F is for family festivals (Womad and Hay on Wye)

Our first family music festival, and it turned out be a good one to pick. Not too big, not too lairy (sp?), not too rainy/muddy … plenty for everyone to do and more street food than you can shake a stick at.


It all started with our eldest going all teenage on us and declaring she’d like to go to a music festival this year. Slightly panic-stricken, I went into parent overdrive and asked all my very wise friends with older children for recommendations for newbie festival-goers. Womad! They all replied. Partly because it’s only half an hour away from us, but mainly because it’s properly family-friendly and very safe, they all said.


So, her birthday present was two teen tickets to Womad, and we arranged to tag along with a group of Womad pro families who’ve been going for years.  There were some complex logistics involving some of us arriving later than others, and all of us leaving a day early for a wedding, but overall, the plan was simple: Turn up, pitch up, let loose the teens (space buns wellies and all), relax a bit, panic a bit if they go AWOL, listen to some music (hopefully) and bop about a bit.


Pleased to report we all LOVED Womad, for different reasons:

  • I loved the first night; with just the teen plus friends to keep a vague eye on I had a whale of a time bopping in Molly’s Bar. Also adored the wellbeing space for its kooky range of treatments (Laughter therapy, anyone? Hanging upside down like a bat while a couple walk around in circles beating a gong?  Worth a try, right?)
  • Garry loved the second night for similar reasons (I was on children duty back at camp that night)
  • Annie relished her freedom and sensibly stayed in touch just enough to keep potentially panicky parents at bay
  • Isaac loved the dodgems, the shops and circus area in the family area space
  • Orla loved the huge puppets, the big wheel and the hair braids.


It was all new.  We’d never camped in a mahoosive field rammed with seemingly identical tents before (I was shocked at how easy it was to lose our encampment despite flags etc and spent a good half hour circling a clump of trees in search of our tents only to find it was the wrong clump), never done the festival loo thing before (I confess I paid for the la di dah loos and didn’t regret that decision for one second), never really attempted live music with kids before (Isaac and Orla still don’t get the appeal at all  — we need to work on this) and never given Annie such free rein before (our seasoned Womad friends laughed when I said our curfew was 10pm. It quickly got extended to midnight).


What we did (in no particular order)

  1. A mix of fairly randomly selected acts (our pro friends were all over the programme but we went with the flow)
  2. Did some lucky-dip style shopping (cue wacky hats and assorted stationery)
  3. Drank decent coffee (always important, this)
  4. Made a flag in the kids’ workshop
  5. Got hair braids (some of us)
  6. LOTS of juggling and circus skills
  7. Rode the big wheel and took a million pics from the top
  8. Ate lots of lovely street food (perfect pick and mix approach for families)
  9. Danced to the Soul Professor and drank a little cider in Molly’s Bar
  10. Manned the huge and beautiful puppets in the family area
  11. Played some huge drums
  12. Attempted the tree trail in the arboretum
  13. Listened to some poetry at the poetry tent

What we could have done and would like to try next time

  1. A dance workshop (maybe just me)
  2. A treatment (the laughing yoga, perhaps?)
  3. More glitter, definitely!
  4. Stay for the procession on the final day
  5. Hopefully a bit more attention to the actual live music, all of which looked and sounded amazing!


Hints and tips

Womad is all about the wristbands. Teens have special ones (to stop them buying alcohol) and have to be accompanied. You get a special one for the la di da loos (£25 very well spent, in my opinion!).  Kids go free.

We camped fairly near Molly’s Bar. Make sure you can all find your way back to the tent — it’s much harder than you’d think!  There are identifying towers in the camping field — make a note of which one you’re near and fly a flag or something really visible to help.

You can buy a mobile phone charging pack at various points. We didn’t do this, but I might next time, or at least I’d bring plenty of battery packs, to make sure I could stay in touch with wayward teens.

There are glamping options! I am very tempted to cheat and try the luxury bell tents, especially if we’re planning to stay the full four nights next time.

Everything you need to know should be here on the Womad website (there’s also an app, of course!)


F is also for Hay on Wye and its glorious literary Festival, May 2017

A quirky lovely long weekend — our first time at Hay.

We loved: the joyful relaxed vibe, the events, the town itself and the camping by the river. It was COLD though!

We’d heard so much about the Hay Festival and were really looking forward to our first visit there. It didn’t disappoint.  What’s not to like about a huge complex of marquees offering a feast  of book-based talks, activities and workshops?  Visually, it’s a delight — all brightly coloured deck chairs, hay-bales, bunting and white canvas, and there are plenty of places to rest your feet, have a drink or a bite to eat and watch this really rather lovely version of the world go by.

We hadn’t pre booked many activities at all — one per child and nothing for the adults — but it didn’t matter much, as there seemed to be enough last-minute tickets to please even the least organised.  No military-style booking months in advance here (though I’m sure the big names sell out pretty quickly).  So, our eldest did a cooking activity (they made delicious Italian flatbread pizzas) and a YA talk with the amazing Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan, while the younger kids listened to Liz Pichon talk about her Tom Gates series.  We ALL made festival crowns in the brilliant kids’ activity tent (and wore them with pride for ever afterwards) and I even managed a grownup event — the entertaining and hilarious poet Lemn Sissay.

This was our first festival camping and we loved it!  It had everything we needed (decent loo block, nice cafe/bar, plenty of space, relaxed campers) and not much else, and was close enough to the river Wye for the experts to while away some time honing their skimming skills.

I should also say something about Hay on Wye itself. We only spent enough time there for one quick drink (nestled in among the castle walls) but it definitely seemed like a place to return to, with or without the festival.  One more for the ever-growing list of places to come back to!

The useful stuff

Not much to say here, really.  We found and booked everything through the festival website (https://www.hayfestival.com) and it was all pretty straightforward.   You can just go with the flow, Hay festival style.


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