‘Mildly wild’ could be the mantra for this boutique weekend family festival. Its magical woodland setting adds an aura of fairytale adventure to proceedings, but there’s also hefty doses of crazy capers, mayhem and let-your-hair-down silliness.
With a lively mix of art, music, literature and theatre all embedded and entwined in a wondrous outdoor landscape of woodland clearings, rolling parks, arboreal ampitheatres and lakeside spots, Just So Festival has none of the crazy hedonism of some grown-up festivals: instead, everything is pitch perfect for a young audience, with the intimate setting and relaxed pace reflecting its family ethos. Described by The Guardian as “possibly the most family-friendly of the lot” and winners of Festival Kidz Gold Award for three years running, Just So festival is now celebrating its 7th edition.
A roving fairy Queen, swashbuckling pirates, magical story-telling and castle dens made of cardboard will make your child’s imagination soar. We reckon if toddlers were in charge of festival planning, what they’d create would be pretty close to Just So Festival.
If you really want to get into the festival spirit, don’t forget to take part in the Tribal Tournament. Choose a tribe to join – there are owls, foxes, stags, fish, frogs or lions – then aim to earn points for your team over the weekend where performers and volunteers give out tokens to worthy recipients (best dancer, grubbiest baby, most impressive fox). The triumphant tribe will be crowned at the Wild Rumpus gathering at the end of the festival.
Musical Maestros Just So is not about some of the big musical names you’ll find at other festivals, but there will be plenty to get you in the groove, as well as plenty where you can join in. Highlights on the Footlights Stage include Backyard Burners, Galleon Blast, Big Easy Swing Band, David Gibb, Jimmy and the Revolvers, Robbie Boyd, Harry Bird and the Rubber Wellies. There’s also plenty of opportunities to hone your own musical skills with ukelele and samba drumming workshops, and plenty of sing-along sing-songs.
Featured Fun The Spellbound Forest has an enchanting Woodland Theatre, dancing and exploring by day and bonfire bands, stories and songs as dusk falls. The forest features Flying The Nest, an interactive experience where families learn about native birds and how to be a good birder with the aid of visual effects, puppet show, props and wild costumes involved in the act. Animals lovers will also enjoy the Bee Cart, Mad and Marvelous Bird Hunt and Tent of Wild Beasts.
The Zones New for 2015 is the eccentric Village Green, where you can indulge in knitting, toddler jousting, lashings of cake, and more. Other favourites return including the Spellbound Forest; Head Over Heels for spectucular show and DIY circus skills, including juggling and diabalo; Peekaboo Cafe for baby feeding, changing, bathing and play; New Curiosity Shop; The High Seas, for a mix of Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe adventure; and Jitterbug – the place to learn all sorts of dance from Bollywood to Charleston, hip-hop to Lindybop.
- Wit and wise words come from poet and Just So Festival regular, John Hegley, and children’s stand-up comedian James Campbell.
- Stop off at Grand Central for all things travel-related including the novelty Passport Photo Booth, paper plane origami and recitals of Dr Seuss’s paen to possibilities Oh, the places you’ll go!
- Don’t forget to pack fairy wings and tinsel for the fairy ball, part of the aptly named ‘Away with the fairies’ program. The Fairy Queen will also make regular horseback tours on the site, granting wishes and sprinkling fairy dust in her wonderful wake.
- At The High Seas, thar’ be seafaring shenanigans of all sorts, including pirate training camp and shanty singsongs. There’s also workshops and craft sessions, including saw playing, stone balancing and lantern-making so you’re prepared to shine at the Lantern Parade.
- Take a seat at the 1920s vintage-inspired Palace Picture House cinema for classic family movies, including E.T., Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, with sing-alongs highly encouraged.
- Watch spectacular acrobatics and aerial mastery at Head Over Heals, where flamboyant tumbles and trickery are de rigueur. You can also pick up some Parkour tips and learn the calming art of capoeira.
- The retro disco returns for the chance to turn back time to the 70s and 80s – the perfect excuse for daddy to dust down his best Saturday Night Fever white suit. All in the name of earning points for his Tribe, obviously.
Chill Out Time Alongside baby massage for kids age up to 4 years, there is also the Bubble Hour and the Peekaboo Cafe. Organic wellbeing brand Weleda are also on hand to offer treatments and workshops for parents and mothers-to-be. There will also be info and support on breastfeeding from Medela, the local National Childbirth Trust, and Smile, for post-natal support and advice.
Dining Tables There’s a tasty selection of street food delights, festival favourites and wholesome options for every meal of the day, plus snacks and treats, including Mama Muesli; Tea N Toast; The Cake Doctor ans Mini Mocha. Hot dish options including Castaway Kitchen for Mediterranean flavours; Stomping Grounds for a Turkish/Anglo fusion, Fish & for fish and chips with a spicy twist; Hobo Food Smokehouse and Grill; Piggy Smalls for gourmet hotdogs and Nelly Barn for homemade burgers and fries, while vegetarians should head to Beets & Beans or enjoy a Cotswold Corn Road. Sweet treats include plenty of cakes, award-winning ice cream at Ginger’s Comfort Food, Madame Francoise’s Crepes; Frozen yoghurt at Little Bo and Lickalix fruity ice lollies. Also returning this year are Pasta la Vista; Las Paellaras; Let’s Go Mexicana; Proper Pizza Company and Pieminister.
Full Weekend Adult, £117.15 | 4–16 year-olds, £53.25 | Under-3s, Free
** Want to see more family-friendly festivals for 2015. Check out our 12 We Love… Summer Festivals round-up **