Festival equals great. Festival equals mud-caked debauchery, a bit of Shandy Bass, lots of legs on show, and dirty bulking via a burger and chips van. FAMILY festival equals all of the above, by everyone else, diluted with a thousand-strong army of knackered looking parents who just want to lay the fuck down on a National Trust picnic blanket.
So, are we all familiar with Rob da Bank? He’s the founder of Bestival, and one would assume that either his first name is Rob, or his surname is Bank. Anyway, in 2015 he launched a lovely family friendly little festival on Southampton Common for 30,000 people, with all sorts of rock / indie / pop performers.
“It’s not a tents, wellies and car packed to the rafters experience,” he said. “It’s a metropolitan two-day show easy to access and open to all ages, compact but packed with experiences and priced very, very reasonably.”
Ah, well. The beauty here is that it’s a non-camping event. which is marvellous because I’m not a natural camper and I get cross easily. This year, we decided to go along, with the original intention of buying weekend tickets and binning off (not literally) the children for a few hours at some point so that we could mosh and throw warm lager around at will. Due to the in laws very selfishly deciding to go away on that VERY SAME weekend, we rolled up our sleeves and prepared ourselves for 48 hours of mild hell.
The gates opened at 10.30am or something, but owing to adulting we still had sensible domestic duties to undertake before we could lad it up. I went to the gym, the husband (I might call him Adam, you know) did Parkrun, then ensued a trip to Aldi and two loads of washing. THEN I stuck some bacon under the grill and it was proper banging, like. We set off on the 0.5 mile stroll to the venue. We were expecting queues – happily, there were no queues. We were expecting rain – happily, there was glorious sun. We were expecting free rides, having spent over £100 on a family ticket. No no, rides are chargeable extras. And oh, how we were charged.
Entering the field, among the hazy waft of food vapour and actual vape vapour, a number of tantalisingly bright rides and attractions revealed themselves to the trained toddler eye. We had a helter skelter, a ferris wheel, and a fuck off great bouncy castle. All of which had to be completed within the first 45 minutes on site.
That ferris wheel, Jesus Christ. One of those that looks quite tame from ground level. It was £3 per adult and £2 per child but the nice man taking the money slipped me back a cheeky £2, which promptly fell out of the pocket of my jeans and down a gap in the floorboards. Now, the nice man was either putting the flirts on, or taking the piss out of my low-level radiating terror, because he gave us about seven bonus spins on this bloody wheel. The first bonus spin came at the point that my mum paranoia set in, and I became convinced that a petite four year old could absolutely 100% slip under the safety bar if she was particularly exuberant and I wasn’t practically pinning down her thigh with my elbow. By the fifth bonus spin, Adam was theatrically pointing to his watch from the ground and miming that he very much needed a pint. Disclaimer: I was just being a pussy, the ride was perfectly safe and she bloody loved it.
After finally being allowed to catch a break from the rides, we sloped off in the direction of alcoholic beverages and I onboarded some gin disguised as minty elderflower juice…
The children’s area came next, and it was really lovely – with face painting (chargeable), swinging boats (chargeable), a big top, circus activities and demos, massive birthing ball type things, a covered area with baby toys and building blocks, and some sort of wooden sword carving / spinney type wotsit. It was here that we decided to calm the fuck down and do a spot of (chargeable) headband weaving, with some locally sourced willow and bits of foliage.
Found some serenity in amongst all the drunks (😳) at @commonpeopleso with some headband crafting out of willow and…stuff. Really cute idea 😊 #commonpeoplesouthampton #fairy #headwear #backtonature #chickswithsticks #forestdweller #myhappycapture #lionessmama #worldoflittles #intheforest #sotonbloggers #festival #longweekend #childofig #littlefierceones #letthembelittle #thisisengland #greatbritishsummer #chooselove
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The only slightly offputting bit, and I know this will make me sound like a boring old twat, is that the children’s area wasn’t particularly segregated off. As in, all the drunks could roam about. And by 6pm there were masses of drunks. Which is fine, because it’s a festival – but if you don’t have kids, then don’t piss about, pissed up, in the children’s area.
Also, toilets. They were ok, there were about 6 different blocks and rows of portaloos, but they should have had a bank of them separated off for families. It’s not fair to make a four year old queue for literally almost half an hour just to wee out some of the giddy excitement.
On that, what is it with girls who get in the same portaloo as a group and think it will save time?! Where does the third one even stand?!
Anyway, I’m pleased to report that we rocked it until gone 8pm on the first day. We saw a bit of live music, we danced about a bit, we had much of the fun.
We then sobered up a bit sharpish when we decided to call it a night, and the exit was flanked with armed police carrying some mighty big guns. At no point during the weekend did we feel unsafe, at all, but it was a really stark reminder that we live in a pretty shitty world sometimes.
Oops, I’ve gone on for ages and we’re still on Day One. Ok:
A teeny bit of sun, more rides, no more gin, no tantrums (woo!), Amy Macdonald (who was amazing!).
It was really cool. Thanks Rob / Mr Bank.
-SJW June 2017