By Laura Mason
Buzzz, buzz, buzz! My three children were dressed from head to toe in yellow and black with two cute antennas bopping on their heads – this was their dress attire for our long weekend as we had decided we were going to be ‘Team Bee’, one of the tribal line-ups at Just SO’s family festival.
Just SO is slowly making a real name for itself in true UK family festival-ing! It’s held each year at Rode Hall in Cheshire and attracts families far and wide to three days of jam-packed activities and entertainment for guests very young to the very old!
Rocking up on the Friday afternoon we took along the three little ones, plus we roped in my parents for an extra hand. Pitching up the tent, as the irregular campers we are, the children were incredibly excited while we were a little more fraught, but we managed to get set ahead of the rain!
The basic facilities were actually okay. This was my real concern with young children but there were plenty of toilets that were all kept very sanitary, and the showers were hot and clean. If you were really worried on the baby front, then inside the festival itself, Weleda provided a baby bath service, and Naty provided a baby change tent complete with wipes and nappies eliminating all concern for hygiene.
We made our way in to the festival site, a short walk from our tent, on the Friday evening. Doused in hanging lights and lit by colourful uplighting, it was enchanting and we were probably a little fazed by so much on offer, so took a stroll through the grounds taking in the captivating sights.
Saturday morning, armed with my highlighted programme we walked in with purpose to ensure we didn’t miss off any of the action. I’d highly recommend approaching it in this way, as there are more than ten different areas, each crammed with their own schedules. Many things we stumbled across but I wanted to ensure we wouldn’t miss those ‘oh so important’ workshops the kids had been looking forward to.
Our favourite, the Spellbound Forest, bought to life the art of storytelling. This was through adept storytellers, small-scale theatrical productions, campfire tales, poetry and re-enactments. Watching Grace’s face as she and hundreds of other children giggled along to Ian Douglas’ stories was priceless and a revisit time and time again over the weekend.
The Social was a great family space. Hosting a good variety of food and drink stands, we picked up some tasty paella and chocolate dipped churros before bedding down at neighbouring Footlights to watch indigo Velvet, one of the many live music acts, on a sunny Saturday afternoon as they played up a storm and had pretty much everyone on their feet with upbeat fast paced tunes.
One activity that was a must was hanging out at the Observatory, where we spent a good few hours on Saturday making a lantern from scratch. We didn’t realise it at the time, but this was to become our festival highlight. After a tricky start (and with much help courtesy of the grandparent’s willow skills!) we successfully constructed a moon and lantern, which was then appropriately dressed and decorated before they played a focal point in the evening’s parade of hundreds of handcrafted lit lanterns that was led by the Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band, ahead of a beautiful fireworks display.
It would be easy to dismiss a festival as being something for older children, but the Peekaboo area and Village Green were created with babies in mind. A chilled out open space, Marley took part in Baby Yoga with her nanny while I took advantage of a Weleda hand massage (yes they do beautiful adult products too that I highly recommend!) and she also really enjoyed the sessions of mud play and hand painting. Bhangra Baby, a music class for babies, and making seed bombs were a couple of activities I wanted to do but unfortunately just didn’t find time.
I am not sure how to summarise the best of the rest but with Silver Screen’s homage to all this cinematic; bopping around like crazy at the silent disco; exceptionally amusing circus workshops; the immense feather mass from the pillow fight, and oh I cannot forget the Tribal Tournament. This was the pinnacle of Just SO, where my buzzing bees along with the owls, stags, fish, foxes, frogs and lions came together to find out which tribe is crowned as winners following a weekend of challenges and point building.
People go to extraordinary effort with their costumes, it’s a spectacle for the eyes and I will definitely be prepping up longer and harder ahead of next year.
Driving home on Monday morning, it wasn’t the refreshing start to the week ahead, more of an exhausting one, but one made with more fabulous memories together as a family that we will be reminiscing about for a long time to come.
Early bird tickets for Just So Festival 2018 (17 – 19 August, Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire) are on sale from Friday 25 August at midday at www.justsofestival.org.uk