the newest kids on the block. The brainchild of designers Geraldine and Wayne Hemingway of Red Or Dead fame, it’s a music and fashion led extravaganza of creative British cool from five decades from the Forties to the Eighties featuring the leading DJs, bands, collectors, purveyors of vintage clothing and vintage vinyl from each decade. The family-friendly vibe comes with the plethora of classic toys and games on display, lots of hands-on creative activities, and a few blast-from-the-past favourites like Space Hoppers and Space Invaders. Plus – and how kitsch is this? – there’s actually a Butlins holiday camp with Red Coats on hand to serve up campsite fun from its heyday!
There’s babysitting available too, so expect a few dodgy moves from parents too on the dance floors while the children slumber. On-site accommodation available from glamping, including proper posh options, complete with chefs cooking you breakfast with organic produce from The Goodwood Estate. Choose form the Hotel Bell Tent, luxury tipis in the Indian Reservation, a new-age Geodome within the sanctuary of the woodland or your very own gypsy caravan.
For a feast of foodie delights alongside plenty of great music, Harvest At Jimmy’s 10–11 September) in Suffolk is fast becoming a family favourite. The brainchild of Jimmy Doherty, sometime buddy of Jamie Oliver and star of Jimmy’s Farm, there are food demonstrations by top chefs (this year’s talent included Atol Kuchar, Rachel Allen and Thomasina Miers) while past music performers have included KT Tunstall and Scouting for Girls. There are art activities, pirates adventures and hands-on den- and treehouse-building workshops, as well as a show (Charlie & Lola in 2010) – not to mention all the fun of being on a working farm with animals to feed, the cutest little Guinea Pig Village, and a brilliant adventure playground. Just one word of warning to parents: take advantage of the on-site babysitting for an hour or two, or you are in danger of spending all your time in the children’s Playpen area.
Finally, if books are your thing, head to the Bath Children’s Literature Festival September 23–October 3 2011), where there will be a host of goings-on with the brightest and best authors in the world of children’s books. Stay in luxury at the nearby Lucknam Park, a beautiful country abode set amid lush countryside worthy of an Austen heroine. Stay in a luxury family room, pamper yourself in the spa and let your child trot around the stunning grounds on horseback.