We were unable to visit Just So Festival this year so we invited a local family to go along for us and let us know their thoughts.
This weekend our family of four packed up our tent, sleeping bags, glitter and, of course, much-needed waterproofs and set off for our first family festival camping experience. Our destination was Just So Festival in Rhode Heath. Just So advertises itself as a family festival that is, ‘all about spending time playing, singing and dancing under the stars with our families and other like-minded people.’ This festival has been on our wish list for some time and we were beyond excited to finally be attending. Even the torrential weather forecast couldn’t dampen our spirits.
One thing that we really loved about the Just So experience was the build-up beforehand. We purchased a program (reasonably priced at £4) which arrived in the post the week before the festival. The program came with a CD of artists who would be playing this year. This ramped up the excitement levels in our house as both my children (6 and 8) had their favourite songs that they couldn’t wait to hear performed live- the amazing David Attenborough song is now a thing of legend in our house! We also put together our tribal costumes.
There are seven Just So tribes: bees, foxes, stags, fish, frogs, owls and lions. Choosing a tribe and dressing up is a great way of getting into the festival spirit- although it’s by no means mandatory. My Daughter (6) and I went to town with our bee costumes, whilst my Son (8) opted for a themed hat and my partner just went as himself. Looking at the amazing outfits on display over the weekend was an absolute highlight for us. Another highlight was winning golden pebbles for our tribe. My daughter earned several pebbles by telling jokes to tribal leaders- what do you call a polar bear wearing earmuffs was her go-to joke on more than one occasion.
This is what Just So Festival is all about. There is a packed program of fantastic activities which run throughout the day. We tried clay modelling and developed our carpentry skills in the Spellbound Forest, laughed along to the family-friendly humour of comedian James Campbell, and enjoyed some truly fantastic shows. My Children’s favourites were Just So regular Professor Pumpernickel and the Giant Balloon Show. The most magical moment for me was watching musician David Gibb from high up in the trees at the Woodland theatre. Popular shows – particularly those around the campfire and in the Woodland Theatre- can fill up early so it’s definitely worth arriving 20 minutes before performances start to grab a good spot. We were slightly disappointed that we didn’t see more bands.
The area around the main stage was extremely muddy after Friday’s downpour, which made moving around hard going -both children lost wellies at one point. Other families seemed to have the same idea as the area was quiet- even when acts were on stage. We were also advised that we would encounter entertainers and curiosities in hidden corners and as we moved around the festival but the weather seemed to prevent a lot of this entertainment from taking place, which is understandable given the muddy conditions and this didn’t spoil our overall enjoyment.
Food and drink.
There is a great choice of food available to buy inside the festival or visitors can alternatively bring their own food. As we were camping on-site, we chose to take a packed lunch at the festival and then bought our evening meal. This allowed us to sample the food that was on offer without costs spiralling too much. After pitching our tent in the rain, the delicious fish and chips from the Fish Bar were a welcome treat. Other food on offer included: fresh oven-fired pizza, gourmet hotdogs, freshly made doughnuts and traditional Tibetan food. Prices were £3 for chips, prices starting at £8 for pizza and £6 for a gourmet hotdog. Pints of larger were £5- which included a reusable cup- and coffee was £3. We took reusable drinking bottles and were impressed by the number of drinking water refill points that were dotted around the site. There is also a well-stocked on-site shop selling anything from batteries to tins of baked beans.
Just So is a great family festival set in beautiful surroundings. The weather conditions were at times challenging, but volunteers and organisers worked hard to make the festival a memorable experience for everyone who attended. There is a real sense of safety at Just So. We felt that we could relax and let our children go off exploring without concern. Our children loved scrambling up hills, walking barefoot and exploring the forest at night time. They are still singing their favourite songs, talking about their best moments and reminiscing fondly about walking in so much mud (yes really!) Just So is a place where children can really be children and grownups can also revel in a childlike freedom- when do you ever get to go out dressed like a bee or a fox in your everyday life? We thoroughly loved the experience and hope to return next year.
Oh, and just in case you were wondering what you do call a polar bear wearing earmuffs the answer is … anything, it can’t hear you!