Mark Booth delves into the festival calendar on the search for the best family friendly festivals in the UK - where little kids can have just as much (sometimes more) fun than the big ones.
There was a time when the music festival was a strictly adult affair, inextricably linked with drink and drug-fuelled chaos in the fields of summertime Britain. But fortunately for the more mature music enthusiast, there are increasing numbers of family-friendly festivals springing up every summer, meaning babysitters are a thing of the past as children can finally enjoy their early rites of passage into that great British tradition of the music festival.
Gone are the days of these events being overrun by GCSE bin arsonists and medieval toilets that are little more than holes in the ground. There's a new breed of festival hitting the country this year.
Let's take a look at Skiddle's pick of these musical treats fit for all ages.
The Wickerman Festival
Taking its monicker from the 1973 Christopher Lee film, The Wickerman Festival celebrates an important landmark in its history this year. Yes, The Wickerman Festival in Dumfries and Galloway is in its 10th year as one of Scotland's leading festivals and Skiddle is your official provider of tickets for this incredible line-up. Not that EVERYONE needs tickets however; it doesn't get much more family-friendly than free tickets for children 12 years and under. Echo & the Bunnymen, Feeder and The Noisettes are main-stage headliners, with The Hoosiers, The Coral and The Damned also among the weekend's biggest hitters. The Wickerman is one of the UK's most eclectic festivals, offering 8 stages of rock, indie, metal, punk, drum & bass and reggae to name a few. There's also an acoustic tent for families seeking some chilled out sounds, as well as a good number of top quality food and drink stalls to ensure that this festival is an assault on all of the senses. The festival comes to a red-hot climax on the Saturday night with the burning of a giant 30ft Wickerman built by local craftsmen. One not to miss.
Find out more and buy tickets for The Wickerman Festival 2011
GuilFest is undoubtedly one of the country's leading family festivals, featuring just a little something for every member of the family. Dad-rock is well served by Roger Daltry, the legendary lead singer of The Who, as well as Echo & the Bunnymen. The kids are also taken care of, with N-Dubz, Peter Andre and James Blunt set to take to the stage for the Guilford festival. This is certainly a festival to take a picnic blanket to, as families gather at the stages for leisurely afternoons in front of some of the country's top artists. Nominated twice for the prize of “Best Medium Sized Festival”, GuilFest 2011 is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, with 20,000 visitors expected on each day of the event. There's a crèche on hand for adults seeking a few drinks in the evening, as well as a kidZone promising fun and games for the wee ones. Indeed, GuilFest is nominated for the prestigious “Family Festival of the Year” award every year, winning it last in 2006. With an outdoor swimming pool and a leisure centre also flanking the site, GuilFest 2011 more than earns the right to be called the perfect place to introduce your precious nippers to the festival tradition.
Find out more and buy tickets for Guilfest 2011
The End of the Road
The End of the Road is one of the most relaxed festivals on the circuit, offering breathtaking Wiltshere scenery and by far the best quality food and refreshments to be found in any field this summer. With folk and Americana taking centre stage, this Larmer Tree Gardens festival is definitely one to let your beard grow and to dust off any chequed plaid shirts for. Children go free with a paying adult, meaning this is a wonderfully thrifty way to see off summer 2011 at this September fest. Headliners for this year's event include Beirut, Joanna Newsome, Mogwai, The Walkmen and Midlake, meaning you can nourish your children with some indie heavyweights. The festival takes place over four separate stages, including the infamous “Garden stage” hidden away in the woods, which plays host to semi-secret special acoustic performances from some of the weekend's biggest names. For the eagle-eyed, the festival is also great for spotting rare, exotic birds, including peacocks and parrots. There are many children's areas also scattered around this beautiful site, as well as a games field, a cinema tent and a healing field. Definitely a festival that combines the feeling captured during childhood holidays of yore, with more than a slither of excellent music and audio-visual entertainment to keep the kids entertained.
This festival has come an awfully long way since its inception in 2001, where there were just 70 people in attendance. This year many thousands are expected for a stellar line-up for an event that just gets bigger with each passing year. Within a guitar's toss of the beautiful city of Winchester, Blissfields is an ideal quieter festival for parents to take along their children to. Paul and Mel Bliss are the brainchilds of Blissfields and as parents themselves, consideration of families remains of paramount importance. There is a separate campsite for families located a reasonable distance from the din of the music stages to enable younger children to get a good night's kip, fresh for the mornings of the festival where there will be a myriad of activities and workshops for them to enjoy. Katy Ashworth of CBBC will be leading a kids cookery workshop, there's “All Juggled Up”, which as the name suggests, is a juggling and circus workshop as well as a reading from acclaimed children's author, Elissa Elwick. There's also the small matter of a Lost Child service that you should familiarise yourself with on arrival, offering that extra piece of mind. Artists booked for main stage slots at this year's Blissfields include: Frank Turner, Tricky, Gold Panda, Jim Jones Revue and Delays. Pure bliss.
Set in the dramatic scenery of the lakes, Kendal Calling is a 3 day wonder that has grown exponentially in its short three year lifespan – building from a 900 capacity to today’s near-10,000. The line-up has also grown in stature to include the likes of The Cribs, Blondie and yep, Echo and the Bunnymen - those 2011 festival regulars. Kids go free to this one and there’s a family campsite area, too, if you don’t want to expose the kids to any unsavoury campsite frolics. Like End of the Road, Kendal Calling is all about its pastoral location, with deer regularly seen lolloping through the site – adding a certain unique flavour to this brush with the great outdoors. The kids area is free of charge and offers the opportunity for children to make their own percussion instruments in specially tutored workshops, mask making, as well as storytelling and puppetry. There’s also an array of games and activities through the day that should start shaping your perfect family weekend of festival fun. For culture vultures there’s a selection of thought-provoking art installations to immerse yourselves with, too, making this event the perfect tonic to the summer’s rigorous working weeks.
Find out more about Kendal Calling 2011
So there you have it. Get those rucksacks in the back of the car, dust off the tent in the garage and for-goodness-sake pack both the sun tan lotion and wellies for your great British family summer with a difference. With so many great bands in so many great locations, you’re only to ask yourself: which is it going to be?
Words: Mark Booth