This time last week we were setting out on a rather fabulous adventure: a weekend festival with the Bears. Now, you may think we were being over ambitious attempting a three-day festival with a 2-year-old and 3-year-old. But this particular festival is a little bit different.
Specifically for families, the Just So Festival – nestled in the grounds of Rode Hall in Cheshire – is a place where magic and imagination roam free. This is our second Just So year. Last year we took a little look with a day ticket. This was enough to convince us that we would all love a taste of the full weekend experience. We weren’t wrong.
The programme was jam packed full of music, dance, theatre, crafts, installations and activities. Here are a few of our festival highlights.
This was a HUGE highlight for the Bear and when asked what her favourite thing from the festival was, she says it’s looking for lost words. A forest theatre trail, The Lost Words is a performance where the audience are lead around a series of installations and performances by a family of goldfinches. The performance was billed as 5+ age group but my two at 2 and 3 were utterly captivated. They had Darcie racing to each new section of the trail for the next instalment of the performance despite her shyness.
JOINING A TRIBE
Fancy dress is a huge part of Just So. Families pick their tribe before they arrive and spend the weekend collecting golden pebbles in an attempt to ensure their tribe wins the festivals tribal tournament. You can pick you tribe from owls, foxes, frogs, stags, lions, fish or bees. Seeing some of the amazing costumes across the festival is easily one of our highlights as some people really go all out.
The first year we went, we didn’t dress up and to be fair we didn’t feel out of place having not got involved. That being said, this year we decided to pick our tribe – the owls – and we are so glad that we did.
Henry didn’t want to get involved and shunned his outfit, but Darcie LOVED it. She embraced the tribal ethos and loved wearing her owl costume. Sadly, we weren’t much help to our tribal leader though as she refused to part with the first golden pebble she gained and Henry managed to launch out next 2, which were never to be found again. If other owls were like us, then it is no surprise that the fish tribe took the crown this year.
This is something that our two love. So much so that they’ve already made their own at home using the extra clay we bought while at Just So. They had the best time designing and building their own clay faces. Apparently, a cat for her and a hedgehog for him.
Pre-kids, hubby and I used to do a lot of live music gigs. Unfortunately, we don’t get chance to do much of that very often anymore but we do like to indulge whenever we can. Just So is a place where we can do exactly that.
With a line up full to bursting, we discovered some great new bands that we can’t wait to check out now that we’re home. The highlight for us beyond a doubt was Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers but David Gibb, Giovanni L’Immigrato and The Shakleton Trio all stood out for us too.
Much to Darcie’s frustration I wouldn’t actually let our two go barefoot on the barefoot walk (with one not yet fully recovered from a sprained ankle, I wasn’t risking another!). I didn’t matter though as they both still loved running through the trail and encountering all of the animals along the way. Henry absolutely loved the giraffes and took some convincing to finally leave them alone after walking / running the trail close to 20 times!
Although we camped a little last year, this year is when it’s really come into its own for us now that both are a little older. They absolutely love spending time sleeping in a tent and constantly ask when they can again. Camping over and staying for the whole weekend at Just So, made everything a little more magical for our tribe as you become fully immersed into the Just So experience.
The Bear’s confidence is really growing now, and this could really be seen at the festival through her dancing. The flamingo lounge was a new (very awesome) addition for this year, and she had the best time dancing her heart out in there. She even made up her very own little dance that she performed in front of the rest of the group earning her a golden pebble.
MERRY GO ROUND
This is something we happened across by chance. Simply being in the right place at the right time. We popped into the Peekaboo area – a space in the festival dedicated to really little people – just in case we were missing anything. We’re so glad we stopped by as we found the most beautiful peddle powered merry go round.
As soon as Darcie saw it she knew she wanted to go on a ‘leaping’ bunny as she called it. Henry chose a badger and the two of them spent the sweetest few minutes in a little woodland wonderland. It was unbelievably cute and we’re so glad we didn’t miss it.
Such a small part of the festival but for my two, a very important part. No festival would be complete without them running around and chasing bubbles at every opportunity and thankfully Just So met their demands with dedicated bubble time on the village green.
A beach in the middle of Cheshire I hear you cry! Situated on the edge of the lake in the Roll Up section of the festival, it was a fabulous way to spend a relaxed Sunday morning as we wound down our festival experience before heading home. I think they would have spent the entire day there if we let them, building castles and digging holes.
This is an odd one as we’re not new to the Wild Rumpus installations and Darcie immediately recognised the oversized toys dotted around the festival from the Erddig Winter Trail we did at the beginning of the year. It was fabulous to see as she greeted them all like old friends and gravitated back to playing with them time and time again. Especially the babushka dolls and paper dolls on the village green. She even asked where the ballerina was! It was wonderful to see them again and they looked right at home in the middle of the festival.
Such a tiny part of the festival, but right at the top were a number of stalls ready to explore. One of them was the TotBag stall. A new craft subscription for little ones. They had a sample activity for little ones to try which was to make your own festival wand. This is something that my two loved and they took great pleasure in spending the rest of the day wielding their special wands.
They loved it so much that we even signed up to the subscription service so watch this space for our thoughts once it starts arriving.
Now this is something that our kids seemed to both love and hate. They love the big top tent in the Roll Up section of the festival filled full of circus games to try. Hula hoops, spinning plates, diablos……the only issue is that most of them are a little outside of their current skill set so emotions ran high. It didn’t stop them trying though, and they had a great time until they just got angry (the joy of toddlers)!
THE ICE CREAM
Now I’ll be honest and say I’m not sure who this was the biggest highlight for. Them or me!!
Near the Floodlights stage and at the end of a very long queue was Ginger’s Comfort Emporium ice cream. And wow, was it worth the wait. Maybe the best ice cream I’ve ever had. Perfect for a hot summer day while watching some great bands.
Finally, they just loved running. Everywhere. There was so much space all around us, it was great for us to be able to just sit back on the village green and watch the both of them just run. Something they did daily.
Now, if all that hasn’t convinced you to come along and check it out in 2019, then maybe this will.