Festivals can be fun for the family

11:50am Tuesday 12th June 2012

By Chris Wood

There was a time when the only music you’d hear on a family holiday in the UK would be a tribute act playing at the camp site clubhouse. But, child-friendly festivals now mean that places like the Isle of Wight and Dorset as are as much about legendary performers as they are about the beaches and scenery.

While an ever-increasing number of music events pride themselves on offering enough to keep parents and kids entertained, the diversity of acts at many means you could go a step further and take gran along as well, writes Chris Wood.

Take the Isle of Wight’s Bestival, for example.

The impressive array of vocal talents on offer this year spans almost 50 years – from Motown legend Stevie Wonder who first rose to prominence in the 1960s to 1980s synthesizer group New Order and indie band Florence and the Machine, currently at the height of their power.

Throw in the fact the festival takes place in the picturesque Robin Hill Countryside Adventure Park – a year-round children’s paradise equipped with a tree top trail, maze and toboggan run with peacocks roaming about – it’s easy to see why even the most unmusical-minded of youngsters would enjoy it.

Now in its ninth year, the four-day September festival allows you to start the day with yoga in a secluded woodland area, relax with poetry, comedy sketches and live film scores in the amphitheatre, while there is also a crafts marquee, kids shows in a big top and an under fives area.

But, the best aspect of the festival experience is that it gives people of different ages and musical tastes the chance to sample iconic sounds of various eras.

And because of that, every festival is a unique and in some senses once-in-a-lifetime experience.

As Bestival’s curator, BBC radio DJ Rob da Bank said: “Part of my job at Bestival is giving you acts you may never have seen or will get the chance to see again.”

They are also different things to different people. Bestival will be, in one sense, a giant fancy dress party with this year’s theme wildlife and those attending urged to don forest-influenced getup.

It has also been described by another BBC radio DJ, Sara Cox as the idyllic setting for her favourite ever Saturday night out when she saw the Magic Numbers there.

High praise indeed, but with no Glastonbury this year and the calibre of acts on offer, organisers are confident no other festival will match it this summer.

One of the first family-friendly festivals of the summer is Latitude Festival on the Sunrise Coast, Suffolk between July 12 and 15, where there will be a special children’s arena, a teen area as well as headliners Elbow and Rufus Wainwright.

Then there’s Camp Bestival at Lulworth Castle, Dorset, from July 26 to 29. A spokesman described it as ‘Bestival’s even more family-friendly sister’ and it has twice been voted the UK’s best family festival.

The comedy and musical acts are equally eclectic as that at its sibling event- from Jimmy, Carr to Rufus Hound, Rolf Harris, Dick and Dom, Happy Mondays, Hot Chip and Cool and the Gang.

Nearer home, there is the Green Man Festival at Glanusk Park near Brecon from August 17 to 19, where Van Morrison will be headlining.

Again, this event prides itself on being childfriendly with designated family camping areas and like other festivals happening this summer, young children get in free while it is just £5 for under 12s.

Even closer to home the Raglan Festival, which runs from June 15 to 17, will allow you to immerse yourself in music in one of Monmouthshire’s most idyllic villages without the need to camp.

While organisers were disappointed that headliners Tony Hadley and Go West pulled out, there is still an array of local talent including a battle of the bands competition.

And underlining the all-ages outlook, there will be a children’s workshop at the local schoolallowing youngsters to try out instruments and find their inner musician.

But, if you want to stay in Gwent and still want the camping experience of a festival- there are a number of options here.

Ebbw Vale’s Steelhouse Festival, for example, between July 27 and 29, is described at Wales’ international classic rock festival and Reef and Feeder are headlining this year.

While organisers admit the music isn’t always suitable for all ages, under 14s still get in free with their parents.

With camping facilities in and around the border town, you can also immerse yourself in Monmouth’s music, history and scenery during its week-long festival between August 17 and 25, which is celebrating its 30th birthday this year.

It includes a carnival on the Sunday- which will incorporate street entertainers, a funfair, zorbs and chariot races.

But, perhaps Gwent’s best-known summer festival- and certainly its greenest- is the Croissant Neuf Summer Party, just outside Usk, between August 10 and 12.

It is solar-powered, with free biodegradable soap and shampoo in the showers, all cans and bottles get recycled and food is 100 per cent organic and locally sourced.

Seth Lakeman plays on the Friday and Green Parent magazine recently gave it a highlycommended in its green festival awards, proving thousands of people sharing a field for a weekend needn’t leave a mountain of rubbish behind.

So, when you’re planning your summer holiday to the Isle of Wight, Dorset or any other part of the UK this summer – there are plenty of campsites that don’t just offer a clubhouse and easy access to beautiful scenery, but come alive to the sound of music as well.

Fact file

• Bestival, Isle of Wight, September 6-9.Tickets and information at www.bestival.net

• Latitude Festival, Suffolk, July 12-15.


• Camp Bestival, Dorset, July 26-29.


• The Steelhouse Festival, Ebbw Vale, July 27-29, www.steelhousefestival.com

• Croissant Neuf Summer Party, near Usk,August 10-12.


• Green Man Festival, Brecon,August 17-19.



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