Way back in the Summer, August to be precise, we were massively fortunate to be invited to attend our very first family festival named Just So Festival which was being held on our doorstep on the Cheshire / Staffordshire boarder in its current home of Rode Hall. The festival is a whole weekend affair, starting on Friday evening running through to Sunday evening with Day tickets also available in between. Having been to several “music festivals” I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, be it nursery rhymes and kids song, or a larger scale tots and parent meeting at your local children’s centre. What we experienced though was neither of those, but an incredibly fun and majestic weekend with a multiple of family memories we will treasure forever.
Set in the cheshire countryside, Just so Festival offers both day tickets and weekend camping with a vast array of different options available if you choose the latter. If you fancy experiencing the whole weekend but don’t fancy “slumming it up in a bog standard tent, there are luxury bell tents, yurts and tipis all available (booked separately) with insides that look better than many houses. Despite us only living 10 minutes away we felt that it was important to experience the whole “family festival” life and decided to camp in our own tent. Having been unable to attend on the Friday evening due to prior commitments, we arrived early on the Saturday to ensure we made use of the full day and was swiftly pointed to the weekend parking area by some of the friendly festival volunteers dotted around the site. A short walk from the car park was the camping area (of which no cars can come near to) whereby we took we prompted found a spot and set up tent. I already felt we were in the presence of like minded families, we many stopping to say hi and welcome whilst putting up our temporary home for the next two days.
We then made our way into the festival fields armed with rucksacks, and a pushchair which was loaded like the Flintstones car. Seasoned visitors had trailers, some their own decorated in fantastic fairy lights, roofs, animal themes others rented from festival suppliers just with bedding and padding in them and being used as both transportation of goods, as well as transportation of their little people, what a fantastic idea!
Instantly it was clear that the Just So Festival is whatever you want it to be, the more you embrace it, the more you will get out of it. Just So it about getting back to basics, whether that be getting hands on and making things like kites or lanterns, playing giant battleships, watching shows and storytellers or going in search of fairies in the enchanted woods. The festival is set around several different animals, all of which seasoned visitors (both children and adults alike) all dress up in their chosen teams attire to support their existence. Those that get involved during the weekend, have a chance of winning tokens for their team with the winning team being crowned on the Sunday along with a winners parade being the curtain faller on the Sunday evening.
Saturday was blessed by gorgeous weather and following setting up our tent we ventured straight into the Spellbound Forest which is filled with craft making sessions, a fairy kingdom, mini performances throughout it capturing the imagination of the younger ones as well as us curious parents alike.
Around the venue we stopped off to listen to stories being told by fascinating tellers, tried out skills as circus tricks such as stilt walking, judging, hula hooping and even made our very own set of circus weight lifting apparatus.
We chased after giant bubbles, ate picnics alongside other families who all talk to each other and are as friendly as your best friends, this really is an instant community of Mums, Dads, Grandma’s and Grandads all with little people and all wanted to just get stuck in and involved without and care or worry.
There is always something going on, and the fact its set in such a lovely venue means each performance, activity or zone doesn’t intrude on each other. Some things are re-bookable so make sure you get a programme when you book tickets and study it prior to going if you really want to cram in as much as you can. Being our first time we just wanted to explore and wander, learn and relax but next time we’ll be booking on some of the fab activities which are popular.
The afternoon continued as the first had begun, sitting in the glorious sunshine watching performances and plays, music and singalong’s.
Being a blogger has many benefits but we were also told of a secret book launch and reading happening in an intimate courtyard. I was a little apprehensive at first given that H and D don’t normally sit still for anything more than 20 minutes but H loved the reading and harpist and it sounds corny but it was one of those self reflection moments when you realise you don’t need iPads, TVs, play centres to make life easier / happier, this, right here, in the great outdoors with so many happy friendly people is what makes being a parent special, seeing both children running free and wild, leading the parents, not having to worry about cars and the modern day dangers.
As the day went on we became transfixed by a performance going on which moved from area to area, changing the scene in the process with audience participation, each time H would usher us to move quickly in order to be ready at the next area for the new scene to begin. After it had finished, H even wanted his picture with the main character, the boy was really in his elements.
In the early evening we settled down for some classic viewing of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the outdoor cinema zone before grabbing some food and shattered, we made our way for an early night, although having spoken to various parents the next morning, there sounded like some further fantastic activities went well into the night if your children are older.
Thankfully we managed to get back to our tent just before (well a little after) what can only be described at the mother of all thunderstorms erupted into the night, however both children slept soundly through it (mainly due to all the activities they had experienced) and although the event is based around the area outdoors, the fact there are forests around the site, many of the activities have the ability to go under the trees and continue the fun.
Food at the festival was price wise as you’d expect, more than what you’d usually pay outside of festivals but I would go on to say that the quality and in fact variation of foods on offer was better than any festivals I’ve been to previously. We all know how fussy kids can be but there really was something for everyone, from fabulous corn on the cob, lovely ice lollies, fresh stone baked pizza’s, mexican, hot dogs and burgers, spanish and for the meat eaters amongst us, pulled pork, there’s even english breakfasts for the mornings (or day time if you like that kind of thing).
Sunday we were blessed with another glorious start and we started our day in cardboard and sellotape heaven being able to make tunnels, towers and dens, again the simple things but so much fun for all the family. We also had fun in messy play (well H and D did) but with baths and clean up materials on hand, it really didn’t matter and following our fantastic fun both little people were washed and ready to go again.
Some time spent in the giant sand pit / pirate ship in the High Seas, a game of giant battleships, a surprise Gruffalo visit some more fun and games and time as upon us to pack up our tent and say goodbye to the best festival I have ever been too.
Just So Festival, we WILL be back and next time, dressed up in our chosen tribes attire, ready to listen to even more tails, make our own kites, explore the evening activities and even more of the fantastic events, new and old which we experienced. Memories really do last a lifetime and this family festival will really help to create some lifelong memories.
Tickets on on sale now for Just So Festival 2016 which is due to be held on the weekend of the 19/20/21 August at its beautiful venue of Rode Hall in Cheshire with weekend adult tickets including camping costing £125 (child £50), day tickets £50 (child £20) and under 3’s are free. Check out their website or feel free to ask questions in the comments, there really is so much to talk about.
Until next time
NB: We were provided a family camping ticket for the event in exchange for a review however all opinions remain our own and I would so so so recommend this Festival to all families