Why festivals and kids aren't mutually exclusive

You don't have to give up going to musical festivals just because you've had children, says Lena Corner. Take them along...

The children's area at music festivals had always been a no-go area for me. But with a son of my own, and having mastered the art of the one-handed pram- push to keep the buggy going across even the roughest terrain with the other hand free to hold a pint, the transition to a new reality has been painless.

With a child at a music festival you are going to have a completely difference experience. You're not going to be dancing till daybreak or drinking the bar dry. But the upside of it is that the hangovers are minimal and the memories are clearer. Plus, at the tender age of one and a half, young Ronnie can now claim he's danced (on my shoulders) to Patti Smith in a field in Suffolk and, on another occasion, been stuffed into his car seat for eight hours to arrive at a national park full of cider-sozzled folkies just in time to catch the tail end of Donovan.

I've been going to music festivals for as long as I can remember, but my willingness to embrace the festival scene with a child has coincided with a shift in festival culture. Ten years ago the mainstream festival calendar consisted of rock monstrosities such as Reading, Phoenix and V Festival - each one as sprawling and anonymous as the next. (There was always Glastonbury, but that's different.)

People seemed to tire of the huge, faceless festival, ushering in a new era of small, dare I say it, "boutique" festivals. These weren't plonked on a desolate, out-of-town airstrip, but situated in national parks or the gardens of stately homes - somewhere where people might actually want to spend some time with their family. This was spearheaded by the organisers of the Big Chill - a monthly club night which made the transition to festival in 1998 when it held a weekender at an "enchanted garden" in Dorset. "The accent was more on providing an environment where people could socialise rather than just get off their faces," says its co-founder Pete Lawrence. "People have kids, or they simply want to slow down the speed of life and appreciate some of the detail you miss in clubbing mayhem."

The UK's biggest festival organiser, Mean Fiddler, followed suit with a low-key event called Latitude in the sweeping grounds of Henham Park Estate in Suffolk. Which is where Ronnie and I found ourselves one sunny weekend in July for his very first festival. Ronnie's dad stayed at home so I was slightly apprehensive as no one else in the group I went with had children. This worked to my advantage as Ronnie had plenty of willing babysitters. But more importantly, the organisers really had thought of everything. Ronnie was still eating baby food at the time, so the fully equipped kitchen in the children's area was much appreciated. As was the lovely, big, soft-play space for him to roll around in. After a long, happy Saturday night watching the headliners, Ronnie spent much of the next day snoozing in his pram, allowing me to relax in the sun.

Buoyed up by our experience at Latitude we then snapped up tickets to the Green Man folk festival at the foot of the Brecon Beacons in Wales. We pitched up near some friends who owned a fully equipped camper van, which turned out to be a huge relief as it rained all weekend. The children's area was full of jugglers, theatrics and craft-based activities - sweet, but useless to under-twos.

Next year we're going to Latitude and possibly the Big Green Gathering or the Larmer Tree Festival in Dorset. "Everyone there has kids," says my friend, who's been taking her child to festivals for the past decade. "You'd feel weird going unless you had at least one." We're also planning to drop in at the Port Eliot Lit Fest in Cornwall.

Then there's Glastonbury. The entertainment for children there is incredible but the size and scale of it, with a tiny boy who's fast on his feet, scares me to death. I suppose I could always do what most parents do nowadays - scribble my mobile phone number up his arm and hope it doesn't wash off in the rain.

THE COMPACT GUIDE: FESTIVALS for 2007

Latitude, 12-15 July, Henham Park, Suffolk (020-7792 9400; latitudefestival.co.uk). Weekend ticket, camping and parking, £95 plus booking fee. Day ticket and parking, £40 plus booking fee. Camping packages from £219 to £2,195 plus weekend ticket. Children 12 and under enter free with ticket-holder.

Green Man, 17-19 August, Glanusk Park, Brecon Beacons (thegreenmanfestival .co.uk). Adult weekend ticket and camping,£98, plus £35 for live-in vehicle. Children 11 and under free with adult ticket-holder.

Big Chill, 3-5 August, Eastnor Castle Deer Park, Malvern (08700 667733; bigchill.net/festival.html). Adult weekend ticket £125 plus booking fee and postage. Up to four children 12 and under free with adult.

Larmer Tree Festival, 11-15 July. Larmer Tree Gardens, Wiltshire (01725 552300; larmertreefestival.com).

Bestival, 7-9 September, Isle of White (020-7379 3133; bestival.net). Full adult weekend ticket £105. Child weekend ticket £52.50. Under-6s free.

Big Green Gathering, 1-5 August, Fernhill Farm, Compton Martin, near Bristol (01225 743481).

Womad, 27-29 August, Charlton Park, Malmesbury, Wiltshire (01225 743481; womad.org). Until 31 Jan a weekend ticket and camping costs £110. Two free tickets for age 13 and under per paying adult. Additional child tickets £10. Day tickets go on sale nearer the time.

Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
healthTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Arts & Entertainment
film
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Goalkeeping howler allows Man City to scrap a draw – but Premier League title is Liverpool's to lose
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
Life & Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 63rd anniversary of the Peak District National Park
tech
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Life & Style
Michael Acton Smith founded Firebox straight out of university before creating Moshi Monsters
techHe started out selling silliness with online retailer Firebox, before launching virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

    Sports coaching volunteer jobs

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

    Turtle Nesting and Coral Reef Conservation in Borneo

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...

    Elephant research project in Namibia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...

    Day In a Page

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

    Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

    Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
    Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

    Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

    The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
    Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

    Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

    The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
    Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

    Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

    This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
    Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

    Education: Secret of Taunton's success

    Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
    10 best smartphones

    10 best smartphones

    With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal