Dad's Diary: 'A festival's a perfect place for a child when the weather's fine'
Thursday 29 July 2010
By the time you read this, I'll be sat in a field with my partner and son, Krishan, celebrating his third birthday in Cornwall. We decided to head to the coast for a bit of rest and relaxation after our second festival of 2010.
In our old lives (pre-parenthood), summer was when we let our hair down. It was a time for music festivals and parties. For late nights and lie-ins. In fact, our son even made it to a couple of festivals inside my partner's bump. And I vividly remember that the weekend he was born our mutual friends were in a field near Cambridge, enjoying the bands and bonhomie. I texted them the good news. They replied the next day.
A year later, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to take our little boy to a festival. To share in our lives. To enjoy the great outdoors – and some live, alfresco music. But obviously there's a huge difference between throwing a pop-up tent, sleeping bags, wellies and waterproofs into a car, and undertaking the same trip with a toddler in tow.
It took us almost a day to pack. Lists were written and rewritten. Packing the car was like struggling with a giant Lego set for stressed adults. Voices were raised. Tempers frayed. But finally we were ready to leave.
Imagine our horror, then, when the British summer cruelly intervened.
We arrived at the festival site early, along with two other couples and their children. We were the advance party; happy to be trailblazers, ready to pitch up and bag some space for our childless friends who were probably still stirring after a late night on the tiles.
That was until the heavens opened. And I mean opened. It was the biggest summer downpour that Somerset had seen in many a year. The ground quickly became waterlogged. Streams bisected the car park. And the festival was cancelled before it began. We had to pay a local farmer to drag our car off the field and out on to the A303. Not quite what we'd had in mind for our son's first festival. Let alone our first holiday as a family
Since then, we've been luckier with the weather. And the festivals. He's been to four now, and the older he gets the more fun he (and we) have.
At the start of this summer, we went to Sunrise – the scene of the dark clouds and deluge that wiped out our first weekend away as a family. But this year the sun shone. The music was great, the crowds happy. A festival's a perfect place for a child when the weather's fine.
Last weekend, we decided to try out Womad for the first time. And we were delighted. To say child-friendly would be an understatement. There seemed to be more children than adults on site, ranging from breastfed babes in arms through to teenagers, "enjoying" their final festival with mum and dad before making their rites-of-passage pilgrimage to Glastonbury next year.
One of the highlights of the weekend was the parade on the final day which snaked through the stages. All weekend, the children had been involved in workshops, making hats to puppets and masks. They all trooped through the site, along with their siblings and friends, proudly holding aloft their own creations, thronged by djembe drummers and huge dancing puppets, crowds applauding at every turn. It was stirring stuff – and proof, if ever any was needed, that children and festivals do go together like strawberries and cream.
Which brings me to a surprising blog from the Radio 1 DJ and mother-of-three Sara Cox; she suggested that taking your children to festivals was wrong.
When her article appeared on the net, the narrow-minded Middle England comments that were added below it were even more offensive than the article. It appears that many people believe we should be hung, drawn and quartered for even considering taking our children to a festival.
Of course, there are some parents who do behave terribly at festivals, perhaps some of whom are drunk and/or on drugs. But to be honest, these people are probably just as bad parents at home.
At the end of the day, we would like our son to appreciate music, arts and culture. To enjoy the same things that we do. To have experience of things out of the ordinary, rather than just going to the same parks, shopping centres and indoor play areas every weekend.
And the beaming smile on his face when Krishan watched the parade pass through the crowds at Womad is proof enough for me. We'll be back next year, just you try and stop us!
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