I like to consider myself somewhat of a WOMAD veteran having first witnessed it's hippies and world music and incense and chai as a wide eyed 14 year old. It’s changed a lot over the years but it's still my favourite festival. I first took my 2.5 year old Frankie-Rose last year when she was 1.5. This year she was old enough to be able to get involved in the kids activities and really get into the groove (literally) of the music and making.
Here are 5 of our highlights:
1) The children’s carnival on Sunday is always wonderful. Its the colourful culmination of days of work by the children and organisers. Enormous papier mache trees, globes and giant dragon flies with moving iridescent wings paraded their way around the festival site and across all of the main stages, to the sounds of drumming and whistles and singing. It was quite a privilege to be able to be part of it for the first time this year with Frankie Rose, even if she did get bored of it after about 20 minutes (!)
2) The music is always brilliant, even if you haven't heard of a single act (which is me, most years). Our highlights were Melt Yourself Down, a family car journey favourite that had all three of us dancing around in a sweaty mess. Dhakka Brakha were our eyes-agog-spine-tingling band, Tuung were the soundtrack to some serious post-toddler-bed-time chill vibes. And later on, Congo Natty played some pretty sick jungle/drum n bass/reggae beats to shake our assess too. A different evening saw Ibibio Sound Machine (loved by BBC 6 Music) win over WOMAD with their mix of afroboat, disco and electro. (whilst Frankie slept in the buggy!) SO good- and now my album of the summer.
3) WOMAD specialises in world food, and always serves the most delicious real Chai tea in small earthenware cups in tents bedecked in saree’s and colourful textiles. The sheeps milk ice-cream is the best I've tasted, and the food from the stall simply saying “Indian Kitchen” served enormous delicious portions of Vegetarian Thali.
4) As an interiors nut, I always feel an irresistible pull to the homewares stalls (sometimes darting off on the way to watch some music, much to Dave's chagrin). Given its hippy lefty leaning bias, most of the stalls are ethical, support fair Trade initiatives and work closely with the producers. Stalls err heavily toward African and Indian fabrics, jewellery and homewares and I came home with the most beautiful Anthropologie-esque hand stitched fairly traded bed spread with a tropical fruit print on it. There is also tons of bargainous vintage stalls too: in the past I’ve bought amazing crochet blankets for 9 quid (I banned myself from buying blankets this year so bought a bed spread instead…ummm..)
5) The wellbeing area in the Arboertum is always my favourite area to hang out in because it offers shade under the tree’s and is full of zen hippy types with broad smiles either receiving or providing relaxing, healing therapies. This is also where weary festival goers come to have a snooze in the shade, or in our case to have a bit of shady space to play with a toddler. One of my favourite WOMAD attributes are its swathes of people either doing group Yoga, sleeping, doing Tai Chi or having a group sing (the latter is something which we joined in with and was brilliant fun) This is also where the smaller music stages and fun kids bits are located, including a wonderful handmade wooden instrument tent that Frankie spent ages in.
Taking a toddler to a festival.
I (obviously) think its a brilliant idea to take kids to festivals. It depends on the kid’s personality somewhat but there are many benefits to exposing kids to different food, music and cultures. There is no doubting that Frankie-Rose had a wonderful time, playing with lots of different kids, experiencing all sorts of incredible music and food, and singing, dancing and making for the whole time. Being outdoors, and learning so many new skills, for so many hours of the day is good for everyone, and really aids sleep too.
You do need more stuff when kids are involved I think. We took pains to maintain familiar routines and bedding etc to aid better sleep which means more stuff. We are also out-and-proud glampers and bring duvets and lanterns etc. We have a wagon to cart the stuff which combined with the buggy and our mega muscles (!) meant that we managed.
Mostly, because she’d been outdoors all day dancing or running around, once Frankie got to sleep she slept pretty well, until the heady reaches of 6.20 am (a lie in for us but we felt sorry for anyone pitched near us!) The issue this year was actually getting her to sleep in the first place in such an exciting place. Her bed time definitely improved over the weekend, after we relaxed it a bit, but it was a little exhausting pushing her around on the first night for 2 hours. (she had spent too much time in the car seat so wasn’t tired enough!)
The upside of Frankie sleeping in the buggy or wagon though is that once she’s asleep we are free to stay in the arena listening to music. Her ear defenders were a godsend again this year meaning the loud music in the evenings didn't wake her. She also chose to wear them when she found the music a bit loud in the day.
We have a large tent which we pitched in the shade. We ate back at the tent quite a bit to keep costs down, so to some extent we provided our own facilities. But festival facilities are very well maintained, there are loads of places to find shade, toilets are always pretty clean and it is very geared towards kids. There's a dedicated lost children’s area and staff patrol the site offering wrist bands for the kids with their parents phone number on them.
Where you there, or at a different festival with your kids? How did you find it? If you let them stay up late, how long did it take for them to get back to a normalish bedtime?