Before the advent of my wonderful children, I ventured to many music events and festivals but post children, it has to be said, this has rather fallen away stroke altogether disappeared. Those heady days of dancing til dawn and falling out of clubs at 4am have long gone.
So; last year my husband and I decided to seek out a lower key festival for our family to attend. Our mission was to find a festival that wasn’t massive, (we didn’t want to lose our kids – not yet, anyway!) had lots of kiddy activities but also delivered for the grown-ups with quality music and in a safe environment.
After a lot of interweb research and asking around my “friends with kids” mates, we fell upon the “Chilled in a Field Festival”. tentatively share this review as it is also a well-guarded secret amongst my friends but this year the organisers have made the decision to move to a Kent venue, Hop Farm and so it feels only right that we let the local community know! It is just over 30 minutes from Dartford after all! Scheduled for 29th to 31st July, this 3-day event mixes a bottomless pit of free entertainment for kiddies but with a proper grown-up festival experience.
And when they say free – they really do mean it. Once you have purchased your very reasonably priced ticket and parking permit, everything is FREE! I know, hard to compute isn’t it!? This is not the normal festival experience. Our boys enjoyed everything from a huge sandpit, bouncy slide and castle, crafts, science, dance workshop, interactive theatre and even glitter wrestling if that’s your thing!
I am a fair weathered camper and in 2014 we were spoilt with the weather which does make the whole camping experience that much better but this year’s venue will have everything from permanent clean flush toilets and priority toilets for children (genius idea!). They even have free hot showers. For me this is what sets this festival apart – the attention to detail and really thinking about the needs of the family.
Plus they also do something called the “early birds” campsite which is for families and those who prefer to get a good night’s sleep and wake up early. Another stroke of genius by this festival. No risk of the kiddies getting woken up at midnight by drunken ravers. And with the main stage finishing at 11pm, this really does work.
No wonder then it has been featured on the Guardian’s Top 25 Summer Family Festivals and was voted “Best Tiny UK Festival” by FestivalKidz.com in 2014. One of the challenges for us is that our eldest (he’s 5) doesn’t like loud music. Hmm – we were truly concerned that the music may prove too much for him. But this festival proved perfect for us. One of the festival’s plusses is that the festival field is actually quite well contained and it is easy to keep an eye on your children wherever you are. And the capacity is capped at 3,500 which makes the whole of the festival that much more safe. It felt like one big community who have come together for one weekend with everyone looking out for each other. We also invested in a set of ear defenders which just means they can switch off when they want to.
Let’s talk about the music. I will be honest for me this was slightly less important but amongst my wider group of friends, I have some music aficionados. Whilst you won’t get the expensive headliners of an event such as Bestival, this year there are some really credible artists such as The Egg, Tankus the Henge and Cocos Lovers plus there is a great line up of acoustic and live acts. This festival also takes its dance music seriously with sounds provided by some of the UK’s top DJ crews and a late night silent disco woodland rave.
My husband’s fave thing about this weekender? The ale and cider festival! He managed to sample over 20 different ales (not all pints, I hasten to add!) throughout the course of the weekend and filled his boots on wonderful street food. The festival works hard to get quality food outlets and you won’t find too many burger vans – this is quality food, affordable and will still quench a heinous hangover. As an added bonus, the vendors also do child portions.
This festival really worked for us. Small but perfectly formed. It’s quirky, fun really affordable and we would heartily recommend it. Good to note is that this festival is also run entirely by a group of friends who all have day jobs (accountants, event managers, lawyers etc.) but do this as volunteers. They do it for the love! It is entirely not for profit and they are quite rightly proud of their reputation for offering a safe space for families and their child-free friends to enjoy a weekend together.
Adult tickets are £99, Children (aged 4 til 12) are £12, Teenagers £30 and a Car Park pass is just £15. For full details on the festival, glamping and campervan opportunities, please visit their website.
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Written by Tamsyn Clark
Photos by Rachel Otterway