In August we went to the Just So Festival for the weekend. I was incredibly excited and a little bit apprehensive about going for various reasons. We were camping together as a family for the first time, and for me that felt like a bit of a challenge, as I have chronic pain and nerve damage which means I can’t really feel my feet and legs.
I’m used to it now and ordinarily I am able to manage it to the point that most people can’t tell until I walk on an uneven path or down some stairs or a hill where I have to concentrate hard and maybe hang on to something or someone for stability.
The pain and the medication I take to manage that mean that I get tired more easily and need to rest regularly. I was worried about managing my pain levels, being able to rest, struggling to walk and stay on my feet for longer than I ought to and having somewhere I could relax, take my pills and stretch out for an hour.
I try not to let my pain and funny legs stop me from doing much, but the thought of camping for a whole weekend was challenging for me. Happily the people behind the Just So Festival are the most amazing, accommodating and helpful people I’ve probably ever encountered.
They have a very detailed information page on their website with pretty much everything you need to know about Just So Festival accessibility for people with additional needs or who are disabled. They’ve thought of almost everything, from wheelchair charging, fridge space for medication, dedicated quiet spaces and advice on how to make the best of some aspects of the festival, like the famous lantern parade.
This is one of the glamping tents in the accessible camping area
I decided to apply for an accessible camping space, this area is located next to the main entrance and has a wheelchair-accessible shower, accessible toilet and a water point within 50 feet. In this area you are also able to park next to your tent. Just So reviewed my application and allocated us a spot. I was really pleased as I knew being closer to the entrance would really help me manage myself better over the weekend.
Our tiny tent in the accessible camping area
The next challenge for me was sleeping in a tent. I stiffen up overnight and I wasn’t sure how I’d get on with sleeping on the floor. We thought long and hard about it and decided to buy an airbed. We had a tent which we used a few times before my accident, so we decided to give that an airing and camp in that. The small boy was beyond himself with excitement!
When we arrived on the first day, the accessible camping area was already filling up. We were welcomed by Callum, the Safeguarding and Accessibility Manager who was really helpful. We managed to pitch our tiny 3 person tent in the rain and head off to enjoy the festival.
Close to our small tent were a toilet and shower cubicle as well as a Mobiloo, a small truck which looked spotlessly clean. The Mobiloo is a place where disabled people can use the loo and have a wash in comfort and warmth. I didn’t use the Mobiloo, but I can vouch for the disabled toilet which was emptied each night and was pretty clean and tidy. I remember hideous festival toilets of the 90s and these were a world apart.
In terms of Just So Festival Accessibility, the festival is largely set around proper hard paths, with some firm bark chipped paths in the woods. It rained a lot during the weekend and this had churned up lots of mud. The festival organisers managed this by putting straw down which made the paths much easier to walk on.
There’s not much seating around the site, so I took my own camping chair which was lightweight enough for us to carry around and plonk down for me to rest on when I needed to. This is an essential for me, without my chair I couldn’t have managed more than a couple of hours each day.
There are lots of information points and volunteers around if you need any assistance, as well as a first aid point staffed with qualified first aiders. I felt very comfortable, secure and relaxed. The Just So Festival is so easy going and for me, as a person who at times struggles with mobility I just felt welcomed and not like I was being treated differently to everyone else.
The only thing I’d change would be our tiny tent and constantly deflating airbed. The tent was very bijou and a bit too cosy with us all in it, but we had lots of fun and midnight giggles, so we would definitely camp again, just in something a bit bigger.
I think that the adaptations and considerations the festival organisers made in terms of Just So Festival Accessibility were seamlessly woven into the fabric of Just So. It’s a truly accessible event. And that’s exactly how it should be for everyone, everywhere.
For more information about Just So Festival Accessibility visit their website.
Read our review of the Just So Festival 2016 here.