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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: .NET Developers / Software Developers

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: our .NET Developers / Software Dev...

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

    £25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Ashdown Group: Project Accountant (Part-Qualified Accountant) - Manchester

    £23000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Project Accountant (Part-...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat