Jelly in your wellies – lots of silly fun as kids run their own festival

The youngsters of Farnham are having a ball raising money to save river meadows as a public space
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The kids are all right. More to the point, they're in charge. With adults already booking their tickets for the summer festival season, pre-teens as young as five are planning their own big outdoor weekend, complete with foot wrestling, a custard slide, a tantrum contest and a jelly fight.

Believed to be the first festival designed by children for children, Kidsfest will entice thousands of youngsters to the Surrey market town of Farnham in September with the promise of more than 100 wacky activities, from a chocolate-eating contest to crayfish racing. All have been dreamt up by an organising committee of 12 children, which includes a "lost adults co-ordinator" and a "head of tigers".

There is a serious ambition behind the silliness, however: the community hopes to raise money to keep the 34-acre site that will host the two-day festival for the town.

The owner of the local newspaper, Sir Ray Tindle, bought Bishop's Meadows on behalf of the community in 2009 to save it from the threat of development. A trust was established to raise the £210,000 needed to repay him and devise a plan to restore the river meadows. It hopes the festival will raise at least £85,000. It has already raised £80,000, but has to find £130,000 by February next year.

Daniel Moran, 12 tomorrow, is project manager and led the kids' first committee meeting last weekend. He said: "The meadows are an amazing place for wildlife, and the river has kingfishers and fish that need to be kept there. For Farnham to own the meadows would be really good."

The Apprentice fan used his computer skills to devise a PowerPoint presentation to show his team. He said: "I do like to make sure everybody is listening and that I am not being ignored. All of the children are younger than me, so it is harder to get their attention... It's a change from being told by adults what to do and when I have to do it."

Daniel's nine-year-old sister Maddy, head of photography and silly stuff, admitted it was a "bit annoying" that her brother was her boss. But she added: "I thought it would be quite nice to be part of everything because lots of people are and it's really fun."

Their mother, Emma Selby, founding member of the Bishop's Meadows Trust, said organising the festival was boosting the children's confidence and creativity. "We were really surprised when we asked the children what they wanted," she said. "We expected them to come up with hi-tech ideas; actually they wanted to fill wellies with jelly and walk around in them, really unusual ideas.

"Children respond very, very well to responsibility and also adults listening to them. I think it's almost something new to this generation, because when I was a child, adults didn't listen to children half as much."

There are 4,500 tickets on sale for each day. No adults are allowed unless they are accompanied by a child. The lost adults co-ordinator, Oscar Collins, seven, does not expect many grown-ups to visit his tent. Other committee members include five-year-old Cicely Woodyer, the self-appointed head of tigers, and Gillan Westley, nine, assistant project manager and Lego specialist. Yesterday, they launched a free Kidsfest Club to meet every Saturday to prepare stalls for the event.

Alex Scrivens, adult Kidsfest co-ordinator, said: "Eventually, I'd like to see this festival be more and more run by children. Because it's the first year, the grown-ups are going to have to do more than I would like.

"What I want is children to come to this festival and think: 'I would like to run that stall next year', and we will work much more closely with the schools. We want to bring back conkers, silly things, and all those things people don't do any more because they are becoming so fenced by health and safety."

Emily Wheaton, eight, head of choreography and assistant photographer, was unavailable for comment as she had to go to Brownies.

Committee woman

Ella Woodyer, nine, is graphic designer on the Kidsfest committee.

Eye for detail

Theo Woodyer, seven, holds the position of graphics consultant.

Mr Secretary

Austen Wall, 11, is the committee's secretary as well as being graphic designer and in charge of logistics.

Ideas man

Daniel Moran, who turns 12 tomorrow, is project manager and ideas specialist.

Lego man

Gillan Westley, nine, is assistant project manager and Lego specialist.

Strictly snappy

Emily Wheaton, eight, is assistant photographer and choreographer.

Silly portfolio

Maddy Moran, nine, is head of photography and silly stuff.