We spent last weekend glamping near Keswick in the Lake District. On our way home to Manchester, we stopped in Kendal so we could spend an afternoon at the Lakes Alive Festival. We were very glad we stopped because it finished off our weekend with a flourish and we were only sad we didn’t get there earlier!
Lakes Alive is a free festival of contemporary arts and making. Three days of unique art in the unique landscape of Kendal.
We went primarily to go and see our favourite storyteller, Ian Douglas. We’ve followed him to three festivals this year and each time he has been a delight to listen to. Ian had pitched his storytelling canopy in Abbot Hall Park, which was filled with stalls, street food trucks and a huge marquee with a lively series of events booked in it.
During the afternoon we watched Cloud, a pair of contemporary dancers drifting through space like weightless clouds which was quite beautiful to watch. People walking by almost always stopped and were captivated by the dreamy dance.
The Fellowship Chorus and the Virtual Reality Choir were in residence, belting out a series of singalong classics you couldn’t help but join in with.
Marching through Abbots Hall Park and beyond were Walking Watling Street – a celebration to remember the 50,000 women who marched from Carlisle to London in 1913 to fight to win the vote for women. There was a great crowd of women dressed as Suffragettes and members of the public were all invited to join the march, and march they did. It was a wonderful sight!
Throughout the Lakes Alive Festival there were a number of weird and wonderful things just popping up. Once of them was Peddlers Pack – four fantastical cycle-powered contraptions. Peddlers Pack was a colourful and a little bit crazy group of people peddling their imaginary wares.
I’m not sure what my son thought of the Peddlers Pack, but he stood back for quite some time taking it all in. If there’s one thing an arts festival does for children, it gives them permission to explore the outer reaches of their own experiences and brings life and colour to their own imaginations.
There were some things I was sad to miss (but better luck next year). It’s amazing that this is a free arts festival; there are so many weird, wonderful and downright creative things happening. I’d not heard about it until a week or so before and I was very glad we stopped by for the afternoon. Lakes Alive is something I’ll be looking out for again next year. Hopefully we’ll be able to spend more time exploring what’s on offer.
At the start of the summer, my Facebook timeline was full of memes about how we only get 18 summers with our children and how we need to make the most of them. This is summer number 8 for us, and the annual highlight of our “making the most of our time together” is always the Just So Festival. It’s three days away together, entirely unplugged; learning, exploring, enjoying and just loving everything the festival has to offer.
The Just So Festival 2018 has had a tiny shake up. All the old favourites were there, but just enough things had changed to keep it fresh for the families like us who come year after year.
Back in July we went to the Timber Festival, run by the people behind Just So, but aimed at a slightly older crowd with more of an ecological bent. There were some really fabulous things at Timber which thankfully made their way to Just So too. Things like The Lost Words, The Moth Hotel, Hammer and Chisel and the Coppice Maze.
A couple of the areas had been jigged about, the (fabulous) Flamingo Lounge was up near the Village Green and seemed more popular than ever. Hurrah for the Pirate King was a surprising but wonderful opera-ballet-pirate mash up with added unicorn. Modern Warrior was a great opportunity for everyone to get involved in a spot of martial arts style dance and The Silent Disco was a particular highlight (do not miss this if it’s on next year).
Down by the lake, there was a re-named area called Roll up! Roll up! which had more of a circus theme. There were circus skills workshops running throughout, trapeze artists, a custard catwalk, the amazing Band at the End of the World and the incredible Bullzini Family running high-wire workshops and putting on a spectacular performance.
I really enjoyed the Idlewood area this year, the Woodland Library had moved in and there were lots of colourful hammocks lashed to the trees where you could recline and relax with a good book. There were also theatre performances, Tai Chi and a chance to meet the Fairy Queen.
The highlight for me, was as always the Spellbound Forest. Tucked away in the woods, perched on a log around the campfire, listening to ancient stories told by Ian Douglas, watching Mr Foppletwig and Professor Pumpernickel variously perform amazing magic tricks and scientific experiments and campfire songs with Ian Mackintosh. It’s so comfortable around that campfire, it often feels like hard work to tear yourself away and explore what else is going on.
And there is so much going on. There are three packed Just So days and it’s almost impossible to get round to everything you want to see and do. I always end up having Just So regrets about things I have missed. Things people tell you about after they’ve happened. You make a mental note of it for next year and hope for the best.
Just So is such a remarkably safe space for families. It’s safe in a way that you can send a pair of 8 year olds off into the woods to do a Barefoot Walk for 10 minutes and know that they will come back filthy, with damp socks and full of the spirit of independence. It’s safe in the way that you know that everything they see and do will enrich them in some way. It is safe, because it just is.
We sang, we danced, we ate, we laughed, I might have had a little cry of loveliness too. We had late nights, early mornings. We were filthy, we were covered in sand, custard and feathers, but we were happy and we were free. Just So is three wonderful, magical days a year which we remember incredibly fondly and look forward to above and beyond anything else.
Over the weekend we went to the Timber Festival 2018. This was the first ever Timber Festival in the National Forest and we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. We’ve been to other festivals organised by Wild Rumpus, such as the Just So Festival, so we expected something fairly fantastical and we were not disappointed.
We arrived in the National Forest on Friday afternoon and we were directed to the small accessible camping area where we pitched our tent and then went to pick up our wristbands. We had a quick look around the top end of the festival site, but I had to go back to the tent to change out of my sandals and into my walking boots as the site was hillier and rougher under foot than I was expecting.
After an evening of merriment with our friends, we were raring to go on Saturday morning. We consulted our festival maps and decided to explore the more far-flung areas before the sun rose too high. We headed off to Halcyon Days so Ben could go on a bug hunt with the RSPB and then over to The Coppice to try our hands at stone balancing and to explore the coppice maze. The Coppice was a lovely area with some really interesting things to do, but it was quite far from the main areas, so we only went there once.
After exploring the upper area of the festival site, we walked down the hill, past the Nightingale Stage where there was a dance class going on and into The Common. This was where there were lots of rural crafts going on, such as whittling, clay crafts, willow weaving etc. The group of small boys went straight to the straw bale house building area and got stuck in. It turns out that a good grounding in LEGO building can help you when it comes to building a house out of straw. Just keep an eye out for hungry wolves!
Beyond The Common was Field Notes; an area packed with food and drink vendors and a lovely beer tent (at reasonable prices). It was here where we found most of our meals. There was a large marquee in this area which hosted discussions, speakers and the keynote speaker – Stuart Maconie. I saw Stuart a few weeks ago giving a talk about one of his books, I was excited to hear him speak again and I was not disappointed. Interesting, thought-provoking, honest and funny, if you get the chance to go and see him, do.
One of our favourite areas at the Just So Festival is the campfire area in the Spellbound Forest. The Timber Festival 2018 version of the Spellbound Forest was The Canopy. Just So favourite, Storyteller Ian Douglas was around the campfire several times each day and into the night, delighting everyone with his wonderful stories. It was a smaller, more intimate gathering than at Just So, which made it extra special. Ian is frequently accompanied by Dieter Wadeson aka Mr Foppletwig, who delights everyone with his slightly mad science experiments. Also around the campfire were some brilliant bands and singers, most notably Fishclaw and The Concordia Ashby Choir who performed their version of Africa By Toto and had everyone joining in. Brilliant.
Near the campfire there were three other wonderful little areas of note. The boys loved the Hammer and Chisel area where children (supervised by a parent) could get their hands on real tools and worked together to build a wooden play area. The Museum of the Moon was incredible. Hidden in the trees was a giant moon. There was a subtle soundtrack on a loop playing music and the sound of a rocket launching. It was incredible and it looked stunning lit up at night.
Just past the moon was the Eyrie Stage; a small woodland stage which hosted the most wonderful, eclectic mix of music. It was a real treat to listen to the music; especially Jason Singh who played some wonderful music based on birdsong, insects and environmental sounds.
If I had stuff to complain about, it would be that the site isn’t quite as accessible as it could be. The hills were a problem for me and my chum who both have some mobility issues. Things felt a little bit far apart; so the wonderful Coppice area only got visited once because twice would have been too much for me.
I’m not going to complain about the weather, this was the first festival I’ve been to where I’ve not suffered from rising damp, but it was so hot. I was very thankful they’d made drinking water freely and plentifully available at lots of places around the site. Plus there was a shower block close to where we camped, which was bliss in this heat.
Timber Festival 2018 was a wonderful experience. We felt immersed in nature and the surroundings; we spent time with our wonderful friends, the boys all ran about playing; getting filthy, battling with sticks, learning about insects, whittling, building straw houses, balancing on slacklines. They experienced life as a virtual reality owl; they listened to ancient stories around the campfire, learned some mad science stuff; danced to incredible music and generally got filthy and went a little bit feral for a few days. It was brilliant.
As ever, we were sad to leave, but absolutely delighted to have been part of such a wonderful festival. I would say although it is family friendly, it’s not really pitched at really little ones. The boys in our group were aged 7-10 and they were in their den-building, stick-fighting, adventurous element. It’s the family festival to go to when you feel you’re too old for Just So. I think we’ve got a couple of Just So years left in us, but we also cross over well into Timber. We loved it, we’re already looking forward to next year. Timber Festival 2018 had such a cool, folky atmosphere; it was the perfect way to wind down and have some summer fun with the family.
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This July sees the first ever Timber Festival which is located in the stunning surroundings of the National Forest. Timber is a family festival which is taking place on the 6th – 8th July in Feanedock, in the heart of the National Forest. Brought to you by Just So Festival organisers, Wild Rumpus, the Timber Festival is set to be a thought-provoking three days in the forest.
Timber will be three days of music, arts, creativity and philosophy in the woods. With lots of different areas in the woods where festival-goers will be able to learn, relax, experience or just be. There will be live music, workshops, discussions, a chance to really chill out, great food, light and fire installations as well as storytelling and a lantern procession. Timber has seven themes to explore, with lots of different things happening in each one. The themes are; Gather, Provocation, Sound, Light, Breath, Feast and Time.
The Breath theme includes family yoga, Tai Chi, Indian head massage and forest bathing. I am in dire need of some serious chill out time, so I think I know where I’ll be spending the weekend! Explore the experiences available over the weekend and find out more about the artists and performers appearing here.
You can camp in the forest, learn more about the woods, reconnect with nature and have a really special weekend with the family. We are Just So Festival veterans and our favourite part of Just So is spending time in the Spellbound Forest; so I have high hopes that Timber Festival will have all of the wonder of the Spellbound Forest and more!
With den building, crafts, woodland workshops, campfire songs, tree climbing; as well as famous faces such as Stuart Maconie, Geoff Bird and Robert Macfarlane; Timber looks set to be a fabulously thought-provoking and fun weekend for the whole family.
Come along to the Timber Festival this July where the peaceful tonic of the wildness rules supreme!
Timber Festival is on the 6th – 8th of July 2018. Tickets for Timber Festival are now available at £130 /£45 for a weekend ticket; £40 /£15 for day visitors, under 3’s free. People who live within the National Forest get an additional 10% off their ticket price.
Have you got your tickets for the Just So Festival yet? If you haven’t, you’ll be missing out on three days of weird, wonderful and incredibly magical family fun. We went last year and had the best time, it was the absolute highlight of our year. Three days and nights off grid, spending time together with family and friends; walking barefoot in the woods, having insane pillow fights and dressing up as bees (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it). Here’s what’s new and wonderful this year.
Taking place on 17th – 19th August at the Rode Hall Estate in Cheshire this year’s Just So Festival is packed with familiar old favourites and an array of exciting new things to see, do and experience. Step out of your everyday life and enter a wonderland of world-class literature, arts, theatre, dance, music, comedy and creative pursuits together as a family. Immerse yourselves in a weekend full of magical midnight feasts, curious creatures, raucous pillow fights, hidden retreats, top-notch food, drink and boutique camping options and breathtaking beauty.
Join the Tribal Tournament – the most bonkers competition in the land! Dress up as a fox, owl, stag, frog, fish, bee or a lion and compete to win gold pebbles,. Take part in the glorious Tribal Tournament and the tribe with the highest score wins. Who will lift the Tribal Trophy this year?
New for 2018 there is the intriguing and enthralling Playground of Illusions. This is a new area full of mystery and trickery from Travelling Light Circus – see the world in a new light in this hypnotic fusion of science and art.
Roll Up, Roll Upwill be a glorious large-scale area by the lake, dedicated to all things circus and seaside. Expect tumblers, somersaults and aerial mastery from the best performers in the land including a spectacular high wire show Equilibrius and tightrope workshops from The Bullzini Family.
There’s also The Flamingo Lounge, an area filled to the brim with all things dance. Strut your stuff at Silent Discos and summon all strength for Power Ballad Yoga. Whirl, swirl, disco, cancan, jig, jive, rhumba, spin, strut, shimmy, swing, two-step and throw all kinds of shapes in this gloriously kitsch wonderland. When night falls you can boogie the night away here too.
Step into the extraordinary Spellbound Forest for tales from storyteller extraordinaire Ian Douglas. Enjoy a Barefoot Walk, or nature and bush crafts; den building, tree climbing, campfire tales and bonfire bands and sing songs as dusk falls and the forest really comes to life.
Visit a living Weleda garden to discover more about the amazing healing properties and powers of our native plants. Join the Weleda team for a tea party and sample Weleda’s pure and 100% certified natural products. Enjoy some grown-up relaxation time with complimentary Weleda Skin Food hand massages.
The Just So Festival is set in woodland clearings; with rolling parkland, arboreal amphitheatres and lakeside spots in the Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire; one of the most stunning landscapes in the UK. Families choosing to camp at the festival can experience the stunning boutique camping area in Landpods, yurts, bell tents, tipis and vintage tents; or bring your own tent or camper van.
If you’re planning to come to Just So 2018 you are advised to buy tickets earlier than usual this year. Tickets selling at a record rate for this limited capacity event.
We’ve been going to the Just So Festival for four years now and each year we throw ourselves into the magic of it all. It is absolutely the highlight of our year. This year was no different, we arrived anticipating good things and we left sad that it was all over for another year. Just So Festival 2017 was an utterly enchanting experience.
There’s so much going on at the Just So Festival, it’s impossible to fit everything you want to do into a weekend. We’d been quite organised before we arrived and I’d jotted down a timetable of things we’d like to see and do, knowing that we would miss some of what we’d selected, but we’d probably accidentally happen upon some Just So magic along the way.
It’s almost impossible to choose just five outstanding things from the Just So Festival 2017, but after much deliberation we’ve narrowed it down to these weird, wonderful and decidedly enchanting Just So moments –
The Just So Pillow Fight!
Ben took a bit of persuading to get stuck into the pillow fight, but once he could see his friends in there having fun there was no stopping him. The pillow fight is a completely bonkers but wonderful sight. Several hundred people bashing each other with pillows, most of which burst and feathers flew everywhere. The initial fight went on for about half an hour, with proceedings being halted a couple of times to retrieve children lost in the feathery mire.
The fighting went on for several hours, with small skirmishes periodically breaking out. It was the most fun to take part in and almost as much fun to watch. The pillow fight is a definite highlight!
Campfire in the Spellbound Forest
The Spellbound Forest is my absolute favourite area at Just So. We always gather each night around the campfire to listen to storyteller Ian Douglas; marvel at Dieter’s mad science and sing our hearts out with resident Scout Master, Ian Mackintosh. This year something a little different happened in the forest, Ian Douglas got married at Just So and we were all invited to the Wedding Feast around the campfire. It was an evening of storytelling, song, celebration and magic.
The Spellbound Forest is also the place to be for a whole raft of creative and nature based activities. We went on a wonderfully refreshing barefoot walk though the woods. Once again we made clay faces; we toasted marshmallows at campfire cookery; enjoyed the intimate little Theatre for One sessions and met the Wildlife Champions from Chester Zoo. There was no formal den building session this year, but our adventurer and his friends built their own and it was brilliant.
Peekaboo and the Weleda Tent
With the boy being a strapping six years old, really we have no business being in the Peekaboo area (which is for babies and toddlers really). But this year there was a mud play area which was planted up with bee loving plants. Our little bee couldn’t stay away. He loved digging and discovering more about the plants.
I also owe a debt of thanks to the Weleda team. I’d booked a free Skin Food Hand Massage which took place in a shed. On my way to the massage I fell over, skinned my knees and made my bottom lip wobble. They were very lovely to me when I arrived at the shed and let me sit down to gather my thoughts and gave me some cream for my knees. The hand massage was also excellent, I felt so relaxed and my hands were treated to some much needed TLC.
Insect Eating, Wild Food & Foraging at The Social Barn
We all fancied learning more about foraging so off we went to the Social Barn. While we waited for the session to start the boys got stuck into some insect eating (dried mealworms and crickets), they also did some jellybean architecture and tried some wild food before we went off to explore the Rode Hall estate in search of foraged goodies.
Under the expert guidance of James Wood, professional wild food forager, we learned about how to find and cook elderberries, nettles, chestnuts, acorns and hawthorn berries. All the boys got stuck in, foraging for goodies and we even got to sample some of the wild food. I can say that I’ve eaten an uncooked nettle and it didn’t sting!
Just So Festival 2017: Joining the Bee Tribe
Just So is famous for its Tribal Tournament. Each year families dress up as owls, foxes, frogs, stags, lions, fish or bees. The new tribe this year were the Bees, being from Manchester we just had to be Manchester Worker Bees. There were lots and lots of bees this year, all in sunny yellow, sporting wings and striped socks. We’d been fairly low-key with out costumes, wearing yellow and black tops with bee wings and antennae.
We fully embraced the Tribal Tournament this year, with the boys all buzzing about collecting the golden nuggets to give to the Queen Bee. Alas we didn’t win this year, but we had a good time trying. The foxes won and were a little smug about it. Maybe the bees need to bring them down a peg or two next year!
Just So Festival 2017: The best of the rest…
You could easily spend a week at Just So, but you have to squish it all in to just three days (or one day if you’ve got a day ticket). I couldn’t possibly list all the amazing stuff we did and saw and ate, but honourable mentions to go – The Baghdaddies; Stargazing at The Observatory; The Cautionary Tales of Animalia; How I Hacked My Way Into Space; The Actual reality Arcade; Dancing the Conga; The Forgotten Courtyard; Away with the Fairies and the wonderful wand making workshop; Bollywood dancing at Jitterbug; and the food, ALL the food!
It was a wonderful weekend. It filled our hearts up with joy and creativity and adventure. We were happier, better people for our time at the Just So Festival 2017. Roll on next year!
Early bird tickets for Just So Festival 2018 (17 – 19 August, Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire) are on sale from Friday 25 August at www.justsofestival.org.uk at special early bird prices. Under 3s free.
The Just So Festival is now in its 8th year and 2017 promises to be a vintage one for this award-winning family festival. Produced by Wild Rumpus and taking place on 18th-20th August at Rode Hall in Cheshire, the Just So Festival is a wonderful melting pot of music, literature, arts, theatre, dance, comedy, storytelling, magic and adventure, with new and exciting sights, sounds and things to do. This annual, intimate, weekend-long family festival is an imaginative outdoor adventure like no other.
Just So veterans will recognise the familiar festival goings on, such as tales from storyteller extraordinaire, Ian Douglas as well as campfire music and songs in the Spellbound Forest. There’s a full programme of extraordinary events happening throughout the weekend. Experience the wonder of the Woodland Theatre. Encounter lands, creatures and characters beyond your wildest dreams in Tales of Animalia. Visit Away With The Fairies, an enchanting secret fairyland where sprites make mischief up in the trees and you could with luck meet the Fairy Queen.
Sing and dance your socks off at the Footlights stage with over 20 brilliant artists and bands performing over the weekend, including Just So legends The Baghdaddies. Dance the night away in the Jitterbug tent where you can learn to dance the CanCan, Charleston, Circus Swing, Flatfooting, Bollywood, Ballet, Tap and Jive, not forgetting the retro disco.
Explore the universe at The Observatory. Learn about the constellations with Star Gazing sessions led by an astronomer, make an array of star and moon shaped lanterns to parade against the twilight sky. Explore the High Seas and enjoy some family yoga, tai chi, meditation and take a wooden rowing boat out on to the tranquil lake.
The littlest Just So adventurers should head directly to The Peekaboo Garden – an entire area of art, music, paint, clay, dens and bubbles and top notch facilities for the under 4’s.
This year Just So are introducing some exciting new areas to explore. By the lake you’ll find the Silver Screen – an area dedicated to your favourite family films, recreate iconic dance scenes, join in a chorus line or become an extra in a Just So production. In the Social Barn next to The Social you’ll find insect eating, foraging and the first ever Just So jelly fight. Not to mention peculiar picnics, barmy dinner parties, a food funny face challenge, plus the legendary Just So Midnight Feast and The Great Just So Bake Off.
Discover the new Forgotten Courtyard.Tucked away in the ruins of the Old Tenants’ Hall is Rode’s beautiful Italian Garden complete with a fountain, Italian cypress and olive trees. Find this secret spot in the grounds of Rode Hall and take part in workshops, provocations, debates and talks. Meet some of the UK’s favourite children’s authors and find out more about the world around us.
Take yourself out of your day-to-day lives and experience a weekend of pure magic and wonder. At the heart of Just So is the now famous Tribal Tournament. Join in with the most bonkers competition in the land as festival goers of all ages dress up as a fish, frog, fox, owl, lion or stag and compete throughout the weekend to see which tribe comes out on top.
Whether you’re visiting for a day, or camping for the weekend, the Just So Festival is just the ticket for fantastic family fun. Get creative with clay, make a paper lantern, sing, dance, explore and immerse yourself in the magic and creativity of this wonderful family festival.
Families planning to come to Just So 2017 are being advised to buy tickets earlier than usual this year, with tickets selling at a record rate for the 5000 capacity August event.
The Just So Festival is an annual, intimate, weekend-long family festival is a wonderful, creative, arty, family outdoor adventure like no other. We go each year and it is such a highlight. I look forward to it all year long; we can’t wait to get there and we are always sad to leave.
Now in its 8th year, the 2017 this award-winning family festival just gets better and better. Each August the Just So Festival pitches up in the gorgeous grounds of Rode Hall in Cheshire, filling three days with music, literature, arts, theatre, dance, comedy, storytelling, magic and adventure. We always leave feeling inspired, rejuvenated and completely reconnected as a family.
Produced by Wild Rumpus, the Just So Festival this year takes place on 18th-20th August. You can go for a day, or you can camp for the weekend. We have done both. We loved camping at the festival so much, being under canvas really adds to the adventure.
Why should you go to the Just So Festival this year?
ONE – Around the campfire There’s so much to do at Just So, it’s hard to pick favourites. But we loved being around the campfire before bedtime, singing our hearts out with Scout Master, Ian Macintosh and listening to stories told by Just So legend, Ian Douglas. It sends you off to bed feeling happy, content and smelling vaguely of wood-smoke.
TWO – The first ever Just So Jelly Fight! This year for the first time, in the Social Barn next to The Social you’ll find insect eating, foraging, jelly bean architecture and the first ever Just So jelly fight. Get ready to join in with the messiest, stickiest and most ridiculous of food fights.
THREE – Tribal Tournament Just So veterans will know all about the famous festival Tribal Tournament. Festival goers of all ages dress up as a fish, frog, fox, owl, lion or stag and compete throughout the weekend to see which tribe comes out on top. Join in the Wild Rumpus Parade at the end of the weekend where the winners are crowned!
FOUR – Food, glorious food! The range of food available at the Just So Festival is incredible. The Social area is where most of the food stalls are, but there are more on the Village Green and in the High Seas area. If you wanted to you could eat something wildly different for every meal at Just So. Our favourites are the grilled sweetcorn from Cotswold Corn Roast, ice cream from Ginger’s Comfort Emporium and hot dogs a-plenty from Piggy Smalls. Though other food vendors are available.
FIVE – Do the Jitterbug! Strut your stuff at the night time retro discos in the Jitterbug tent – dressing up is encouraged! If daytime dance is more your thing, you can learn to dance the CanCan, Charleston, Circus Swing, Flatfooting, Bollywood, Ballet, Tap and Jive.
SIX – The wonderful Rode Hall Estate The Rode Hall Estate is beautiful and absolutely perfectly designed for the wonderful goings on at the festival. Explore the grounds and find hidden magic around every corner. New this year is the Forgotten Courtyard, abeautiful Italian Garden tucked away in the ruins of the Old Tenants’ Hall complete with a fountain, Italian cypress and olive trees. Find this secret spot and take part in workshops, discussions, debates and talks, plus meet some of the UK’s favourite children’s authors there.
Plus this year the Rode Hall Tea Rooms will be open for homemade breakfasts, lunches and cakes made from the organic produce grown on the estate. I heartily recommend their Staffordshire Oatcakes and steaming mugs of tea!
SEVEN – Carry on Camping, or glamping if you prefer I didn’t think I’d be a happy camper, but I was. In our first family camping weekend, we whispered into the night under the canvas, cooked sausages on our little camping stove and snuggled up like caterpillars in our sleeping bags.
With toilet blocks and actual real life showers with hot water, the facilities are excellent. If you have tiny tots they have their own special baby bath time available in Peekaboo.
For campers who fancy a touch of luxury, there are a range of glamping options available to pre-book and campervans and caravans are welcome. Come for the weekend, camp, have fun, go off grid, get twigs in your hair, let go, have fun.
EIGHT – Award winning Accessibility
I have chronic pain and nerve damage. I can’t really feel my feet and legs, so accessibility is important to me. The Just So Festival organisers have thought of everything; from accessible camping, refrigeration for medication, wheelchair charging points as well as accessible toilets and changing areas.
I used many of the accessible facilities last year I can say hand on heart they accessibility is excellent and is 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.
NINE – Lively live music!
Down by The Social, you’ll find the Footlights stage with over 20 brilliant artists and bands performing over the weekend, including Just So legends David Gibb, The Baghdaddies and singer, Laura Oakes.
These are my nine reasons to go to the Just So Festival this year. These are only nine of about 900 wonderful reasons. There’s so much to see, do and experience there. Immerse yourself in the magic and creativity of this wonderful family festival. Leave feeling inspired, rejuvenated and completely reconnected as a family.
Tickets for this intimate and fabulous family festival are selling fast, so make sure you book your tickets as early as you can.
One of our family highlights of 2016 was going to the Just So Festival in Cheshire. It was our first year of camping at the festival and it was a wonderfully magical family weekend. We decided before we even packed the car up to come home that we wanted to go to the Just So Festival 2017, and that we definitely want to camp as that was so much fun.
Just So is an annual, intimate, weekend-long festival – an outdoor adventure like no other.Each year Just So seems to grow and change, with new and magical new elements being added. This year is no exception and the line up is already giving me goosebumps.
With Early-bird tickets for the festival being released in January, we take a look at what’s new for the Just So Festival 2017.
The glorious lakeside Silver Screen glade is a large-scale area dedicated to all things cinematic. Recreate famous dance scenes from favourite musicals, join a musical chorus line and become extras in a Just So epic production. Expect marvellous music, theatre dance and circus all themed around the big screen. Bring a blanket while night falls to the beautiful outdoor cinema here and snuggle up to watch the best silent movies and family classics together.
Inquisitive family explorers can discover the new Forgotten Courtyard. Tucked away in the ruins of the Old Tenants’ Hall is Rode’s beautiful Italian Garden. Expect to stretch your knowledge of the world around you and take part in workshops, provocations, debates and talks. Experience soundscapes and spoken word events here against the backdrop of the beautiful fountain, Italian cypress and olive trees.
Head to the new covered Social Barn for a completely crackers celebration of fodder. It’s located next to The Social (with its incredible array of street food and drink) and home to the colouring cafe, midnight feasts and The Great Just So Bake Off.
Back by popular demand for 2017 is Away With The Fairies – deep within The Spellbound Forest find a secret fairyland. See if you can spy some fairies making mischief up in the trees and meet the Fairy Queen.
Together with these new areas, family festivalgoers can also re-visit much loved and established Just So areas such as Peekaboo, Spellbound Forest and the Woodland Theatre. Adventure into Tales of Animalia, dance the night away in Jitterbug and enjoy the Footlights stage. Not forgetting the wonderful High Seas and the wonderful Tribal Tournament.
Just So is set in woodland clearings, rolling parkland, arboreal amphitheatres and lakeside spots in the Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire. It’s one of the most stunning landscapes in the UK, with limited public access the rest of the year.
Families planning on going to the Just So Festival 2017 are advised to buy tickets earlier than usual this year, with tickets selling at record speed for the 5000 capacity August festival.
The Just So Festival 2017 takes place on 18 – 20 August 2017 at the Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire and we can’t wait.
The Just So Festival has a very special place in our hearts. This year was our third year, but our first year of camping. We’ve never camped before as a family, so we knew we were in for an adventure. Mix that with the magic of Just So and we managed to make a million memories and several hundred smiles, which was just what the doctor ordered.
We arrived on site on Friday afternoon, the festival was just beginning and as we pitched our tent in the Accessible Camping area, the heavens opened and we got our first soaking of the weekend. The folk at Just So aren’t easily put off having a good time, so I was sure rain would not stop play, and it didn’t.
There is so much to do at Just So. There are fixed areas like the Spellbound Forest (a forest with a campfire, a small hidden theatre and lots of activities and crafts happening all around); The High Seas with it’s travelling barn of merriment, huge pirate ship and sandpit, lantern making and more. As well as areas like the Village Green, Peekaboo (a tent village for babies and little ones), The Social, and brand new for this year, Tales of Animalia – a theatre hidden in the woods. As well as the Jitterbug Tent, Head Over Heels, Footlights and The Observatory.
Before we arrived we were sent a programme of events and I dutifully highlighted all the things I fancied, knowing that I would probably largely ignore my plans and just go with the flow, which is exactly how things should be.
We explored the site, grabbed a few things to munch on for our tea, waved goodbye to daddy (he had to go home but promised to be back the next day) and we headed into the Spellbound Forest to listen to the Just So legend which is Ian Douglas and then take part in some singing around the campfire with Ian Mackintosh. The Campfire Song sessions soon became a firm favourite of ours, so we took part with gusto all three nights.
Throughout the weekend the early evening around the campfire sessions also included the exuberant David Gibb, Geoff Bird and terrifying and amazing (in equal measure) scientific experiments from the fantastic Dieter Wadeson.
We woke up on Saturday to a smattering of sunshine. Daddy returned and we headed off to explore. We headed straight for The High Seas to watch a performance of the laugh out loud “Shark Legs” and then for a quick play in the pirate sand pit. We walked through Sailcloth City – an avenue of sailcloth, with sailcloth dens and passageways to explore, and went to look at the lake. It was raining fairly hard by this point, so we watched the rowing boats on the lake for a short while and headed off to find some shelter.
One of the things I was most looking forward to was Les Enfants Terribles – The Fantastical Flying Exploratory Laboratory. Sadly we missed the first few minutes, struggled to get a decent spot to watch it and the sound wasn’t that great, so we did struggle a bit to keep up. The small boy climbed on my knee and we huddled together in the drizzle and watched the show. The performers bravely continued through the showers and we giggled at the madcap antics of Les Enfants.
After the performance we headed back to the relative shelter of the Spellbound Forest. We watched as willow was woven into beautiful creations and nearby children were toasting marshmallows on the fire.
Out of the corner of my eye I spied a creature with terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws. Oh help! Oh no! It’s a Gruffalo. A very friendly Gruffalo who was very happy to meet all the children. He is a Just So favourite and it wouldn’t be the same without meeting him in the deep dark woods.
I managed to persuade the small boy to visit the Theatre for One in the Spellbound Forest. In the middle of the wood, under a canopy were six miniature theatre shows, each for one or two viewers. He settled down and watched a short puppet show about a mouse in a house and then watched an artist who painted his portrait, this is something which he loved. We are only sad that we didn’t managed to see all of the different performances over the weekend, but they were incredibly popular.
I was very keen to make a clay face, throughout the forest the trees are adorned with clay faces people have made. I watched the introduction by Barefoot Ceramics, then I look my lump of clay and made a lion head (with some additional help from the small boy). I had lots of messy fun with this and it’s something I’d like to do at home on one of our trees.
Another on my must see list were the Baghdaddies. I’ve seen them play live before and I adore them. They toured the festival playing their vibrant, upbeat, infection music, drawing everyone in like musical Pied Pipers. I really do suggest that as soon as you’ve finished reading this you go check them out on YouTube.
A wander through the woods to the Tales of Animalia area found us watching a very popular performance of Reynard the Fox. The boy was enchanted by it and was very excited to meet the performers afterwards. They were excellent, really chatty with the children and very happy to take photos. Later on that weekend we spotted Cyclops and his naughty flock of sheep making mischief around the festival site. It’s the never quite knowing what weirdness and wonder might be round each corner which makes Just So so special.
The food and drink at the festival was of an excellent standard. We ate incredibly well and it wasn’t outrageously expensive either. My festival favourites were the steaming cups of amazing hot chocolate (to keep me warm) and the corn on the cob. Things so simple but utterly delicious. We did spend a lot of time carefully choosing what we would eat and then each of us having envy over what the other had. There was lots of different types of food to choose from and lots and lots of choice for veggies and vegans which pleased me greatly. It was good to have a choice and not just an option.
It rained a lot over the weekend. It could have made us all miserable but in many ways we hardly noticed it. The muddy paths were managed so they didn’t become dangerous. I didn’t slip once. The festival toilets were quite nice (compared to the horror of festival toilets I remember from the 90’s). Just So was relatively small and friendly with a really lovely chilled and happy atmosphere. I think I would live there if I could.
We had a really magical time at Just So. We’ve had a horrible few months and spending off the grid time together, doing and seeing weird and wondrous things has done us a lot of good. It’s helped build confidence, expand horizons, it’s made us laugh and (me) cry a little, but in a good way. It was without a shadow of a doubt the highlight of our summer, perhaps even the highlight of the year.
If you can only go to the Just So Festival for the day, do it. But if you can go for the weekend, then you really should. It’s magical.
Early bird tickets for Just So Festival 2017 (18 – 20 August, Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire) are on sale from Friday 26 August at www.justsofestival.org.uk at special early bird prices of £120 (adults), £45 (child) for weekend camping, £70 (adult), £25 (child) for 2 day non-camping, £40 (adult), £15 (child) for day tickets. Under 3s free.